In a town where one misstep can turn into a national scandal, the students at D.C.’s elite Georgetown Academy know there’s only one rule: whatever you do, don’t get caught.
It’s the beginning of a new political administration. That might not mean much at most high schools, but at Georgetown Academy, Washington D.C.’s most elite prep school, January 20th means new alliances, new flings, and new places to party.
While freshmen—nicknamed “interns” for their willingness to jump into bed with anyone higher on the D.C. totem pole—navigate the not-so-friendly halls of GA searching for Algebra and Bio classes, the school’s lifers have other things on their minds.
For self-proclaimed D.C. royalty Brinley Madison (of those Madisons), the first day of school is all about establishing the social hierarchy and playing the part of perfect political wife to her boyfriend, the outgoing Vice President’s son. Too bad he has a wandering eye that puts Bill Clinton’s to shame. Can she keep him, and her own secret vice, in check?
Ellie Walker, Brinley’s best friend, floats through the halls on the arm of golden boy Hunter McKnight (the JFK of GA). But when her ex-boyfriend, Gabe, returns to town and her Senator mother’s political nemesis is reelected, Ellie’s life starts to snowball out of control.
Shy, quiet Evan Hartnett is more into books than beer, and her closet is full of t-shirts and jeans instead of Jason Wu and Jimmy Choo. No one’s ever really noticed her—but she’s been noticing them. When her star rises as an intern at D.C.’s most-watched political news show, she soon finds the two worlds colliding in ways that make her question what’s secret and what’s fair game.
New girl Taryn Reyes is all laid-back, California cool; with a father who’s in line to be the first Hispanic president, she’s ready to dive into the D.C. scene with an open mind. But when her fellow students turn out to be more interested in spreading rumors than making friends, she realizes that forging a drama-free path might be a lot harder than she thinks.
With so many new friends and former flames in the mix, things are bound to get a little heated. And while diplomatic immunity might keep the cops away, there’s not much it can do about the press.
In a town where one teenage misstep can turn into a national scandal, the students at Georgetown Academy will have to be on their best behavior—or, at least, they’ll have to make the world believe that they are.
Because there’s only one rule: whatever you do, don’t get caught.
What’s Cool from Coliloquy:
As the party scene at Georgetown Academy gets under way, authors Alyssa and Jessica let readers decide which of the main girls to follow. You’ll see scandalous behavior, unexpected liaisons, and secret betrayals…all giving you a different perspective as events unfold.
Ellie struggled to keep up with Brinley, as they walked toward their first period classrooms. Brinley was cracking her knuckles with such ferocity she was in danger of losing a finger. Brinley never cracked her knuckles. She wasn’t one who let herself succumb to nervous compulsions. She had once told Ellie she stopped sucking her thumb through sheer willpower. At two years old.
“Are you okay, Brin?” Ellie asked.
“What? Of course. I’m fine,” Brinley said quickly.
“You just seem a little on edge.”
“I said I’m fine.” The finality in her tone was clearly meant to shut Ellie up.
“Okay.” They walked in silence for a beat. “So do you want to swing by and pick me up tonight before the rookie party?” Ellie asked. Maybe the change in subject would momentarily thaw Brinley out.
“I’m not sure. I have to do something after school. I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Brinley answered tightly, without looking at her.
“Okay. We can just meet there if you want—”
“God, Ellie! You know what? It’s getting really exhausting taking care of everything for you all the time. I don’t have every single minute of my day planned out at eight o’clock in the effing morning!”
And with that, Brinley strode away and disappeared into a classroom, leaving Ellie standing alone, completely stunned.
She had seen Brinley unleash her wrath on others—an unlucky freshman girl who had shown up to school in the same Ralph Lauren Black Label cashmere sweater Brinley had chosen to wear that day, the poor hostess at Proof who had accidentally given Brinley’s usual table to Jenna Bush—but Brinley had never snapped like that at her.
However, before she could even process Brinley’s tirade, Ellie turned the corner and stopped dead in her tracks, all thoughts of what just happened, or anything else for that matter, flying out of her head. The last person she ever expected to see or wanted to see was now standing right in front of her.
Gabe. What was he doing here?
Somehow Gabe looked totally different and exactly the same. He still had tousled brown hair that looked like he had just woken up or that he could pose for a cologne ad. His style hadn’t changed much—T-shirt, dark ripped jeans and Converse—a much edgier look than the one preppy G.A. guys preferred. But then Gabe was never the type to conform. Topping it all off was a vintage pendant that hung off a long chain around his neck. She usually found jewelry on a guy off-putting, but on Gabe, it just looked sexy. She let her anger toward him slip over her like a security blanket so she didn’t have to think about it.
He was startled to see her, too, but he recovered quickly. “Hey, Ellie,” he said, casually, as if they had just seen each other yesterday when in reality, they had not spoken in two and a half years.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Ellie blurted out.
“I’m going to school,” he said slowly. He seemed genuinely taken aback by her tone. Unbelievable. He couldn’t honestly think she would have forgiven him.
“But you went to Sidwell before. Why are you here?” She knew it was useless at this point to even try to hide her anger.
“My parents thought G.A. might be a better fit this time around.” His dark eyes seemed even darker now, more brooding than she remembered.
She could barely look at him, though, still in disbelief she was having this conversation. That Gabe was actually standing in front of her. They stood in silence and she swore she felt electricity pass between them. Like actual electrical currents. He moved a little closer and she instinctively stepped back.
Finally he spoke, breaking the silence. “Look, what happened back then…”
The humiliation she had felt over two years ago returned in full force. All those nights she had cried herself to sleep. She cringed, remembering how in love with him she had been.
