'Sweet Valley High' creator Francine Pascal on the sequel, the movie, and (perhaps) another book

Francine-Pascal

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later — the Wakefield-twins-grow-up sequel to the massively successful ’80s teen book series — is making 30-something women across the country squeal with nostalgia and, as a result, climbing the bestseller lists. (It debuted on the New York Times Hardcover Bestseller List at No. 14.) We sat down with creator/author Francine Pascal (she came up with the idea for the series and plotted out the stories for each of the 152 books, but she didn’t actually write a full Sweet Valley book until this one!) to talk about the surprisingly long shelf life of the impossibly perfect twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Coming soon: a movie version, another possible sequel, and — SVH scoop alert! —  lavaliers just like the Wakefield twins wear, complete with engraved Es and Js. (Available soon through the book’s site.)

What has the reaction from fans been like?
They are very excited about it. I think it’s kind-of the Facebook phenomenon in a sense: You want to find out what those people you went to high school with are up to. That’s exactly what this is, because you went to high school with these people. Though I hope it’s more interesting than most people you want to high school with, of course!

The response seems so visceral and intense.
I am surprised by that. There are those millions of girls who grew up with this, but it’s gone viral. I love Sweet Valley, but I love it from a different angle. There are people for whom it is their adolescence. They own it, in a way that even I don’t. I’ve come to respect the project more because of the response than I’ve had. It’s more important than I realized it was. I didn’t understand the breadth and depth of it. now I’m beginning to more.

What’s the status of the movie version of Sweet Valley High that screenwriter Diablo Cody is working on?
There is a script, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s a first draft and she was a little hesitant, but she has to show it to me. They’re 16 in it, and I said, ‘Please keep it in the ’80s,’ which she’s doing. It would be wrong any other way. It belongs in the ’80s. the whole sentiment is in the ’80s. The whole idea of updating it, like we did with the size 4 a few years ago [Random House released a new version of the books in 2008 in which the twins dropped two sizes from their original "perfect size 6"] … a mistake. We don’t do that anymore. We don’t talk about it.

And you’re considering another grown-up book sequel now?
Now that it’s so well-received, I’m kind of in a corner. If I do it, I think it would be five years later [putting the twins at 32 years old] because I don’t want it to be a series. I think this was great fun, but I’m still not sure. Though I couldn’t help myself from thinking of an opening chapter already.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @jenmarmstrong

Comments (68 total) Add your comment
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  • Denna916

    I’m confused. I read these books growing up and I would swear that only Francine Pascal’s name was on them. She wrote NOT ONE WORD of those classic books?! And gets all the credit?! F R A U D.

    • maiv

      Yup, there were other writers. Their names were usually in smaller print, so most people would have missed it.

    • Sandy

      Rest assured we are better off that she did not write them. I was thinking reading SVC that it was so poorly written how could I have not noticed it reading the whole series.

      • iyelli

        I thought the same thing. The writing in SVC was terrible.

      • m

        so glad you said it… god, this book was just AWFUL. the question is, why could she not find one of the writers from the originals? it certainly could not have been worse.

      • LMM

        I agree. There is a noticeable difference in how the series was written and how the newest book was. I almost didn’t want to finish it because it was just so off base compared to the series books.

      • J.M.D.

        I knew she had ghostwriters. You are right the book was poorly written; however, I would still read any new books about the characters.

    • em

      Yep. Ghostwriters…it happens to a lot of chilren/teen series with so many books. I remember looking up Gertrude Chandler Warner (of Boxcar Children fame) only to find out she was dead.

      • LNW

        Its the same with VC Andrews. She wrote some of the early work but when she died other people ghost wrote based on concepts she developed.

    • rke

      I believe that James Patterson writes very few of his books. He comes up with ideas and hands those off to writers he employs.

      • Becks

        R.L. Stine employed a ghostwriter for a good deal of the literature published under that pseudonym. One writer in particular, the one who wrote ‘Fear Street: Thrill Club’ went on to write the screenplay adaptation for Tom Perotta’s ‘Little Children’. I loved R.L. Stine, I couldn’t believe that… I lost some innocence when I found that out.

      • Allison

        He does this very openly. The other writer’s name is on the cover, albeit smaller (kind of like JP is the series branding)

    • Allison

      I clearly remember her being listed as ‘creator’ and questioning it at the time

    • Jenna

      It’s called ghost writing and it’s not fraudulent. Pascal created the concept and the ideas, but she did not put pen to paper.

