If you are a woman of a certain age--that is, in your thirties--Sweet Valley High was a part of your life. The successful young adult book series from the eighties introduced us to the blond-haired, aqua-marine-eyed, perfect-sized-six Wakefield twins and their friends. The Wakefield twins lived in the southern Californian town of Sweet Valley, where the sun always shines, the school dances are every week, and the beautiful and wealthy roam the streets (or drive in their Porches, in the case of Bruce Patman).
Sweet Valley High is the creation of author Francine Pascal who, to the delight of fans everywhere, has written a follow-up series, revisiting the Sweet Valley gang as adults. It's every fangirl's wish fulfillment to have an epilogue for their favorite characters. Last year, Pascal wrote Sweet Valley Confidential, and this year she will release six novellas as e-books, called The Sweet Life. The first two installments have already given us lots of drama in the twins' lives, including false accusations of crime, a love triangle, fighting and breaking up with boyfriends (now husbands!), all a typical day in the world of Sweet Valley. We were lucky enough to have an opportunity to talk to the author and legend, Francine Pascal.
The Sweet Valley world is near and dear to many women's hearts and was a big influence on them growing up. What sort of impact do you hope it has had on your readers?
I hope it has helped to make readers out of non-readers. And it has. Fully 25 percent of my mail years ago started with "I used to hate to read...."
When the original series was happening, did you ever imagine that you would write a sequel series? Did you always know this is where the characters would be in ten years?
No. I never thought I would ever revisit Sweet Valley. And I certainly never gave any thought to how the characters would mature. That was one of the best parts of ageing them. I hope I stayed true to their characters while changing them just enough so that you still knew them.
As more Sweet Valley series were produced, I understand that ghost writers were used to write the stories. How did you choose ghost writers? What sort of information were they given before writing a book?
Ghost writers did not write stories. I wrote all the stories for every Sweet Valley book in every series. I also created the characters. Those elements were given to the writers who had to follow almost like paint by numbers.
In the first two installments of The Sweet Life, many of the characters have changed dramatically since high school (i.e. Bruce Patman, Enid Rollins), but most others (i.e. Lila, Jessica) seem to hold on to their high school personas. Will we see any surprises in the choices they make by the end of the series?
I hope everything will be a surprise. With every new experience and challenge, they have to change to adjust. Just like real people.
Is The Sweet Life series the last we will see of the Wakefield Twins?
I don't know.
Is Sweet Valley High based on a real Southern California town?
No. There is not a town of Sweet Valley. I made it up. Additionally, I had never been to California when I wrote that, but when I did go, it was exactly like a wrote.
Jessica and Elizabeth were the ultimate opposites, personality-wise; one is responsible and benevolent, the other impulsive and sometimes scheming. Which character do you most identify with? Which is more fun to write about?
I always identified with Elizabeth, but I could really let myself go with Jessica.
Who would you consider the best catch: Bruce Patman, Todd Wilkins, Nicholas Morrow, or Winston Eggbert?
Bruce Patman, absolutely.
One of the most memorable storylines from Sweet Valley High is about Margo, an evil Wakefield twin lookalike. In The Evil Twin, Margo tried to murder the twins, and came back to life again in Return Of The Evil Twin. Can you confirm if she is actually dead or not?
If I need her to be, she will be alive. That's the fun of being the writer.
Another memorable story line from the original series is when Elizabeth suffered a personality change after waking up from a coma due to a motorcycle accident. Bruce Patman tried to take advantage of her during this time. In The Sweet Life, Bruce and Elizabeth are now a couple. Did the earlier incident have any affect on your decision to make them fall in love?
Not really. I always felt an attraction to Bruce. And finally Elizabeth did, too. By the way, they used my story for the movie.
A lot of women I've talked to have cited Regina Morrow's death from a cocaine overdose as the reason they have stayed away from cocaine, even in their adult lives. Was your intention to provide a message about the dangers of drugs?
Yes. Yes. Yes. And I am so pleased to think that I help keep anyone away from drugs. That was the whole point of choosing Regina, a character everyone loved.
Why did seemingly nice and benevolent characters (Enid Rollins, Winston Egbert) have a negative fate in Sweet Valley Confidential?
That's the way life is sometimes. But Enid did change and become very arrogant. And Winston had a lot of concealed anger from years of rejection from the girls he liked. And he took it out on women when he could.
How much are you involved with the upcoming film adaptation of Sweet Valley High? Are you excited to see the characters come to the big screen? Who would you cast in the film?
I would like Taylor Swift to play both twins. The creative team, book writer, lyricist and composer is very good. Can't say the same for the producer who has taken two years now to get things going.
Young Adult fiction is seeing a huge comeback in the present time. What Young Adult writers do you admire or recommend?
Elizabeth Levy is one of my favorites.
What advice do you have for aspiring Young Adult writers?
The same advice I give to any writers: write! write! write! Keep a daily journal and then write some more.