Katie Heaney and Arianna Rebolini are writers with bylines at Buzzfeed and beyond, and are the brains behind Public Relations, a dishy new novel that takes a look at the glitzy, high-stakes world of celebrity PR. Rose Reed is an up and comer in the world of public relations, who’s thrown into the deep end when she takes over as solo publicist for Archie Fox. Soon the sexy new rocker’s reputation is skyrocketing, thanks to Rose’s stroke of genius: pairing him in a for-the-tabloids-only relationship with a fellow pop star. Until Rose finds herself wondering, very inconveniently, whether she’s the one who should be on Archie’s arm…
Here are Heaney and Rebolini to talk about the fandoms that inspired the book.
Katie Heaney: One of our reviews called the book “old-school chick lit” and I think that’s probably the most accurate. And I know that might be considered a demeaning term, but to me that’s what we were going for.
Arianna Rebolini: Absolutely. That is such a compliment to me.
KH: That makes me think of Bridget Jones, and Jennifer Weiner and Meg Cabot.
AR: And those are the books I love! I feel like we both had that in mind. Would you also call Public Relations fanfic, or not?
KH: I feel like fan fic is such a nebulous term. It’s one of those things where it’s like “All X is fanfic but not all fanfic is X.” If the premise of fanfic is wish fulfillment between you and a famous person, then yes, because our male lead is inspired by Harry Styles, but also, it’s not him. But Fifty Shades of Grey is fanfic, right?
AR: Yeah, but I think that started on Wattpad with Edward and Bella as the names. For me, I think fan fiction, especially right now, is such a real community with, like, its own taxonomy, and I’m not well-versed enough in it to claim that label because I only read it really casually. And there are people who are much more thorough and do it really well, like Anna Todd. But as far as wish fulfillment, this was loosely what we could imagine as a fantasy between us and a combination of our various personal pop icons.
KH: I guess in that way it’s inspired by fanfic, that viral Zayn fanfic about him being your heart transplant donor. We made a quiz after that, and from there its attachment to fanfic got more and more diluted. I think you’re right that there are rules. It’s like with romance writers, there are components you need to qualify for certain kinds of romance novels. And ours is sexy, but I think fanfic is usually sexier, or dirtier. Ours is no Fifty Shades.
AR: If someone is reading this and wants to imagine themselves with Harry Styles, I could see them being like, well, this isn’t Harry! Archie became very much not Harry Styles in a lot of ways. But it still makes me swoon, even though we wrote him.
KH: Right, Harry is the muse. He looks like Archie. And I imagine Archie being similarly composed in interviews, smiley and coy and charming but also fairly reserved.
AR: I remember working on this and watching clips of Harry doing interviews.
KH: Didn’t we watch This Is Us around then too? In, like, ten-minute installments on YouTube?
AR: We watched that too, yeah.
KH: All that stuff helped get us in the zone to write this, without it being a formula we were following. What do you think it is about One Direction that inspired a wider range of people to get more involved in fanfic?
AR: I think their down to earth vibe, from having started on a reality show, was a part of it. But also the internet let the community grow so enormously and quickly, and Wattpad was a part of that, and those are things we didn’t have when I was obsessed with *NSYNC, for example. It’s such a fun way to be proactive in your fandom. When you’re obsessed it’s, like, physically painful and not enough to just love it, you have to act on it. And fanfic lets you do that.
KH: I think part of their fame and the fanfic is that people had unprecedented access to their lives. We had all their social media presences, and when they started they were much more active and authentic on them. They had all those videos of them huddled together on the stairs. There was an immense amount of non-performance video from them, and a lot of the Larry stuff came from that, seeing the dynamic between Harry and Louis. If all you have is music videos and performances, it’s much harder to witness or create those dynamics that form stories.
AR: That access also let us see how kind Harry seemed to be to his fans, and so it was very easy to think ‘that could be me.’ I could see how it would be easy to imagine meeting him and then him being so nice.
KH: The pictures of him hugging fans, they all look like that could be his girlfriend, because of how real the hugs are.
AR: And in the Rolling Stone interview didn’t he defend his young female fans?
KH: Yeah, I mean he has always been a vocal advocate for his young female fans. In that interview he talked about how they show up for you in a way that other demographics don’t. He makes it easy to love him.
AR: And Archie is an homage to that.
KH: I think Archie has a worse attitude. He’s been in the business longer and has gone through a period of having a bad attitude. Whereas Harry is just now setting out on his solo career, so we don’t really know much about what to expect as a solo performer and personality. But we’ll see! Because his album is out now.
Public Relations is out now.