    • Destiny Taykalo

      I grew up reading Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High, although Francine Pascal never wrote any of the original books until now does not mean she’s a fraud. She created these books for everyone all ages. She very much deserves the credit. I am VERY excited because I’ve read all the Sweet Valley books.

  • Jackie

    Just started reading ‘Sweet Valley Confidential’ during my lunch break and took a MAJOR nostalgia trip :)

  • DW

    Calm yourself. Ann M. Martin only wrote about a third of the Baby-Sitters Club books herself. Furthermore, the Nancy Drew books and the Hardy Boys books were all ghostwritten. It’s a publishing tool, that’s all. I’m sure the authors knew what they were on-board for when they agreed to the projects.

    • ambersbrainisinsane

      Now I feel silly. I assumed Martin wrote all the baby-sitters club books herself.

    • Marissa

      Ann M. Martin didn’t write all the Babysitter’s Club books?! Wow, I guess I was a naive child haha.

      • Allison

        Sigh – I just came across an assigment I did in middle school in which I claimed Ann M. Martin was my favorite writer…

  • MVH

    the book is crap. she totally phoned it in. disappointing.

  • Mike

    When you think about it, it’s the exact same thing with television. There’s a creator that usually gets credit for the series, but every episode is written by a different writer and even directed by different people each episode. That’s how these industries work.

    • Kris

      Yes but the screenwriter usually gets credit in big letters at the start of the episode. Furthermore most people are aware that’s how television works and understand “created by” means “the person who came up with the idea” (although it actually means the person who wrote the pilot) novels on the otherhand don’t work that way so people tend to assume the name on the cover is the person who wrote the book.

      • Jenna

        Series novels oftentimes DO work that way.

  • Zoe

    I was a huge SVH lover, and even I say: bring back the ghosties, because the writing in the new book is terrible. And Francine is NOT a bad writer; her “Hangin’ Out with Cici” and its sequels are absolutely wonderful. Love the idea of SVH sequels, but the book reads like fan fic.

    • Aimee

      I had NO idea there were sequels to Hangin with Cici, I loooved that book!

      • Zoe

        There are two more books about Victoria: “Love and Other Disasters” and “Love and Betrayal and Hold the Mayo.” One is about her summer spent as a nanny on Fire Island (IIRC), the other as a camp counselor. Neither has the time-travel element, but they have the same writing style, from Victoria’s perspective.

      • Ashley

        OMG! There are sequels to Hanging out with Cici?! I read them 30 years ago in junior high school….must make a quick trip to Amazon!

  • Andrea

    She says she didn’t write a FULL book until this most recent one. She came up with the plots for all of the books and probably wrote some of each story, but got assistance from a freelancer, etc. She created the characters, so that’s why she gets the “main” credit (i.e., “Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High”). I remember the names of the other authors on the books when I read them in HS, so it’s not like the publishers didn’t give credit where credit is due. As I understand it, this happens more often than one might think.

    • BethanyA

      Kate Williams and Laurie John ring bells?–(this was without the help of Yahoo!)

      • liv

        kate williams & laurie john aren’t the real names of the authors. the books were written by a whole load of ghostwriters; but they listed those names to maintain a standard form of continuity

    • Jamie

      Agreed. The covers said she created the series. The real author’s name was inside on the title page. I noticed this when I was a child reading the series.

  • Josquin

    I devoured SVH in the 90’s – but LUVED the scary ones the most! The doppleganger and Christmas, man, I still think about that! What a blast from the past.

    • Amanda

      Oh me too!!! I loved those!!! Do you remember the one where they go to that fantasy land or whatever it was? I think it might be the Christmas one you’re talking about…

      • Kimberly

        I loved that one…with the harlequin dolls. It was a Sweet Valley Twins Christmas special. Wow…this is really bringing me back.

    • Missy

      My favorites were The Wakefields of Sweet Valley and The Wakefield Legacy: The Untold Story. I loved the history of the familes!

    • Kirsten

      Ooooh me too. My fav of the series were the 104-106 when the Twins travel to London for a newspaper internship where there is a Werewolf on the loose, and it’s the Twins on the case. So great — I even re-read last summer since I couldn’t stop thinking about it… and I have to say, it pretty much holds up to my memory of it. :)

  • Lisa

    Team Babysitter’s Club!

    • Lynn

      PREACH!

  • Amanda

    I grew up with these books! I read the ones where the girls were in middle school, then high school, then the reinvented SVU (for the University), and then the special edition ones. I was a fan through and through, so I’m very excited about this! I knew she didn’t write them herself, but I read every page of every book I do read, so that includes the fine print lol. But they are classics, and I’m so excited about this!

