It’s the first thing we’re often asked: “Did you plan this?” Crowds at our joint book signings want to know if it was simply a lucky coincidence that our newest novels, The Celebrants and Big Gay Wedding, were both released on the same day.
It’s a fair question. We’re married, we’re both authors, and we’re conducting a book tour together.
The answer is no. We wrote the books at different times. We have different agents. We have different publishers. It’s not planned—but it’s also not surprising. We do a lot together. We live together, work under the same roof, and share in the care for our two rescue dogs. And when it comes to our careers, we found success together, too. It all started shortly after we met. And we met because of writing.
We found each other on the dating site OkCupid 10 years ago, before swipe left and swipe right, when you had to write a long profile. Steven wrote that he was a writerly type, “hoping for the day when I can write full-time.” His profile was filled with so much heart and hope and humor, Byron’s first message to him exclaimed, “I can tell you’re a writer!”
Many dates followed and it wasn’t long before Steven wrote a short story about his recently deceased dog, handing it over to Byron in an effort to impress him. Byron was so moved, he insisted it should be a book. It would eventually become the foundation of Steven’s first novel, Lily and the Octopus, an international bestseller. It launched Steven’s writing career.
At the time Byron was assistant to actor and writer Carrie Fisher. It was a job—and she was a boss—that he adored. Then the new Star Wars trilogy took shape and Carrie relocated to London for a long stretch to film the movies. Byron made the hard decision to step aside, as he didn’t want his new relationship with Steven to turn long-distance.
When Carrie passed two years later, Byron found comfort in advice she had often given him: “Take your broken heart and go make art.” He then wrote a novel inspired by their experiences together titled A Star Is Bored. As release day approached, rave reviews poured in, booksellers stacked their shelves, airport bookstores placed their orders—and then Covid shut everything down.
And there was more bad news. Byron’s first diagnosis of testicular cancer was in 2015 and was resolved with surgery. But in 2020, as the pandemic began, tests showed the cancer came back and had spread to his lymph nodes. It required chemotherapy and solidified Steven as such a loving caretaker, Byron decided to covertly add a marriage proposal to the acknowledgments of A Star Is Bored. Near publication day in summer 2020, the first batch of advanced copies arrived, and Byron, bald and sick from chemo, showed Steven the closing words in the acknowledgments: “Will you marry me?”
Steven immediately responded, “Wait, is this in all the copies?”
It was. It is. Steven then gave a resounding yes. The following year, Steven would publicly offer his acceptance in the acknowledgments of his next novel, The Guncle, which takes place in our hometown of Palm Springs, Calif., and for which Steven won the 22nd Thurber Prize for American Humor. Now, both proposal and acceptance are housed in the Library of Congress, alongside the contents of Abe Lincoln’s pockets and a lock of Walt Whitman’s hair. Later, we had a little gay wedding, which inspired Byron’s novel, Big Gay Wedding.
It’s one-stop shopping to ask a partner everything from “What do you think of this shirt?” to “What do you think of this sentence structure?” We can ask about the business, publicity advice, and how much to fight over cover design. We’re each other’s first readers, biggest champions, and MVPs.
But we couldn’t do what we do without great teams behind us. When The Celebrants became a Read with Jenna book club pick and our pub dates had officially collided, Byron’s publicist (Marian Brown at Henry Holt) and Steven’s publicist (Katie McKee at Putnam) didn’t bat an eye and have worked together to make unusual circumstances seamless. We also have outside support for press help, Crystal Patriarche and BookSparks, working with us as spouses.
We’re often asked questions about our processes. Like searching for the secret of a great relationship, it seems everyone wants to know the secret to telling great stories. While we both work hard to balance genuine heart with moments of laugh-out-loud humor, Steven is a classic pantser and Byron likes to carefully outline. The disappointing answer is that there is no one secret weapon. Unless, for us, we count each other.
Steven Rowley is a bestselling author of four novels and winner of the 22nd Thurber Prize for American Humor. Byron Lane is an Emmy-winning journalist, author, playwright, and screenwriter.