Well tonight the lovely dwanollah1 and hit up the Francine Pascal reading at the 86th Street B&N.
Here's what we discovered: She is not Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. She is a human person. Sadly, she sounds nothing like Eartha Kitt, like we imagined. She sounds terribly normal, exept every now and again an old accent comes through. She pronounces New York, like "New Yawrk." (In fact, if I had to describe her in terms of a cartoon character I would say more like Peg from Lady and the Tramp, because she has the swoopy bangs.)
There were only four men at the reading. I believe they all had reasons to be there other than being fans of the series (one was a father getting a book signed for his daughter, one a husband for his wife, etc). Otherwise it was just gals in their 20s and 30s.
Ms. Pascal read from an advance reader copy of the book. (I could tell because it was paperback and it had the #35 on the front. You'd think she would get #1!) She read from the first chapter of Sweet Valley Confidential and then she took some questions.
I apologize that I am paraphrasing her responses, but I didn't record the thing. Just took notes, like a loser.
Someone asked if the whole series would be re-released as the first couple SVHs were. The questioner wanted the SAGAS in particular, and I can't blame her. Ms. Pascal said that would be nice, but it all depends on how they sell. We should write letters to Bantam demanding our Sagas!
Another questioner asked what her favorite series was. She said Sweet Valley High, of course. That's the original. But she also really loved the idea of Fearless.
Someone asked if the Wakefield twins were based on her and she laughed and said no. (She's not a perfect size six.) Later she talked more about the personalities of the twins. She said she always thought of them as two aspects of one self, which made me picture them like Janus, growing out of one another. And that's why, in "Dear Sister" when Liz becomes Jessica-like, then Jessica has to become Liz-like. But she did say that she was more like Elizabeth than Jessica, since she always wanted to be a writer. She is surprised when people admit they are a Jessica, because Jessica is very self-centered.
dwanollah1 was brave and asked her own question. She asked if she was ever unhappy with the books. Ms. Pascal said "no." She joked that the ghostwriters were very faithful to the Sweet Valley High "bible" that she wrote and if they weren't they "cut off their heads." (That was the most Yzma-y thing she said, and she laughed when she said it. Disappointing.)
A English gentleman with a lovely accent said that his daughter was a huge fan and he wanted her to explain the success of the books. Ms. Pascal gave, what I thought was a very good answer about how YA was published before Sweet Valley. Books were written for urbane young people, not your average kid. She admitted that Sweet Valley wasn't really sophisticated and it was easier reading.
And she stressed that girls liked that the twins drove the action. It wasn't a romantic girl novel. They had personalities and were strong characters. (I have to agree that while I make fun of Liz as meddlesome and Jessica as a sociopath, at least they have character traits unlike say Bella Swan. I know I risk the wrath of Twihards killing me, but she is very dull.)
Some girls really learned how to love reading through Sweet Valley, like youngsters now did with Harry Potter. She says the best letters she gets were from people who said that they became readers because of SVH. I might have gotten a little misty at that point. Because, honestly, that's always a good thing and I can't mock that.
Someone asked about the Sweet Valley High movie that Diablo Cody is working on. Ms. Pascal said Ms. Cody is a big fan of the series, like us. It's set in the 1980s. Later she mentioned that the "Fearless" tv pilot (which was never made into a series) was a terrible experience and that she wanted the Sweet Valley High show to be more like 90210. She thought it was cartoon-y and wrote Saban letters that they ignored.
Another woman asked if it was strange to write the twins as adults and she said no because you always wonder what your high school friends are up to. Where are they now? People always have big plans and they don't usually work out.
The next questioner asked what her favorite SVH mini-series was. Francine agreed with what this community and said "The Evil Twin."
At that point I finally got up my nerve to ask a question. I asked what happened to Margo? Where is she in the Sweet Valley Confidential world. She said Margo is dead, which made me very very sad. I had great faith in Margo's ability to cheat death.
Also, if this book sells well there might be more SVC. And that means YOU PEOPLE all need to buy it so we can find out what REALLY happened to Margo. Because I don't believe she is gone. Damnit. I refuse! TEAM MARGO!
Then Ms. Pascal signed books. She signed old SVH as wells as SVCs, which I thought was nice. I have been to signings where the authors would only sign new books that you bought at the store. I'm not sure if that was Ms. Pascal's doing or B&Ns but I approved.
Here is a photo that dwanollah1 took:
Fun Fact: I heard one of Ms. Pascal's family members call her "Fran." I like to hang around and listen to conversations, because I am a spook.