    • Elizabeth

      We had “Swiss Valley Saga” – about their great grandmother, grandmother, mother, etc. That was my favorite book for years.

      • Elizabeth

        I meant “Sweet Valley Saga”. Oops!

      • Dana

        The sagas were always my favorites too! As a matter of fact, as soon as I finished Confidential, I went to my garage where I saved all of my old SVH/SVU books and started rereading them, lol! I must look so silly to my husband, a 31 year old woman reading SVH, but I don’t care… what a trip down memory lane!

      • Missy

        LOVED those! They were so, so good!

  • Typ0

    I remember reading SVH as a kid and admit (using my beloved online anonymity), that i can’t wait to read SVC. I was a fan before the College years or even Twins years so I hope I won’t be too lost. There are still SVH books i remember vividly (Elizabeth gets in an accident of some sort, basically becomes Jessica, and starts dating Bruce!) even though I haven’t picked one up in dec… er… a long time.

    • Arilson

      Huh? I dont get it .. She’s going back to high school? Or do you mean she’s wirting more books? Or making a movie? A TV show??? For some reason I’m not understanding this post. And who is this chick and how is she related to the Sweet Valley High series?

  • Tars

    Does anyone remember the saga series done on a couple of the characters? I didn’t read SVH until the 90s and at that time there were these saga novels that had family history for a few of the characters. I remember that there was one for the Wakefields and for Lila. Does anyone remember those?

    • Tars

      Ah just noticed Elizabeth’s comments, glad someone else remembers them too.

    • Dana

      They did two for the Wakefields (one for their mother’s and one for their father’s side), one for Lila, and one for Bruce. :) Loved them!

  • oceankitten

    i still remember reading the very first SVH in 7th grade and being instantly hooked (and yes, this was the 80’s), so i was really excited to this update. it was the first book i downloaded when i got my new ereader. i’m so disappointed…it was crap. it was basically a written version of a flow chart of what happened to the characters. the characters are written shallow and two-dimensional, and they all seem to do inane, out of character things with no explanation. i has a sad over this book :(

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    Ugh the new book was AWFUL! It was like she didn’t remember the characters at all and just made stuff up! Seriously on what universe would Elizabeth wind up with Bruce? WTF! My childhood nostalgia got destroyed by that garbage that just came out!

    • Mel

      I heard about some of the content between the twins, Todd, and Bruce and decided I didn’t want to read it. I loved the SVH and SVU books and would hate to ruin it.

    • Jenny

      Thank You! I thought I was the only one that thought that. It made no sense how the whole Twins/Todd/Bruce thing came out. I didn’t read the SVU series so I did wonder if that had something to do with my opinion, but I am starting to think that isn’t the case. I also agree with others that the writing was poor. So many flashbacks that were basically just taken from the other books. I really wasn’t expecting prize winning literature, but this wasn’t even a mindless summer read. I almost want to find the SVH and SVU books to read and remember why I loved these growing up.

    • April

      I totally agree with you! It was painful reading this new book! I grew up reading the entire sweet valley series- from kids to university and this new book ruined the whole series for me. Jessica and Todd?! Where did that come from?! I never liked Jessica but after reading this book, I hate her now.

  • Zo

    This former Sweet Valley lover is wary of reading this new book, but what IS good about it is that it’s gotten all of us closeted-SV-freaks out reminiscing together! Y’know, I used to borrow so many of the books from the Public Library… maybe for nostalgia’s sake, I’ll do something I haven’t done in a decade: BORROW SVC from the local library so I don’t have to buy it!

    Hey, was anyone else in that sort of ‘tween age where you could read both the “Twins” series alongside the “High” series? I seem to remember reading both series at the same time. Probably around age 11, 12.

    • Zoe

      Yup, I was in 5th or 6th grade at the time, and was already reading SVH. The series was at the 30s or so. Then SV Twins came out and I read both at the same time for at least the next couple years.

    • T

      That is exactly when I started reading them! I remember my fourth grade teacher looking at me funny when I had a SVH book on my desk called “Forbidden Love” or something terribly ‘grown-up’ like that! hahaha… Love the SV series!!

    • Melokesm

      I am really excited about an 80’s movie!! How fun!

    • claire K

      To Zo..I was one of them. Majority of my cash as a teenager went on any Sweet Valley book I could get my hands on. I’m 35 now but still have a soft spot for the series..I only gave my collection away ten years ago. Have to admit, a bit disappointed by the new book, but bought it anyway, and I can’t wait for the film. If they ever get round to actually making it!

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