EXCLUSIVE: Sara Shepard, the author behind the popular Pretty Little Liars books, which have been turned into a slew of TV series, is expanding her work in the audio space.
The author, who also wrote The Lying Game, which was adapted for TV, has created Cruise Ship, a scripted podcast for Meet Cute, a venture-backed media company that has produced over 300 original light-hearted romantic comedies in podcast form.
The series, which is a cross between The Love Boat and Love Actually, follows cruise ship Queen Beatrice on its inaugural voyage. Characters include Corby, a peppy cruise director as she tries to get the stern Captain Karl to warm up on the cold seas; Frieda who unexpectedly meets Loren at her cousin’s complicated wedding; crewmembers Faye, Harrison and celebrity chef Gabriel, who form a perfect Bermuda love triangle; Renata who teaches newly widowed Edie what it means to be a trans woman in the 21st century with the backdrop of the first onboard Scrabble tournament; Foster who mistakenly books a voyage on the QB’s first cat cruise (he’s allergic) but gets a few pointers from stowaway Lara who has a big secret of her own; teenage bookworm Nessie who reluctantly heads onshore to the Irish island of Inis Mor and meets Fintan who shows her that adventure can be found outside the pages of a book and scientist Jonah, who falls for paralympian Cole at an onboard marathon.
The nine-part series launches on July 6.
It comes after Shepard previously teamed up with Realm on the Memory Lane podcast series.
It is the latest big name to work with WME-repped Meet Cute, which was founded by Naomi Shah. Last year, the company partnered with Dancing with the Stars’ Julianne Hough on a series
Shepard said that she conceived of the idea during the fall of 2020 when Covid was at its worst.
“We’d already been more or less trapped for months, and all I wanted to do was go somewhere, but I couldn’t. And I have to think that everyone was going through that same sort of agony. So I thought, “What would make a fun set-piece for a lot of Meet Cutes that’s a total escape?” I kept thinking of The Love Boat – a luxury ship sailing around, always picking up different passengers — everyone is happy, the views are beautiful and love is on the horizon! I used these stories as an escape,” she said.
“I love writing for Meet Cute because it’s such a fun format — it’s a rom-com in under 15 minutes, it’s a story on-the-go, and you get a fun little peek into someone’s life. The stories are bite-sized, perfect for a quick drive to the grocery store or a commute to work,” she added.
Meet Cute Founder and CEO Naomi Shah added, “When we first spoke to Sara, it was clear that she was an endless fountain of creativity – she had so many ideas. Even as a bestselling author, she welcomed editorial input from our team and was open to brainstorming around the smallest nuances of character and plot. Sara has a fun personality and is a big team player, so the process from treatment all the way to final audio was seamless and resulted in an incredible rom-com series set on a cruise ship that reminds me of Love Actually, one of my favorite rom-coms. We can’t wait to work with Sara again.”