Megan: Do you remember how we first met?
Sara: I do remember how we first met. I knew who were from seeing your books around town—you write so much faster than me that your first three books came out somewhat concurrent with my third book, DOPE. I heard a lot about you and your book, but I didn’t actually seek you out until the very kind and wonderful Graham Powell posted this funny little bit about us—he put pictures of us side by side and made a joke that we were really the same person, since we never seemed to be in the same place at the same time. We don’t really look all that much alike but same general type—dark hair, glasses (always for me, sometimes for Megan), in the same size range, etc. And to this day if I’m at a big reading or something people will come to me and say “Hey, are you Megan Abbott?” But I never am!
So then I sent you an email, and we started emailing, and I realized the other day we’ve been emailing almost continuously for nearly five years. You’re pretty much stuck with me now.
Megan: Right, my first book, DIE A LITTLE, came out the same year as DOPE—and both were 1950s noir tales, mine set in LA and yours in NYC. I remember reading DOPE in a glorious white heat and feeling so jealous, wishing I’d written it!
Sara: That’s how I felt about DIE!
Megan: And remember after we started corresponding, I asked you to contribute a story to A HELL OF A WOMAN: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FEMALE NOIR, for which you wrote that gem of a story, “The Token Booth Clerk,” which is the only story in the whole collection that’s narrated by a man.
Sara: And do you remember when we first met in person? That was a fun night…
Megan: I sure do remember—one of the best nights ever. You, me and Vicki Hendricks assembled in Scottsdale, Arizona for Noir Night at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. I think technically we first met in that deliciously creepy Ramada Inn we all stayed at. Then, that night, the marvelous store manager, Patrick Millikin, took us on a late night tour of Phoenix’s famous crime scenes: the Winnie Ruth Judd murder house, the apartment complex where Bob Crane was murdered. And the beauty of it all is none of us thought any of us were weird for enjoying it so much!
Sara: And yes, we did meet in the Ramada, and then after that kind of scary tour with Patrick I couldn’t sleep and I was watching some old movie on TV and the next day you said you had been up watching the same movie, although now I can’t remember what it was. Patrick should make a Crime Scene map of Phoenix/Scottsdale (shouldn’t there be one for every city?)! And the next morning I went for a walk by myself around Scottsdale and all these people kept offering me rides, because no one walks there and the people are really friendly, a strange combination.
Megan: I think that led to a lot more antics and then eventually to your brilliant idea that we collaborate on a piece about V.C. Andrews. Do you remember how you came up with it?
Sara: V.C. Andrews—I am just as obsessed as ever! I had loved the book in my adolescence and teenage years, and had started rereading them about five or six years ago as part of a larger project of rereading all my childhood favorites. No book, then or now, have stuck with me like those have, and surprised on rereading them to see how strange they really were. And then when I found out you had been a fan as well, I just kept wanting to talk to you about them—your perceptions were (and are) so interesting to me because we are so much alike, with our similar tastes in books, movies, and tchotchkes, but also so different—you have a PhD and an education in literary theory and history that brings a whole other layer into your already-intelligent observations. And of course, I was locked in an attic with my brother for five years, so I have that to add (kidding!). So it wasn’t long into our email chain before I realized that it might make for interesting reading. And to be honest, I don’t usually toot my own horn, but I think it came together beautifully. And I’m still totally obsessed.
Megan: Writing that V.C. Andrews thing was the most fun I’ve had writing ever, probably (and I’m forever grateful for you turning me onto MY SWEET AUDRINA, which I’d not read and could have been Freud’s long-lost case study!). We kept coming up with more, more, more, until it turned to this unwieldy and obsessive case study of us! Thankfully, you were able, when we were asked by wise and wonderful Believer editor Ed Park, to whittle down the unwieldy first draft to its essence. I still think V.C. Andrews is owed a book-length tour de force to give her her due….
Sara: I think it was my most fun writing project too, perhaps because I knew I could count on you for the heavy lifting! I forget you had not read MY SWEET AUDRINA, which might be one of the best books ever. I feel like we could have written a whole book just about Audrina’s hair and broken bones. I seem to recall you and Ed helping substantially with the editing but I like your version better, where I heroically did it all myself.
Megan: One of the big benefits of collaboration means we talk a lot about our own WIP and get to read each other’s new books on the super-advance. Which meant I’ve already gotten to read your eagerly awaited followup to DOPE, the forthcoming CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD ! (Exclamation mark, mine), which is extraordinary, a haunting puzzle box of a book and the first in a new series.
Sara: We do talk about our works-in-progress but the funny thing is, we didn’t talk too much about our new books—CLAIRE DE WITT and THE END OF EVERYTHING—as we went along, but somehow we both ended up with books in which there is a young girl who disappears, and there is another young girl who tries to solve the crime (and by the way, THE END is Megan’s best book to date, as you will soon find out, but we will be writing lots more about that as we go on!).
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