What do you get when you combine two critically acclaimed authors, two alternating voices and a set of twins? One laugh-out-loud look at sibling rivalry and adolescent angst. Newbery Medalist Avi and renowned children's author Rachel Vail combine forces and double our pleasure in Never Mind! A Twin Novel, an inventive tale for middle-grade readers. The dynamic author team recently gave BookPage the inside scoop and outlandish humor of co-writing a novel. BookPage: What inspired you to write this book together? Avi: We were old friends, living in different parts of the country (Denver and New York). One day I mentioned to Rachel that I had asked my twin sister to write a book with me, but my sister had said she "had better things to do." Rachel however said, "I'll be your twin and write a book with you." Rachel: Actually, that's not really how it happened.
Avi: It's not? Rachel: No. I was moaning and complaining about the book I was having trouble writing at the time, and you said it sounded like the book you had wanted to write with your sister.
Avi: And I was happy to get away from the book I was working on at the time, too.
Rachel: So we came up with a premise and named the characters and I joked, "E-mail the first chapter to me by tomorrow morning." Avi: You were joking? Rachel: Totally. But the next morning I checked my e-mail and there it was: a really funny chapter.
There are two main voices in the book, Meg and Edward. Who wrote which voice? Avi: While the two characters have distinct voices, there is nothing in the book that was not, in essence, written by both of us. As writers we each have our strong points and, dare say, weak ones, but opposites. Moreover, we admire each other's particular skills. This made for a fairly perfect fit. In the end, neither of us knows who wrote what, though we can think of a few ideas one or the other put forward.
Rachel: It was always my fantasy, while in the mucky middle of writing a book, that some bookmaker's elves would come and just write the next chapter. I didn't need them to do all the work, but just jolt me to a new place, surprise me. I'd get this book back from Avi and read from page one. Words had been changed, the story improved, and then there was a new chapter at the end, which often ended in a cliffhanger. Then I would write from there and try to leave him in the same lurch.
What similarities do you have with the characters in the book? Rachel: This is a work of fiction. My resemblance to everyone in it is purely coincidental.
Avi: I am a twin, and while I once wanted to be a pop singer, I in fact don't sing well.
What is it about twins that you find intriguing? Rachel: Everything. I have always been fascinated by twins, about what it would be like to have to contend with, in some sense, a double of yourself.
Avi: Nothing. Including my twin sister. Do you plan to write more books together? Rachel: We have a plan but we can not divulge it to anyone at this time.
Avi: Executive privilege and all that.
Rachel: We work very well together, very easily, though we don't, in the old twin clichÅ½, finish each other's sentences or anything. We sort of . . .
Avi: Augment, or . . .
Rachel: Edit each other . . .
Avi: Hone the other's points, so to speak, but not finish . . .
Rachel: Well, I trust him to finish mine well. But so far we haven't written . . .
Avi: More that we'll admit to except . . .
Rachel: This interview.
What's the one message you'd like your readers to take away from Never Mind!? Rachel: I don't want them to take any messages away. They should leave all the messages exactly where they found them in the book.
Avi: You never told me there were messages in the book.
Rachel: They're hidden.