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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at NYU chapter.

During my late middle school and early high school years, I grew to love reading contemporary romcoms. I quickly learned that my favorite contemporary romcoms would instantly perk up my mood, especially when summer was approaching. There was something comforting about stories with late-night adventures and newfound memories that had me swooning.

When I read “The Unexpected Everything” by Morgan Matson in my sophomore year of high school, I quickly added her to my list of authors to keep on my radar. Years after discovering her, I’ve been eager to read the other adventures and romantic moments she’s created for her characters. Even when she released “Take Me Home Tonight,” I was one of the first to sign up for a Zoom session she held with McNally Jackson Books. When an ARC of “The Ballad of Darcy & Russell,” her newest YA story, made its way to me, I had to email the publicist and ask if I could feature Matson in the Author Spotlight series. 

“The Ballad of Darcy & Russell” is a romantic comedy novel about love, fate and the idea that one night can change everything. Darcy believes in love at first sight. Even though it’s never happened to her, she’s spent her whole life waiting for that magical moment, hoping that when she meets the right guy, everything will fall into place perfectly.

But right now, her life is anything but perfect. Heading home from a music festival, car troubles mean she’s stranded at a Nevada bus station until morning. Even worse, it’s the day before she leaves for college, her phone is dead and she has no cash. Darcy is convinced that nothing good can come of this night until she meets Russell. Cute, nice, funny, and kind, this is the guy—and the moment—she’s been waiting for. As they walk and talk, the two connect, and Darcy is able to put aside all her fears and doubts about the future to focus on this perfect guy.

Over the course of one fateful night, Darcy and Russell discover things they never imagined about each other and themselves. But can you really know someone after only a handful of hours? Is it possible to fall in love in less than a day? Before they part, both of their lives will be changed, and Darcy and Russell will have to decide if it’s worth saying hello when you know you’re destined for a goodbye.

Morgan Matson is the New York Times bestselling author of six books for teens, including “Since You’ve Been Gone”and“Save the Date,” and the middle-grade novel “The Firefly Summer.” She lives in Los Angeles but spends part of every summer in the Pocono Mountains.

In this interview, I wanted to focus on Matson’s experience writing a 24-hour-themed story, her connections to the characters of Darcy and Russell and how her love for New York City and Los Angeles appears in every book she publishes. 

This is the first book you’ve written where your characters fall in love within the span of 24 hours. What were some of the challenges you faced during the drafting process? What are some lessons you learned throughout, and why did you decide to write a 24-hour romance? 

One of the big challenges of a 24-hour book is making sure everything times out right! I originally started the book much later – kicking off around 7. And then when I realized everything that had to happen, I kept having to move it up. So now it starts at 4:30 lol. Keeping the timeline straight was a real challenge.

I love a 24-hour romance because you really do get to be there with the characters for nearly every moment. If Darcy is falling for Russell, you’re going to see why – because you’re there for all their interactions. I love a montage, of course, but it’s really fun to just be with the characters the whole way through. 

What draws you to the second-chance romance trope? 

I think it’s always fun to see people with history with each other. It’s always fun – especially if things ended badly – to launch people from a place of heightened emotion. And then the past and present selves are always in conversation with each other, which is so fun. 

Every novel has a piece of the author somewhere inside. How would you say this applies to you for “The Ballad of Darcy & Russell”? 

The initial idea for the story came from something that really happened to me! When I was 17, the summer before I went to college, I went to a music festival in upstate New York with an acquaintance I didn’t know well at all. We had a great time, but on the way home, our bus broke down. We ended up sleeping overnight in a bus station in some random town in upstate NY. I always just tucked it away as something that could be potentially interesting for a story some day, and was thrilled when I was able to use it for Darcy and Russell. I liked the idea of someone thinking the adventure was one thing – like going to a music festival. When in fact, the adventure was really what happened in the aftermath, when you were least expecting it.

Despite living in LA, you always mention New York City in your books. When writing romance, what draws you to NYC whether that’s having it set in the city like “Take Me Home Tonight” or mentions of it like you do in this book? 

It’s such a great city! So romantic and fun. It was great in “Take Me Home Tonight” to use it as the backdrop, because people were running into each other – which really does happen in New York. Since Darcy is from California but going to school outside the city, it was fun to have NYC as this looming idea of change – since it’ll be so different than what she’s known before.

How do you think this book differs from your previous novels? What goals and desires did you have in mind before you began drafting? 

Darcy and Russell are definitely the oldest characters I’ve written. They’re both days away from starting college, and for separate reasons, neither one is really excited about this next chapter in their lives. I really liked writing these characters who were about to start a whole new journey – but weren’t there yet. So I definitely feel like they have different issues and concerns than some of my other characters. 

Before I started drafting, I almost gave myself a challenge. I personally don’t believe in love at first sight – but know some friends for whom it was true! So I really wanted to look at this idea from all sides, and kind of kick the tires on it. It was really fun to write a character, like Darcy, who is so sure that love at first sight exists, and then have her think she’s found it – only to realize that nothing is ever as simple as it seems in the movies. I wanted to keep looking at this idea from different angles, and see where I came out in the end.

Russell has a knack for sharing fun facts. What was some research you did for these fun facts that you were surprised to learn? Are there any that didn’t make the cut? 

It was so fun! I love a fact myself, and am always bugging my friends by telling them far too many. I feel like we couldn’t fit them all in, but this one always blows my mind:  Less time separates humans from Tyrannosaurus Rex than separated T. Rex from stegosaurus *mind-blown emoji*

Thank you so much to Morgan Matson for answering my questions! As a fan of your work, this was such a dream come true. I’d like to thank Lindsey Ferris from Simon & Schuster for helping grant this wish. Excited to see what we work on next as I move on from Her Campus NYU after the summer. 

Sabrina Blandon is an English major at NYU with a minor in creative writing. Avid reader herself and literary advocate, she has interviewed over 60 authors from New York Times bestselling ones to debut authors for Her Author Spotlight blog series for Her Campus NYU and Her Campus Hofstra. She loves exploring everything New York City has to offer and is a major foodie.