Lex Croucher has written many adult books set in the Regency era and she has also written a self-help book for young adults (click here to see her take on the United by Books tag in celebration of You’re Crushing It!). Her debut YA novel, Gwen and Art Are Not in Love, is inspired by the Arthurian legend and it follows Gwen, quick-witted Princess of England, and Arthur, future duke and general gadabout, who have been betrothed since birth but unfortunately hate each other. But when Gwen catches Art kissing a boy and Art discovers where Gwen hides her diary (complete with racy entries about Bridget Leclair, the kingdom’s only female knight), they become reluctant allies. By pretending to fall for each other, their mutual protection will be assured…
What’s the biggest difference between writing adult novels and writing YA ones? Were there any surprising challenges when writing Gwen and Art?
I actually don’t find it massively different. The characters I’ve written for my adult books are mostly in their early twenties, and because of the historical setting (Regency) a lot of them are very much still coming of age and are probably less experienced than a teenager would be today. The main difference has been that I’m trying to swear a bit less in my books for teenagers, because I am very fond of a well-placed swear word.
Gwen and Art is inspired by the Arthurian legend. Do you still remember the first time you learned about King Arthur? Which book was it and which part was the most fascinating to you?
It was Disney’s The Sword in the Stone! I didn’t read anything Arthurian as a kid to my knowledge, but I absolutely loved that film, although I found some of it deeply stressful. I actually didn’t properly revisit anything Arthurian until adulthood, and my favourite piece of Arthurian literature is definitely The Once and Future King by T.H. White, because it allows the source material to be ridiculous and plays with anachronism in such a delicious way.
Someone gave Gwen and Art this tagline: “Don’t read this for historical accuracy. Do read this for a perfect comfort read full of banter.” For readers who have never read the Arthurian legend before, and want to learn more about it from here, how would you tell them what to expect?
‘Historical accuracy’ is so funny when it comes to Arthurian literature because there’s absolutely no such thing – it’s all made up. Arthurian England exists on a completely different parallel timeline that doesn’t correspond with real history, which means there genuinely are no rules!
Gwen and Art also isn’t actually about Arthurian legend; it’s about a messy cast of characters discovering themselves and learning how to be friends, who just so happen to live at Camelot, so if people are coming into it looking for a deep dive about the specifics of Arthur’s court or a book written entirely in period-accurate Middle English, unfortunately they’re going to be disappointed.
The dialogues are so witty and are a delight to read! When writing these banters, do you sometimes worry that they might feel too modern compared to the historical setting?
The anachronism is the point and is a very deliberate choice. It’s supposed to feel modern; that juxtaposition is where a lot of the humour comes from.
And the characters! I adore them so much. I’m sure many readers can relate to Gwen wanting to be left alone and just read. What do you think Gwen would be reading?
Gwen is probably reading something very dull and theological, but if she were alive today, she’d be reading Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.