Remember when Sweet Valley Confidential came out last year and it made you realize how much you’ve missed Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, Sweet Valley High‘s impossibly beautiful but oh-so-human twins? You were not alone — the book peaked at No. 14 on the New York Times‘ Hardcover Fiction list — and now Sweet Valley creator Francine Pascal will feed your brain’s nostalgia center yet again with more tales of Liz and Jessica’s grown-up travails. On July 15, St. Martin’s Press will launch The Sweet Life, a six-part series for e-readers that picks up three years after Confidential left off. And you won’t have to wait long for each new installment — the first two books debut July 15, with a new novella ($1.99 each) following every Sunday through August 12. (As someone who vividly remembers begging my mom to take me to the mall so I could scour the “young adult” section at B. Dalton for the latest SVH book, the one-week waiting period is a major plus.) Just in case your inner 13-year-old hasn’t passed out from excitement yet, there’s one more bit of Sweet Valley news to absorb: Starting October 1, St. Martin’s will re-release the first twelve Sweet Valley High books for e-readers (awesome original covers included).
Before you read the excerpt from chapter one of The Sweet Life, here’s a little background: Jessica is now married to Todd Wilkins (still can’t get over that!) and Lizzie is shacking up with reformed bad-boy Bruce Patman. Wait a minute, shacking up? Bruce didn’t put a ring on it? Francine Pascal, please explain yourself! “Well I think they just weren’t ready at the moment to get married, and maybe they never are going to get married,” Pascal tells EW.com. “It’s okay for Elizabeth, she’s been such a straight arrow — and I want her to be a little unexpected.” In totally expected news, Jessica and Todd’s marriage is on the rocks. “Todd has this problem about who his wife should be,” says Pascal. “He’s working off that high school Jessica and she’s not that person anymore.” Click through to read the excerpt (you can read the entire first chapter on Sweet Valley Confidential’s Facebook page this Monday), and to read more of my interview with Pascal, who explains why she loves Bruce Patman, hates the Real Housewives, and what she thinks about the long-in-development SVH movie.
NEXT: Read the exclusive excerpt!
EXCERPT FROM Chapter One of THE SWEET LIFE #1 by Francine Pascal
“Thank you, everybody,” Jessica said. “I would love to stay and listen to more, but I really am late.” She scooped up her laptop bag and, like the star she was, left them wanting more.
These were the times when she absolutely loved her work. Sometimes, hours would pass in the day when she didn’t think about anything else. Not even Jake, her two-year-old. Of course, she was always there if he needed her. One call and she’d be out the door.
She checked her watch. It was six thirty, and by the time she got home she’d be almost an hour late and Todd would be furious.
“Jessica.” Michael Wilson followed her out the door. “This will only take a couple of minutes.”
She really liked Mike. He was a great boss, about thirty-seven and very good to look at. He was also single. And sort of interested in her, maybe more than sort of, but he kept his distance. If you didn’t know the situation, you wouldn’t, except everyone in the office did already. Gossip, that’s what coffee machines were for.
“What’s up?” Jessica asked.
“We should talk about the green paint stuff.”
“I was just on my way out. I’m really late.”
Now here was the running problem: the mother/wife stuff. At the office, they didn’t want to think about her personal obligations. And she couldn’t look like she was letting them cut into her work. Not a whole lot different from Todd’s problem with her, only inverted.
Which kept her always teetering on the brink between crazy and balanced.
“You can’t give me ten minutes?”
“Can’t.” Being a pro, she took the coward’s way out. “Theater tickets.”
And it worked.
“Oh, sure. It can hold till tomorrow. Enjoy the show.”
Theater tickets he understood. Motherhood, not so.
“See ya.” She caught a glimpse of Katy’s knowing look, winked, and was out the door.
And inside of three minutes, she was in front of her silver BMW that was waiting in its own parking space, the one with her name printed on the wall: Jessica Wakefield-Wilkins. As much as she pitched “going green” at work, she would never be caught dead driving a Prius!
She was very late, but luckily there wasn’t much traffic, and inside of twenty minutes flat she was home in Sweet Valley Heights.
She left the car on the street in front of her town house, which looked exactly like every other one on the block. The only thing they let you choose was the color of the front door. Being Jessica Wakefield, she chose pink. Yves Saint Laurent Pink Ice number 22, to be specific. No one ever had trouble finding Jessica.
As soon as she opened the car door, she heard her son’s squeals of terror and delight. She could see the monster box game through the window. A moment of silence and then Jake’s favorite two-year-old word: “More!” And by the time she got to the door, he was squealing again.
She opened the door and Jake saw her. He was torn. He loved his mommy, but he loved the game, too. Todd was on the floor with him, holding a cardboard box over his head, ready to raise it and make the big growl noise that had delighted Jake for months now. Todd’s face was turned away from her, but she knew he had to be pissed.
She watched Todd raise the box in one grand finale of monster roar, get the expected scream of joy, and put the box down on the floor and free Jake to run to his mother.
Jessica scooped her precious baby into her arms and covered him with kisses. The chill coming from Todd, who was on his feet now, folding up the cherished box that was practically collapsing on its own from overuse, was almost palpable.
If she could just keep kissing Jake, she could postpone the bad part that was coming. But unfortunately she couldn’t because Jake was squirming out of her arms, rushing to get back to the game. But the game was over.
For her, too.
NEXT: Read what Francine Pascal herself has to say about The Sweet Life.
EW: After reforming Bruce Patman in Confidential, he’s at the center of a scandal in The Sweet Life series. Do you like this guy?
Francine Pascal: I like him very much. I like him because he loves Elizabeth and he’s loved Elizabeth for years and has never wavered. Also he’s exciting because he’s obviously smart and talented and successful and still a good person. I think they make a wonderful couple.
EW: So my dream of Liz and Todd getting back together is dead?
FP: I’m not going to tell you a thing!
EW: Other fan-favorites show up in TSL, including Lila Fowler, who joins a reality show called True Housewives of Sweet Valley. Have you ever seen The Real Housewives?
FP: Never in my life! I went online and I picked up some dialogue from the first fifteen minutes from one of the Housewives, and I don’t even know which one it was, to get the feel… I don’t watch it purposely, but I couldn’t resist using it.
EW: Will you do another e-book series if TSL does well?
FP: Well let’s see what happens. No one has done this — we are first. I wanted [the installments] to be further apart, but [the publisher] said no, this is the way it should be. It’s going to be available on smart phones and things like that, and because it’s a novella it gives you a feeling that you can actually read it quickly.
EW: What’s happening with Diablo Cody’s Sweet Valley High movie?
FP: You could probably ask [anyone] sitting next to you and get more information on it. Unfortunately when people sell things to the movies, that’s the end of you. I have not even seen the script… Diablo is terrific, she’s my dream writer for it, and it’s a musical and they’ve got a Tony-award winning composer and lyricist… My daughter, who lives in LA, went to a reading — this was quite a few months ago — and she said it was coming along very nicely, the music is very good. Everything looked kind of good, there needed to be work done on it, but other than that it was sort of exciting… At this point, I’ve lost interest. It would be nice if it came out and it was a proper success, and then it might bring back the entire series.