Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Being a Jessica and an Elizabeth

"Mysterious illnesses aside, this was a disembodied world, where corporeality was hinted at solely through actions: the twins 'sped' in their shiny red Fiat Spider convertible; 'dashed' to the mall; or 'raced' upstairs to phone a friend. Rhetoric mattered here as much as action—the books were filled with dialogue, and talk was everywhere — gossip, confidences, promises, avowals, protests, demurrals. I never knew, before I started writing for Sweet Valley, how many synonyms there were for the verb 'said.' The twins by and large didn’t 'say' things — instead, they chuckled and giggled and whispered and murmured and sighed. They 'gasped' over good news or bad. They lived in a fantasy world, these girls, and as long as I was writing about them, to some extent, so did I."
Ghostwriting 'Sweet Valley High.'

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They turned on their heel a lot. That was always absurd to me. I tried it once but turns out it doesnt work at all well on carpet.


Also I kind of loved that the author wrote them in some sort of secret life. But really what sort of svengali was Francine Pascal and how did she make those stories so damn addictive?

She was a retail whore

I loved those books for far too long into my teenage years. I'd moved on to adult books by the time I was 11 or so, but the Sweet Valley gang were one of the few young adult series I kept up with. I was nothing like the Wakefield twins (I was black, very East Coast, and never the prettiest, nicest, or most popular), but their problems were usually not huge, and the relatively painless resolutions gave me the sense that things in my life were equally manageable.

I'm always interested in ghostwriters (Steel & Patterson, yours are going to spill one day, too!), much more so than the people they pretend to be.


@She was a retail whore I think one of Patterson's ghostwriters already spilled. Kind of, anyway. He went on and on about how wonderful Patterson was to work with. I can't remember his name, but he's a moderately known author, independent of his ghostwriting.


@themegnapkin Peter de Jonge is one of Patterson's former ghostwriters. The (good) thing about Patterson is that he often credits his ghostwriters as a co-author. As far as I heard, he's supposed to be lovely to work for, unlike James Frey.


Did they ever sashay?

raised amongst catalogs

@MaxBraverman You know who did a lot of sashaying? Taffy Sinclair. Anyone else read those books?



raised amongst catalogs

@lookuplookup Randy Kirwan 4ever.

Heat Signature

@raised amongst catalogs OMG OMG OMG OMG I totally forgot about these books AND The Fabulous Five until I just googled them just now OMG OMG OMG OMG YES!!!! I LOVED THOSE BOOKS SOOOO MUCH!!!!!!


@Heat Signature I loved The Fab Five more than Babysitters Club. I loved the jocks on the cover of The Trouble With Flirting. I thought they were SUPER FINE!!


@Heat Signature I will never forget the Little Raisins Club. I mean, Lambda Rho.

raised amongst catalogs

@all The fact that Jana & Randy liking the EXACT SAME PIZZA TOPPINGS meant they were destined to be together may have shaped my preteen and young adult views on romantic attachments.

New Hoarder

@MaxBraverman RANDY KIRWAN, with his PAUL NEWMAN-like blue eyes... oh, how I desperately needed Wikipedia back in the day for all of those references...

She was a retail whore

I also think of the Wakefield twins every time I see a Fiat.

Heat Signature

@She was a retail whore I never really knew what a Fiat was until a few years ago. Related: I live in Maine.

fondue with cheddar

I never could get into that series, but it's been so long that I can't remember why.

Lisa Frank

@fondue with cheddar I think unlike a lot of YA protagonists, the twins were supposed to be flawless. As a "smart" girl and reader, I guess I was supposed to relate to Elizabeth, but I couldn't relate to this world that was always sunny and characters who were invariably pretty, popular and rich. And nothing ever really happened.
I preferred the "weird girl" YA protagonists like Meg Murry and Anastacia Krupnik who were often confused and sometimes angry, and had to overcome their flaws to face more relatable challenges.

quamquam vivit

I remember being irked by the pink and purple covers. My favorite series were Hardy Boys and Hank The Cowdog.

fondue with cheddar

@Lisa Frank Yeah, I read one that was about the twins, because I remember the cover. Now that you mention it, it's coming back to me. Yeah...the pretty/popular/rich thing turned me off, too. It didn't seem like the book (I think I only read one) was about real people in a real place. I guess never found a YA series that I related to, at least not one with regular characters. I would have enjoyed a series that was more like DeGrassi Junior High (the original show).

fondue with cheddar

@DIES IMMORTALES!!! Yeah! I liked the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown.

