My first piece of published writing was a letter to the editor of Seventeen Magazine way back in September, 1981. I was thirteen years old. I’d never written such a letter before. I’m not sure I’d written much of anything at that point in my life, to be honest. But I remember being so consumed by the subject matter of that letter that it was something I had to write.
The object of my devotion? Princess Diana.
At the time, she was known as Lady Diana Spencer, the innocent nineteen-year-old fiancé of Britain’s Prince Charles. When Buckingham Palace announced her engagement to the 32-year-old Prince of Wales, the world swooned. And I swooned hardest of all.
Diana seemed so normal, so much like myself. She taught adorable, English preschoolers. She liked ballet. She was a teenager. Yet she was about to be a princess.
Diana came into my life at a time when I needed to believe in fairy tales. My father died suddenly in a car accident just three months before I first heard her name and saw her face on my television screen as she posed for photos in her royal blue suit alongside her prince. The bottom had fallen out of my world. I needed to believe that good things could happen to girls who babysat and liked the color pink. Sensitive girls. Girls like me.
Years later, Diana died in a car accident, just as my father had. My affection for her hadn’t changed. She was a symbol of hope for me when I needed it most. When I fell for Diana, I fell for all things royal. Queens and kings, princes and princesses, palaces and the royal corgis…they bring a dash of magic to everyday life that makes me smile, even to this day.
I’ve wanted to write a royal romance since I first started my career as a novelist. The difficulties and realities of coping with a royal existence in contrast with the perfect fairy tale impression most people have of life in a palace intrigues me. What would happen if a member of the royal family fell in love with a commoner? Someone just like us? We all want to believe this can happen, don’t we? (Ahem. We’re looking at you, Prince Harry.)
My new series for Pocket Books, The Royals, explores such possibilities through the lens of classic films. I’m a romantic at heart, obviously, and a big fan of old black-and-white movies. These films are built on classic storylines that have stood the test of time. I think it’s interesting and challenging to take such stories and place them in our modern world.
ROYALLY ROMA, the first book in the series is inspired by the beloved Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck movie, Roman Holiday. In the film, Hepburn stars as a princess desperate to escape the confines of her carefully supervised life on a royal trip to Rome. When she flees the palace for a night on her own, she meets a handsome American reporter and her simple little holiday suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.
Roman Holiday is a bittersweet film, and the characters come to love one another despite the many things they cannot say. It’s this delicate art of subtext that I was eager to explore on paper. To breathe new life into the story, I switched the genders of the main characters. The heroine of ROYALLY ROMA isn’t a sheltered princess, but rather an independent American expatriate living in Rome in order to finish her post-graduate studies in archaeology. Niccolo La Torre, the hero, is the Crown Prince of Lazaretto, a fictitious principality on the Mediterranean coast.
At the end of a holiday marked by mistaken identities, an accidental kidnapping and a crazy chase through the Eternal City, Julia and Niccolo spend a royally inappropriate night together.
That’s when the story really gets started.
Teri Wilson is the author of Royally Roma. Follow Teri on Twitter @teriwilsonauthr and on Instagram @teriwilsonauthor.