In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Nicole Andelfinger talks about bringing the Wakefield twins to life in an all-new format with Sweet Valley Twins #1: Best Friends (Random House Graphic). Find out how twins Elizabeth and Jessica from Sweet Valley, California deal with friendship, school, and their crushes.
The Plot: Based on the Sweet Valley series from Francine Pascal, Best Friends follows “Jessica and Elizabeth as they take on middle school. But are they ready to take on each other? Jessica and Elizabeth have always been inseparable, but starting middle school means a chance for new beginnings. Elizabeth is excited to organize a school newspaper, but Jessica is more interested in joining the exclusive Unicorn Club. Middle school is hard enough, but with these twins each dealing with becoming their own person, will they be able to stay friends?”
Before Sweet Valley Twins #1: Best Friends arrives on November 1st, writer Nicole Andelfinger opens up about taking on the first novel in the series and working with artist Claudia Aguirre. Sweet Valley fans should get ready for more as the second book in the series, Teacher’s Pet, will be published in 2023. Join us as we check into the writer’s room and discuss the craft of adaptations.
Villain Media: Tell me how you were introduced to the Sweet Valley Twins series.
Nicole Andelfinger: I honestly am not sure how I got introduced to Sweet Valley Twins as a kid, but one minute I had no books, the next minute I had dozens. I tore through these like no other as a kid and I even remember checking out more of them at the library. They sat on my bookshelf for years and I’d pick one or two to read before bed as I got older, just for nostalgia sake. I no longer have the books, but I definitely remember them being a series I just gravitated to because how often did you get awesome stories about sisters? Not as often as I wanted!
VM: Tell me how you became involved with Best Friends.
NA: I’ve actually known Whitney Leopard, the editor, for years now, and we’re both essentially ’90s kids. When she reached out asking me if I was a fan, I remembered immediately back to my bookcase where dozens of these books sat. I don’t think I ever thought about saying no to this project; my ten year old self wouldn’t have let me!
VM: Tell me about bringing your voice through characters created by Francine Pascal.
NA: Adaptations are always fun because you get to bring your own twist to characters you know and love. At the same time, it’s always daunting; you want to respect the voices of the originals, while also bringing something new to the table. Francine Pascal laid an amazing foundation, however, when she created these characters; Elizabeth and Jessica either were us or were likely someone we knew in middle school. They’re easy to relate to, while also having those quirks that are easy to bring out no matter the setting. You’ll always know which is Jessica and which is Elizabeth based on how they react to things alone! Bringing my voice to that just meant helping modernize and helping put the two of them into a setting where they still got to shine.
VM: Tell me about bringing twins Elizabeth and Jessica from the ‘80s/90s to the present day.
NA: So while I love the idea of the ’80s/90s, there’s just some things that don’t make sense anymore when it comes to that true middle age experience of modern day; specifically the lack of technology. We knew when going into this project that we wanted to make Jessica and Elizabeth relatable to modern day, and part of that meant making sure that technology was represented. I don’t want to spoil it, but you’ll see an example of this in the first book! Beyond that, being that this adaptation is so visual, you can expect to see a diverse student body in and around Sweet Valley; it just makes sense!
VM: Tell me about working with artist Claudia Aguirre.
NA: Working with Claudia has been an absolute joy. I might be responsible for dialogue and words, but comics are one of the unique mediums in the fact that so much relies on the art. Claudia’s got such an eye for detail that she nails the exact tween expression I’m picturing when I write a scene every time. Plus, any time you see amazing looking background characters or fun little details in the twins’ rooms? 9/10 it’s because of Claudia! She really gives you a reason to linger on pages.
VM: How did Best Friends change you as a storyteller?
NA: Every genre gives you a chance to tap into another part of you or an experience you haven’t really thought much on. For me, it was revisiting my middle school years, remembering the drama of the days and challenging me to go back to a time when it really seemed as simple as who was sitting with who, while also peeling back a bit on why it really wasn’t that simple. I’m not sure I can say Best Friends changed me as a storyteller so much as it reminded me why stories are so powerful; they can be these big things that say much more than they seem to on the surface.
VM: What are you working on now?
NA: Unfortunately, I can’t talk too much about what I’m working on right now. But since Sweet Valley Twins features twins, check out what two of my favorite twin creators are up to! Whitney Leopard’s Fitting In is out in 2024 and Bones Leopard’s Identical is due out in 2023!
Sweet Valley Twins #1: Best Friends arrives simultaneously in hardcover and trade paperback formats on November 1st, 2022.