H.E. Ladypants

@Lisa Frank Yes! Anastasia Krupnik! She was awkward and bad at gym class and lived in a house filled with books with her weird parents and I could relate to her and I totally loved her.


@Lisa Frank OMG Anastasia Krupnik is the best! And those books are like a million times better than SVH. Though they were solidly kids books and I remember having to walk over to scary and scandalous YA section of the library to get my SVH fix.


@fondue with cheddar YESSSSS. Anastasia Krupnik forever! I kind of dream of being her mother when I grow up?


@H.E. Ladypants Anastasia Krupnik was BOSS. Along with Lindsay Weir and Liz Lemon, Anastasia Krupnik is the fictional character I most identify with.

I was also a fan of the Girl Talk books which were so, so '80s/'90s-tastic that I can't even think about the covers without laughing (pink! with purple stripes! and randomly sprinkled with geometric shapes! lulz). I remember those being better than you would think (but I was 8, so who knows) BUT they were written by K.A. Applegate, who wrote the Animorphs books, an obsession of mine through middle school.

P.J. Morse

@Lisa Frank Anastasia Krupnik forever. She lived in my head. She attempted to dress in layers like one of her teachers and ended up looking like a beach ball. That is my entire fashion life!

Pocket Witch

@DIES IMMORTALES!!! Yes! Hank the Cowdog! The audiobooks!

I'm convinced that Hank the Cowdog is an actual documentary of the weird-ass things dogs do and think. It all makes sense now...

fondue with cheddar

@Pocket Witch Is he related to the Dogcow? Moof!


@MoxyCrimeFighter I was at a friend's house in the past couple years and we were looking for something else in her closet and unearthed her Girl Talk board game. OF COURSE WE PLAYED IT.

Heat Signature

@Lisa Frank Anastasia Krupnik gave young, nerdy me hope that there were others like me in the world. Also I wanted a bust of Sigmund Freud to have conversations with, or at least a bust of SOMEONE.


@MoxyCrimeFighter You just blew my mind. K.A. Applegate wrote the "Girl Talk" books??


I will never ever ever never get tired of reading exposes by ghostwriters of these series. I find them endlessly fascinating.


I only had one SVH book. It was the one where Robin gets worried about gaining all her weight back so she becomes anorexic for two weeks. I had a lot of these entries from YA series. For tha *tipz.*


SVH ghostwriter is one of my many dream jobs. I've just always had an interest in a) the way that young adult fiction (particularly serial novels like SVH, The Baby Sitter's Club, etc.) functions as a means of transmitting cultural norms and b) trashy books about teenagers and SVH is like the perfect intersection of those two interests.


I knew I was going to enjoy this, but I didn't know I was going to get SUPER EXCITED when she mentioned the bump on her finger from the pen. I have one of those! I've had a pencil callus on my left ring finger for as long as I can remember, although it's kind of shrunk now that I barely handwrite anything anymore. My brother used to tease me about it, although I would just get him back about the giant mole in his eyebrow so we were pretty much even on that score.

Heat Signature

@frigwiggin I was so proud of my writier's callus on my right middle finger, and I'm pretty bummed that it's mostly gone now.

Blackwatch Plaid

@frigwiggin Me too! I used to have to painfully regrow it at the start of every school year.

P.J. Morse

This one time, I heard the great Sue Grafton speak, and she advised her audience to avoid chuckling, giggling, whispering, murmuring and sighing at all costs. She also hated the phrase "shot back," most likely because, as a mystery writer, she preferred to take "shot back" literally.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Can we talk about how we're supposed to think Elizabeth is such a responsible young woman and the ideal twin, blah blah, when in reality all she was doing was shaming poor Jessica and not being supportive? (I hated Elizabeth.) (Pi Beta Alpha forever.)

Heat Signature

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Conversely, I was always SO ANNOYED with Jessica because she would insist on ridiculous, irrational hijinks that clearly defied logic and if she would JUST LISTEN to Elizabeth she would've been fine.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Heat Signature I think her irrational hijinks only showed she was the true genius in that cookie cutter town. (Oh god why am I overthinking this.)


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose
Oh Liz was such an obnoxious meddler! Just let everyone make their own decisions without moralizing all over them. Jesus Christ. This tendency always turned out to be more scheme-y than anything Jessica came up with and usually caused more damage than Jessica's straightforward nonsense. (I have a lot of feelings about this series)


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