The award-winning author chats with Holly Goldberg Sloan, co-author of 'To Night Owl From Dogfish,' and reveals the book's cover for EW

By David Canfield
June 28, 2018 at 11:00 AM EDT

Meg Wolitzer may still be riding high from her latest best-selling (and Nicole Kidman-endorsed) adult novel The Female Persuasion, but the author is also ready to talk about her next project: To Night Owl From Dogfish.

Co-written with acclaimed author and screenwriter Holly Goldberg Sloan (Counting by 7s), To Night Owl is an epistolary novel that carefully tackles complex topics for a young audience. It’s not the authors’ first foray into the children’s space, but it may mark their most significant one yet: The book is told in letters between two young girls, Bett and Avery, when their fathers fall in love with one another. When the two men get out of town for a romantic summer vacation, they send the girls to summer camp, hoping to create a bonding experience for them. Do things go as planned? Not exactly.

For EW, Wolitzer and Sloan chatted about To Night Owl From Dogfish, including the motivation for writing their novel and their process, in advance of its early 2019 release date. In addition, the authors have exclusively shared the book’s official cover, which you can see above. Check out the authors’ Q&A below, and pre-order the novel ahead of its Feb. 12 release here.

HOLLY GOLDBERG SLOAN: So we’re interviewing ourselves for this cover reveal. That seems fun because we text and email each other every day anyway. Today this could give us some focus!

MEG WOLITZER: In fact, we wrote the first draft of this novel-in-emails-and-letters by sending each other emails. It was cool if nerve-wracking to wait by the laptop or phone to find out what would happen next in our book. I haven’t had that experience as a novelist before.

HGS: It was all an accident. Like the person inventing chocolate chip cookies cutting up the candy bar and then thinking the pieces would melt. We knew we wanted to work together on a book but we didn’t know how. My husband (also a writer) said, “Just start by emailing each other.” He meant to say, “…with characters, and an outline etc.”. I thought he meant just send Meg an email that was the beginning of the book, which is what I did.

MW: I think we were pretty literal, and so our book became a novel in emails. What if he had said, “You and Meg should just send each other sempahor signals.” (Well, maybe our publishers would have had to adapt.)

HGS: So for months, we emailed each other daily as we told a story. We started with two girls.

MW: One of the girls lives in New York City. One lives blocks from the beach in Venice, California. The book begins when the girls find out that their single, gay fathers met at a conference in Chicago several months earlier.

HGS: And they are now in a relationship. A dating parent can be a nightmare for a kid. The girls are then told that they are both being sent to camp in Michigan for the summer in order to get to know each other. They don’t want to go. And they vow to never, ever become friends.

MW: I seem to be drawn back to summer camp in my work a bit. Though in my adult novel, The Interestings, that summer camp was of a very different sort. It was the kind of place where the campers performed Brecht plays. I went to such a place myself.) In our co-written book, summer camp is the place where our two young protagonists meet, well outside their natural habitats and comfort zones, and figure out whether or not they might have anything in common.

Holly, I think we should address the question of the two main characters.

HGS: You start.

MW: In the absolute broadest of terms, I’m more similar to sensitive, worried Avery than you are; and you’re more like adventurous, animal-loving Bett than I am. So we did initially write our emails to each other as those characters. But one of our great “rules” was that during our many, many revisions, we decided we could ruthlessly go over each other’s material. Which means that I feel as if I have Bett’s character inside of me just as much as Avery’s. How about you, Holly? Have you inhabited them both?

HGS: Yes! Absolutely. We are both each of these girls. And we both wrote each of these girls. The novel is about many things, including the idea of sharing, which was what we were doing. We were sharing parts of ourselves and the creative process itself. That requires a certain amount of trust. One of the major themes in this novel is family. The girls need to figure out what a family means. What are the bonds that hold people together? Are they legal, emotional, defined by blood? When does the heart take over?

MW: And I think another one of the themes of the book turns out to be freedom. And speaking of freedom, there is a big, much-too-free moment that takes place on a zip-line, though I don’t want to say any more than that, for fear of giving too much away.

HGS: This is a cover reveal, and we will now reveal that we worked hard on this cover. And by us working hard, I mean that other people did a lot of work and we had a lot of opinions.

MW: My opinion, finally, is that a book cover should really reflect the way the writer, or more than one writer (and, of course, eventually the reader) feels when being inside the book. This cover definitely reminded me of how it felt to write this book with you, Holly. It’s a lively, colorful cover. Night Owl (the nickname that the two girls call Avery) and Dogfish (Bett’s nickname) have been drawn here as great little animal icons. I don’t think there’s a tattoo in my future, but maybe some stationery.

HGS: To Night Owl From Dogdish is about friendship. Meg, you and I are great friends. We make each other laugh. Is there anything more you need in a true friend?

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