An Interview with Bruce and Liz about Amber Brown
Bruce Coville and Liz Levy have written the last two Amber Brown titles.
"BULLETIN! BULLETIN! BULLETIN!"
as Amber's friend Brandi would say. We're going to try to answer your questions in one voice — or three if you listen to the harmony carefully — Bruce and Liz with Paula somehow chiming in.
Tell us about the background of your relationship with Amber Brown and Paula Danziger. Why did you decide to pick up on this series and why now?
For years we both referred to ourselves as "the other best friend" … as did Paula. (Those dots are something that Paula gave to Amber, who frequently uses them. But we digress … ) Liz spoke to Paula nearly every morning, Bruce nearly every afternoon. Paula read every word of the Amber books to Bruce out loud. Liz and Paula talked about how not to go for the easy-but-cruel joke when writing and in friendship.
We were both bereft at her untimely death, and stayed close to her niece and nephews in the years that followed. We became closer to each other as well.
When Paula's agent suggested that the series continue, both of us were intrigued, but also wary. And we had questions … would we be seen as trading on our friendship with Paula? Could we capture her voice? Could we do this without killing each other?
As a team, you have a pretty unique writing process. Can you tell us about it and share with us the benefits and pitfalls of team-writing?
Both of us have collaborated with others in the past but never when every word was written together. We both love theater and comedies, and if it worked for Kaufmann and Hart to write in the same room, why not try it?
We work sitting face to face, each of us at our own keyboard. Not always sitting. We get up to pace, eat, and try to read each others minds. We also break out into song, and the occasional dirty joke.
We discuss, then write, then compare what we've written and merge the two versions. Often we're both shouting ideas at the same time, then have to sort through them.
What was the hardest thing about writing a new Amber Brown book? Was it difficult to pick up the tone and voice of the character?
The hardest thing? It was that we were writing it instead of Paula.
What was the most surprising thing about writing a new Amber Brown title? The most gratifying?
The most surprising thing was how much fun it was . . . . much more fun than writing solo, when you are sitting by yourself in a room.
The most gratifying thing was how much closer we've become, and how much deeper our friendship grew as a result of doing this. Happily, it turned out that our fears that we might end up wanting to kill each other have proven to be totally unfounded. So far …
What is the future of Amber Brown? Will there be more books?
There will definitely be more books. We're up to our eyeballs in the next one right now, which deals with Amber having to move to her new home.
Happily, we're having just as much fun as we did the first time.
Paula Danziger (1944-2004) was a flamboyantly funny and deeply honest writer who had a direct line into kids' hearts and funny bones. She was a high school English teacher until she was in two severe car crashes within two weeks and decided she better start writing before she was hit by a bus. She passed away in 2004.
Bruce Coville lives in Syracuse, New York. He has written over 100 children's books including the popular Unicorn Chronicles and My Teacher is an Alien series. At age one, he perfected his best one raised eyebrow look.
Elizabeth Levy lives in New York City. She is the author of many middle-grade novels, including the Invisible Inc. mystery series and My Life as a Sixth-Grade Comedian.
"Amber Brown fans will rejoice; against all odds, their favorite protagonist is back...Fully faithful to the voice Danziger gave Amber Brown, this visit with an old friend will totally satisfy readers." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"[Amber] finds solutions with characteristic resolve and resourcefulness. Beyond the wedding story line, the authors deliver a sensitive portrait of a child handling divorce, especially in cruel offhand remarks her parents occasionally make about each other, which cause Amber heartache. Coville and Levy do splendid service both to this character and her creator." —Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"Amber is an indelible character in children's lit." —Booklist
"Bruce Coville and Elizabeth Levy have channeled Paula's voice, and her joy, in this new Amber Brown book. They also capture what made Paula's writing so special … a rare combination of bad puns, good friendships, sparkly clothing and the knowledge that every moment in life is important, no matter how difficult." —Brian Selznick, author and illustrator of the Caldecott Award-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret
"Bruce Coville and Liz Levy perfectly capture the spirit of Paula Danziger's memorable character in a new story that is both heartbreaking and hilarious. Welcome back, Amber Brown!" —Ann M. Martin, author of The Baby-sitter's Club books and Newbery-Honor winning A Corner of the Universe
"Amber Brown is Tickled Pink is Paula Danziger all the way. The funny, livewire voice of Amber Brown is unstoppable. What a delight!" —Gennifer Choldenko, author of Newbery Honor book Al Capone Does My Shirts