Interview with Eden Pembroke, Author of Bridewell University

23 Mar 2022

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Bridewell University?

I began writing this story seven years ago. The world was so different then – that looking back on that is somewhat jarring, but in any case, its genesis came from a complete lack of self-consciousness, because back then I never expected the pages to see the light of day.

I wrote for myself, on a cracked screen under a screen protector, on the notes app of my old phone. I still have those notes, although transferred to a newer one. I wrote scenes and conversations (more the latter than the former, my vision at first was a completely epistolary work, which later changed) in composition notebooks (I still have those, too) as well, during the down-time on the dozens of television and film sets I worked on at the time, totally transported but somehow totally subsuming their creative energy. I wrote on public transit, as the botanical edens of the various university campuses trickled by in sunlight, as the city skyline whizzed past at night.

At the time, I was becoming fascinated with Tudor history and dramas. I was very inspired by the chemistry between the main actors of the documentary The Lovers Who Changed History, and the main actors of shows like The Tudors. I was also inspired by the city and setting of Los Angeles, where I lived at the time, the hyper-realistic, fairytale-vibrant energy of it, and ended up marrying these two infatuations in the story.

There have already been a few modern retellings of the story I was inspired by, but none like the particular one I envisioned and created. The university setting I wrote was clearly a fantasy version of university (I have actually attended, and graduated, university, and reality is very dissimilar), but in a world where everything was heightened and fantastical, that fit to me. There’s realistic elements to the fiction I’ve written, but it’s not intended for those that want to absorb reality– quite the opposite, it’s meant to serve as the escapism that buffers reality, if only for a time.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of Bridewell University, what would they be?

For Anne, Dream by Priscilla Ahn, Force of Nature by Bea Miller, Wonder by Lauren Aquilina, Get Out by Chvrches, and Gold Rush by Taylor Swift. For Eric, End of All Time by Stars of Track and Field, I Wanna Get Better by The Bleachers, Believe by Mumford & Sons, King by Lauren Aquilina, and Sky Full of Song by Florence + the Machine.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

Romance, for sure. And yes, it is my favorite genre to write as well.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

Royal Palaces of Tudor England by Simon Thurley, some Courtney Milan novels, and the Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn, in anticipation of Season 2 of Bridgerton.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

Probably the rooftop scene and confrontation. It comes back in a really beautiful way, later in the series.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I prefer to write late at night or very early in the morning, especially when it’s raining. I am usually accompanied by heated blankets, my dog sleeping in bed at my feet, several pillows, snacks, and chocolate.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“Not everything is for everybody.”

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

There are many paths not taken in history that could have been. Sometimes a thread is dropped, but that doesn’t mean it never existed, just that it remains unknown and unrealized. That we can learn from our mistakes, and that nothing is ever finished.


Eden Pembroke is the author of the new book Bridewell University

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