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Exclusive: TikTok's favorite spicy author on why hockey books are so popular, and fancasting Jacob Elordi and Nicholas Galitzine

The Graham Effect is available to buy now 

Elle Kennedy is the author of The Graham Effect
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
Los Angeles correspondentLos Angeles
January 16, 2024
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New York Times bestselling author Elle Kennedy never set out to write a next-generation romance book, but it turns out fan emails really do work. Ellewhose book series Off Campus has become a TikTok sensation, recently released The Graham Effect, which follows Gigi Graham, the hockey-playing daughter of Hannah Wells and Garrett Graham, characters from the first book in the series, The Deal.

It almost didn't come about because as Elle tells HELLO! next gen books can be "hit or miss" and she is often left "disappointed," a feeling she would never want to pass on to her readers. But after a dog walk, inspiration appeared – and now the book has a 4.3 rating on Goodreads, and Elle is already writing a sequel for the new series, titled Briar U. 

Elle Kennedy's The Graham Effect is out now
Elle Kennedy's The Graham Effect is out now

Born and raised in Canada, it's no wonder Elle found herself writing about brutes on the ice who are gentle giants off, but even Elle is surprised by the phenomenon of romance books set in the world of hockey. 

"There are other sports romances, so I'm always wondering, 'Why hockey?'" she tells HELLO! "And I don't know if I can answer that other than to say hockey is extra physical; you don't see basketball players smashing each other into the boards and things like that. The physicality of it adds to the appeal."

What inspired you to do your own next-generation book with The Graham Effect? 

They're hit or miss for me; most of the time I'm disappointed – the characters aren't doing what my imagination created after the other books ended. But I made a mistake in writing a novella anthology with other authors and there was a little cute story about Garrett and Hannah (from The Deal) – they get trapped in the snow – and I had hundreds of emails from readers saying, ''I need to see a novella for every single book in the off-campus series.'

So I wrote The Legacy and made the second mistake of giving Garrett and Hannah twins and suddenly I'm getting hundreds more emails: 'Oh, I want to see what Garrett and Hannah's twins would be like.' I really was not planning on writing a book for them – I don't typically do fan service – but I was walking my dogs and I was like, 'What would their twins look like?' 

At first I thought, 'So the son plays hockey, obviously.' And then I just like, 'No! I think the daughter plays hockey!' And then the entire story poured into my head. 

When you're writing a series, where do you get your inspiration as an author for each new character? 

A lot of the time, I will maybe meet someone that has a personality trait that I like and think would be interesting if a character had that. For example, in The Play (book three in the Off Campus series) the heroine Demi is obsessed with true crime and that's based on someone that I know – anytime I go to her house, that's what we're watching – so sometimes it's little personality traits that I see in people or random conversations that I hear, and you just roll with it. 

You're working on a second book about Shane and Diana. What can you tease about that? 

I don't even know how this book took me where it took me. It is so much fun; it starts as this enemies to lovers, fake dating trope, and then suddenly takes you on this roller coaster into the most angsty places, and it's fantastic. Not that I'm tooting my own horn, but I really enjoyed writing this book. 

It surprised me a lot; it's fun, it's bantery and they're both hotheaded and stubborn, and they were so much fun to write. But then it just takes you somewhere so much deeper. 

How do you balance not giving into fan service and telling the story that you want to tell? 

It's hard for me to write a book that is not the book that I want to write, so it's not even a matter of finding a balance. It's a matter of 'I am unable to do that.' 

One of the complaints about The Legacy was that it wasn't as cute [as the other books], and readers just wanted to see pages and pages of people happy, and as a writer, I just physically can't do that. My brain can't write something that I personally don't want to write. But, I do put little Easter eggs, which I know the fans are going to love. 

How do you know when it's time to say goodbye to a set of characters? 

I always feel in my gut when it's time to say goodbye. I know I won't be writing more in the Off Campus world. But it feels like I can do so much more in the Briar U world; 

I think there's an endless possibility of stories there. 

George Clooney (far left) poses with Facts of Life cast© NBC
George Clooney (far left) in Facts Of Life circa 1985 at the age of 24

Who would be your dream cast if The Graham Effect hit the screen? 

This is going to reveal a lot about me, but I don't think I know any current actors. If I was fancasting, I'd say, a young George Clooney would have been great for Ryder. Or I can see Jacob Elordi [from Euphoria], maybe Nicholas Galitzine [Red, White and Royal Blue], but I don't know a lot of the younger actors these days. 

Nicholas Galitzine in Purple Hearts© Netflix
Nicholas Galitzine in Purple Hearts

Is there a trope you really dislike?

I don't like "secrets". Like, he has a secret against her family and he's there to get revenge, the kind of secret where you're hiding something really important in the relationship or where you marry someone with other intentions, and then the whole book you're waiting for the person to find out about that huge secret that's about to drop. It gives me too much tension and I get too angry.

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