When I was in Jr high circa 1985 I discovered an amazing series The Sweet Valley High Series and The Sweet Valley Twins. I credit this series with really starting my love of reading, and wanting to have twins (if I had only known). So I am super excited to welcome Francine Pascal to our site today. She was gracious enough to sit down with me and answer some questions. I wish that I could post the entire interview but here are the best parts of it.
TBRG: Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
FP: A French write by the name of Eugène Sue he was a 19th century writer. I would say he is the French Dickens. The Wandering Jew is the most wonderful book, simply a marvelous book.
TBRG: What is the one thing your readers would be the most surprised to know about you?
FP: That I never read Nancy Drew.
TBRG: She also shares an agent with Nora Roberts.
TBRG: Where is the one place you have always wanted to go, a place on your bucket list?
FP: I have to been to Russia, to China, I have been all over and so I don’t want to back to those places. I want to go where there is good food.
TBRG: Who are some of your go to authors, and what are you reading right now?
FB: Eugène Sue, Mysteries of Paris, I am astounded by how talented and undiscovered here in the United States he is. A Passage by Justin Cronin (on her kindle), I am not that far into o tot have an opinion of it just yet. I just finished Three Stages of Amazement Carol Edgarian.
TBRG: If you weren’t writing and keeping us in books (thanks for that by the way), what would you be doing?
FB: I live in Midtown Manhattan, love to walk around, love to play poker once a month. I love to eat, love wonderful food. (We discussed our favorite Asian dishes, mine, Francine it is spelled Laap, and one of hers sea urchin).
TBRG: Who is on your playlist when you are writing?
FP: I have to have quiet, both here in Manhattan and in France.
TBRG: Where do your ideas/characters come from?
FB: All from my imagination. One of my favorite things to do is come up with ideas, and characters. It’s always been the most exciting thing. The first YA book that I wrote Hanging out with Cici or my mother was never a child, back in 1974, the idea that a thirteen year old girl that didn’t get along with her mother could go back in time to when her mother was her age and become her best friend, was unheard of at the time, it was unique. Sweet Valley was one of my best ideas. The Fearless series about a girl born without the fear gene, I made this up completely and recently discovered that there is credibility in it. I wrote this series back in the 1990’s and not too long ago I read an article about a woman that doesn’t have the fear gene and it is frightening to me. (We discussed different syndromes that don’t have this, specifically FAS).
TBRG: Are you a planner or a fly by the seat author?
FP: When I have an idea, I become so enamored of the idea; I work it in my head. My outlines aren’t long outlines, I know in my head where I am going, but on the way I do break it down a bit the outline could be 3 sentences a chapter. Along the way you discover great things. If you tie yourself to an outline, you limit yourself. It doesn’t read with excitement so I don’t do that.
TBRG: You were writing YA books long before the recent YA craze, what do you think about where the YA genre is now?
FP: I was writing YA in 1974 Hanging out with Cici, that was my first YA book, that was for an urban more sophisticated audience, I wrote two more books with that same girl, one when she as 15, and another when she was 17. When I came up with the idea for SV, it was easier reading, much less sophisticated, less humor, just different. One of the differences was that the girls would drive the actions, not the boys, in other romances the boy very much. It appealed to everyone. My audience for the urban was hundreds of thousands and the audience for Sweet Valley was millions and was translated into twenty five different languages. It appealed to everyone, people who had never been readers. The fan mail that I used to hate to read would tell me that they discovered a love of reading because of my books. When I first came out with SV school librarians felt that I had betrayed them, because these were books that they considered romance books, and were forced to put them in their libraries. It wasn’t until they began to see girls that had never set foot in the library coming in and eating them up they had to change their mind. In my mind anything that gets kids to read and keeps them away from the TV is good in my mind.
TBRG: You were my generations J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers.
FB: That is a compliment.
TBRG: Do you think that some really good YA books aren’t getting published because they aren’t paranormal, that seems to be the way YA books are going right now?
FP: Never really been involved in the YA world, so I don’t know. I am a writer that is very private.