“Don’t, Gabe.” They were the only two words she could conjure up as the wheels in her brain struggled to keep up with her heartbeat. She was suddenly aware of the curious stares being cast their way by passing students. Her Jackie O. curse striking again.
“Just leave me alone,” she whispered. The bell rang and she brushed by him, relieved to reach her English class. The relief, however, was short-lived. She suddenly was aware Gabe was right behind her. She swiveled around.
“Why are you following me?”
“I’m not. I have English now, too.”
This couldn’t be happening. Ellie suppressed a scream as Gabe took a seat behind her.
Nancy Pelosi was right. The first day of a new administration was seriously stressful.
Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz met the first day of freshman year at the University of Southern California and instantly bonded over their obsessions with Brenda Walsh, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Babysitters Club books they read growing up. After spending a full year mourning the end of college, they began writing television and feature scripts together. They have set up pilots at ABC, NBC, Fox and CW, and sold films to The Weinstein Company, Happy Madison, Paramount, New Regency, MGM and Alloy Entertainment. They love writing female-centric stories, especially for teen and tween audiences, mainly because they still think they are the 18-year-old girls they were when they first met at USC.
Author Q and A
Jen: I’m curious, how do you two co-write, in general and specifically for this series? Do you take different chapters? different characters? Or does one person do a draft then it gets passed back and forth?
Alyssa & Jessica: Generally, we do all of our brainstorming and outlining together, whether it’s for a book, television show or movie…though “together” usually means over video chat, as opposed to being physically in the same room. We used to get together every single day, but eventually we realized that we were just as efficient (if not more so) doing it through the computer. And then Alyssa moved across the country making it a necessity!
Specifically, with the Georgetown Academy series, we start with discussing themes and the journeys we want each character to take in the book. Once we’re in firm agreement, we create a more serious outline for the book. This is the absolute most crucial part for us, so it’s essential that we do it together, ensuring that we’re on the same page for all character and story beats. Finally, once we’ve worked out all the snags in the outline, we start the process of writing, which we do separately. We will split up the chapters evenly and send each other our work over email. We generally split the chapters chronologically (“You take chapter one, I’ll take chapter two”) as opposed to by character, because we actually both like writing all of them. Then we edit each other’s stuff and keep revising until our Type A selves are completely happy with the manuscript!
The main question we always get is how we end up with a cohesive final project, especially with a book like Georgetown Academy with four different POV’s, if we write separately. The truth is, we are best friends who basically share a brain. We often get the same ideas at the same time, whenever we edit our material, we usually have the same notes, and if you’re ever in the same room as us, you’ll see that we generally don’t need to finish sentences around each other! It’s almost eerie how in sync we are, but it definitely is an asset when you’re writing a book together!
Jen: Tell us about your research process. Did you talk to high school kids in DC? Or did you pull out journals from your high school days and channel your inner teen?
Alyssa & Jessica: Both! We luckily have a few friends who did go to various private schools similar to Georgetown Academy who gave us tons of insider details and their amazing, “only in D.C.” stories.
But we also distinctly remember that time in high school with its stratospheric highs and depressing world-is-ending lows and, though we might not want to repeat it ourselves, we love returning to it in our material. The fun thing about Georgetown Academy is that the stakes are even more elevated than a regular high school, which means taking those emotions to an even higher level.
Jen: This is the first YA book where Lisa doesn’t have a clear favorite from the male characters. Do you have favorites? And do your own proclivities show up when you write, Do you write for tech blogs “write for us”? Like Alyssa writes one guy and Jessica changes him?
Alyssa & Jessica: We do have favorites, though it evolves as the books go on. In Book One, we were both obsessed with Gabe, but in Book Two, we found ourselves getting more intrigued with Brooks. We have such a shared firm vision of each male character, so we don’t really change each other’s stuff, but we do spend waaaay too much time discussing what they are wearing in the scenes. We sent each other a dozen photos of various guys’ pendant necklaces so we could both have the same picture in our head of the one that Gabe likes to wear!
Jen: I love the characters, they’re easy to relate to and they have such depth. Do you have a favorite?
Alyssa & Jessica: We seriously love them all. Ellie is our main character and her journey with Gabe has always been the series through line for us. With both of us having lived in Los Angeles for so long (Alyssa for fourteen years before moving to D.C. and Jessica for her entire life), we get a kick out of writing California girl Taryn and seeing how she reacts to living in the world of D.C. We have a soft spot for Evan with her perpetual worrying and the idealistic way she sees the world. But it’s Brinley (and truthfully, all the Madisons) who is the most fun to write…her outlook on everything cracks us up.
Jen: I loved the story of how your friendship didn’t get off to the most immediate BFF start…It actually made me wonder which of the initial enemies are going to find common ground across their differences.
Alyssa & Jessica: We met the first day of class freshman year at USC. Alyssa is from Virginia and showed up to class after wiping away some homesick tears (she did NOT look happy). Jessica showed up to class fifteen minutes late and announced herself dramatically with her platform shoes clicking loudly on the tiles and interrupting the teacher. Alyssa eyed her disapprovingly and wondered, who is this incredibly rude girl (who wears four inch heels to class!) – that is NOT someone she would ever be friends with. And Jessica took one look at Alyssa glowering at her from the corner and thought, who is that miserable depressed-looking girl who refuses to crack a smile – I do NOT want to be friends with that girl. A few days later, we both had to stay after class and we started talking on our way back to the dorms. We haven’t stopped since.