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“The Duke and I,” a.k.a. the steamy historical romance that served as the basis for the first season of Netflix’s Shonda Rhimes hit “Bridgerton,” has made its way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, at last — just 21 years after its initial publication.
In fact, the first book in Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” series, which has been the No. 1 print and e-book fiction novel for two weeks in a row, isn’t even the only “Bridgerton” book that’s currently a bestseller — its sequel, “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” sits at No. 5, and “Romancing Mister Bridgerton,” book four in the series, is No. 7. “The Duke and I” is also on the New York Times paperback trade fiction list — and 10 (yes, 10) of Quinn’s books are on USA Today’s list.
“The New York Times list, at least, I’ve never had more than one book at a time on and right now there are three. Two of those books came out 21 years ago. And ‘The Duke and I’ actually is now two weeks at No. 1 — which is also new for me. I’ve hit No. 1 before once, but with romance, usually you you hit high and then you fade fast. So that’s also new,” Quinn told IndieWire. “The USA Today list — right now I have 10 books on it, which is nuts. You know, I’m not a fast writer, so maybe some people who write really quickly can do that, but I sure can’t.”
From the surreal moment she found out Shonda Rhimes’ company, Shondaland, wanted to option her novels to the moment the series debuted atop Netflix’s most-watched list, Quinn has found it difficult to find words to describe her feelings about her series of romance novels finding mainstream success — not only on bestseller lists, but in the general pop culture zeitgeist.
The first book of Quinn’s to hit The New York Times bestseller list was the third book in the “Bridgerton” series, “An Offer from a Gentleman,” upon its publication nearly two decades ago. Today, not only are her books selling out on Amazon — paperback and hardcover versions are extremely difficult to find, though e-books/Kindle copies are abundant — but there’s an entire group of fans writing a “Bridgerton” musical on TikTok. There are more than 1000 people waiting to borrow one of 177 copies of “The Duke and I” from the Los Angeles County Public Library alone.
“It’s crazy,” Quinn said. “I mean, somebody’s writing a musical! Have you seen that? And then people are now choreographing it. It’s just beyond imagination. People ask me all the time about when I got the call about optioning it from Shondaland. And I say it never even occurred to me it could happen because nobody did romance. That’s how I kind of feel now — like, it never even occurred to me somebody might write a musical on their own time. All these things are happening; every day there’s something new. This is unbelievable. It’s the type of thing that you can’t help but giggle with laughter over because it’s just so great. You just can’t help but laugh in delight.”
While it’s been strange to experience such a professional high point while the world is at at a very low one, Quinn is still pushing forward. Her next book is a graphic novel (a collaboration with her cartoonist younger sister, Violet Charles) version of a novel-within-the-novel that appears in several of her books called “Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron,” first introduced in the seventh “Bridgerton” book. That’s out Aug. 17, 2021.
It’s a “totally over-the-top Gothic novel with florid writing,” Quinn said, and whenever it’s mentioned the characters are always puzzled at its success. But fans have asked her for years to write more than just the fun snippets included in her books.
“I knew I couldn’t do it as a novel, but at some point I realized it could be done as a graphic novel. I still really, really enjoy what I’m doing, but I find that it helps me as a writer to try to shake it up every now and then, to use a different part of the writing brain,” Quinn said. “The graphic novel definitely, definitely did for a number ways. It’s a totally different medium. I didn’t draw it, but writing it is a totally different process, and I’ve never worked in collaboration with somebody like that before. So it was really great.”
That’ll be out later in 2021, and there’s always the potential for more “Bridgerton” on Netflix and even more film or TV projects based on her other work.
“I have one project that’s pretty exciting, but I can’t talk about it,” she revealed. “So yeah, I think things are happening.”