TBRG: You tackled some pretty big issues back when it wasn’t talked about, leukemia, Regina dying of a drug overdose were you criticized for this?
FP: No, but there were places in the South where my books were banned because one of the girls had a crush on a Hispanic boy, this was in the late 1970’s. For the most part my mail was wonderful, but there were the occasionally loonies.
TBRG: Do you think that you helped some teen girls by writing those story lines?
FP: I do think so. There was enormous identification with the girls, despite the fact that nobody in the world looks like those Wakefield twins. It was a high school fantasy. The problems were real. This is why I choose high school. It is the first time where you begin to run your own life. It is a unique time and place in our lives. It is scary and dramatic. I harvested all of that into this series. It is a microcosm of the world. It is in stone in everyone’s head. You never get rid of high school.
TBRG: When you first started writing the SVH books did you ever imagine that it would be as big as they are?
FP: Never. It wasn’t out two weeks when it was on the publisher weekly best seller list. I was stunned. And it grew; mind you this was before the internet so I don’t know how it grew so fast. It grew like wildfire.
TBRG: One teenager girls tells one girl and before you know it, it is everywhere.
FP: It was the first YA novel to ever get on the NYT best sellers list, the adult. There was a time it was 17 of 17 on the Publisher Weekly list. I thought WOW. I thought this will go on forever, and my agent said no, you are the foundation for new things. She was right. Bantam has just released the first three books in trade paperback to hopefully gain a new audience plus there is the movie
TBRG: WHAT?! There is a movie?
FP: Yes Diablo Cody, she won the Academy Award for Juno, was one of those girls that loved the series, she approached me about making it a movie and as she is such a wonderful writer I said yes, was in fact delighted. She is, setting it back in the 80’s when it took place and is keeping it faithful. I can trust her as she loved it.
TBRG: What is the one book that you are asked about the most?
FP: Regina’s book. People were so upset, and the adults that are interviewing me now, all ask why did you pick Regina? Why didn’t you pick someone not as loved. I answer by saying that I was after something important, and so I took someone that you really cared about and did that to her. Many people told me that they learned of the dangers of drugs from that book.
TBRG: Do you know when your SVH and SV Twins will be made available as ebooks?
FB: I have a meeting next week with an ebook publisher about that.
TBRG: I can sneak them past my dh if they are on the kindle, we have run out of room for books.
TBRG: What made you decided to write this book?
FP: That is a curious thing. I kept running into people who are adults, women in good position, not only here but in France, they had that special spot in their heart for SV. I had been to dinners with important people and then someone will find out that I am SV and everything changes, they can’t get enough. So I thought wouldn’t it be fun to give them something like this. It turns out his is the first ever that a kids series has ever made the leap to adult hood. I love being first. It is for you.
TBRG: Can you tell us anything about it?
FP: No, I want it to be a complete surprise for the readers. I have asked everyone to please keep the secrets and surprises. Am really surprised that they have Was very against sending out any review copies, but everyone the magazines, the reviewers they have all kept the secrets and not revealed anything.
TBRG: Which character shocked you the most about where they are now, without giving away to many details?
FP: I can’t tell you…
TBRG: I never read the SV University books, so can you tell me if Elizabeth and Todd are still together?
FP: Still can’t tell you…
The forty-five minutes that I spent talking to her were an absolute delight. I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams when I was a teen-ager reading about Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield that one day I would have a the opportunity to have a conversation with her.
The reason for the interview is that Francine has a new book coming out Sweet Valley Confidential 10 years later…
Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood
FRANCINE PASCAL is the creator of the Sweet Valley High series and one of the world’s most popular fiction writers for teenagers and the author of several bestselling novels, My Mother Was Never A Kid (Hanging out with Cici), My First Love and Other Disasters, as well as the series Fearless. Her adult novels include, Save Johanna! and If Wishes Were Horses (La Villa) and the non-fiction, The Strange Case of Patty Hearst. Pascal is on the Advisory Board of The American Theatre Wing. Her favorite sport is a monthly poker game. She lives in New York City and France.