David Levithan and Rachel Cohn talk 'Dash & Lily's Book of Dares' sequel
The sequel to David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s 2010 book, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, is finally on its way. On Oct. 18, prepare to dive into The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, in which our beloved couple and their friends head to Manhattan to bask in the magic of Christmas, and cheer Lily up after her grandfather’s death.
Below, check out The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily’s cover, and a Q&A with Levithan and Cohn.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell us about Twelve Days of Dash and Lily?
RACHEL COHN: A tree named Oscar. Naughty gingerbread house-making. The Return of Santa and Desmond. Victorian bloomers. Glittersplosion.
DAVID LEVITHAN: I can’t believe you gave away the Glittersplosion. But I guess that makes it a suspense novel now, disguised as a romantic comedy. Readers will turn every page wondering if it’s the page on which the glitter is going to explode.
What made you want to set these books around Christmas? Why is (or isn’t) Christmas a meaningful time for you?
RC: Despite a last name like Cohn, my mom’s side of the family is Polish Catholic, and Christmas was a huge undertaking in that half of my very extended family. So many of my best memories and family traditions involve Christmas. The cookies, the singing, the presents, the over-the-topness of it all. And there’s a lot of magic to be mined with Christmastime in New York City. But it was the true Hanukkah guy — David — who had the idea to set the book at that time of year. I think he loves it more than he lets on.
DL: Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas”. . . the best-selling Christmas album of all time is by a Jew (Kenny G!) . . . clearly I am just upholding an age-old tradition. Or we could blame Love Actually. Because Love Actually opened the door for showing the bitter as well as the sweet in the season, instead of pretending that it’s all-Hallmark all-the-time for everyone.
Would Dash and Lily be friends with the hero and heroine of your previous book, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist?
RC: Besties, but Nick & Norah would probably be taking advantage of Dash & Lily’s Manhattan real estate (for couch-crashing purposes after all-night music carousing…and Lily’s lebkuchen cookies).
DL: I’m not sure. I feel Dash and Nick are similar enough that they’d find each other insufferable.
What’s the hardest part about co-writing a book?
RC: The hardest part is also the best part: We have no idea where the other person is going to take the next chapter. It’s like driving along a highway, and I set up a certain exit for David to take in his next chapter, and he completely ignores it and goes a different route. The destination is the same, but we never know where the journey will take us.
DL: It would never ever ever EVER work if either one of us was a control freak. And the funny thing is, when we started writing Nick & Norah, I don’t think either of us knew how deeply improvisational we could be. But, as Rachel says, it’s ended up that our favorite part of the process is seeing what the other person comes up with, and how the story will twist, turn, curve, and dance because of it.
What’s your process like? How do you split the work?
RC: He writes a chapter, emails it to me, and I pick up where he left off, and so on. We have a basic set-up in mind when we start, but really make no real plans for how we are going to get there, and we discuss the book very little while we’re writing it.
DL: Then, once we have a first draft, we’ll go through and ask each other questions, or smooth out any inconsistencies. With this book, we wrote the first draft very, very quickly (apparently Christmas books can’t be moved to spring – who knew?), and then had to fill in a lot of the blanks and tie up a lot of the loose ends in our (also very, very quick) revision.
What are each other’s biggest strengths?
RC: He looks great in blue shirts. He’s always up for a pizza or pie adventure. His writing always makes me smile.
DL: I mean, the only reason I’m up for a pizza or pie adventure is because she always knows where to get the best pizza and pie, which is an invaluable quality in a friend. Plus, my writing LOVES her writing — they have great playdates. And she has cousins in every major and minor city in the world, which really helps when you need people to show up to readings.
What’s the most surprising part about co-writing?
RC: Our writing styles are very different but somehow mesh. And that other people get our jokes — that’s not just a surprise, but true joy.
DL: For me, the most surprising thing will be who Naomi and Ely were named after, and the fact that I co-wrote a whole book about them without ever asking. (Hint: Nine lives.)
David, you’ve had a few different co-authors: How is each project and relationship different? Do you find yourself taking on the same roles in each partnership?
RC: Here’s where he tells you how authors aren’t supposed to pick favorites, but I’m his.
DL: C’mon, Rachel – we’re both oldest children. We know the first is always the favorite. No contest. As for how it differs — there’s always a different dynamic, and each person will always bring out something different in your own writing. But with Rachel, we’ve definitely gotten into mind-meld territory.