Friendship in life leads to friendship on the page
Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and #1 New York Times best-selling author Alison McGhee will make kids smile, giggle and demand pancakes with Bink & Gollie, the story of two best friends.
Bink is short and blonde and Gollie is tall and brunette, and the girls are different in other ways, too. Bink lives in a cottage at the bottom of a tree. Gollie lives in a modern tree house. Bink is loud and enjoys making unusual purchases, such as crazy rainbow socks or a fish to carry around. Gollie is level-headed and loves making pancakes. Together they make marvelous companions, sharing hilarious banter and a love for roller skates.
Bink & Gollie is the first collaboration between DiCamillo and McGhee—who were friends before they became co-authors. The two authors took the time to answer some questions from BookPage on working together, adventures with friends and how the authors and the characters have plenty in common.
How long have you known each other? How did the idea for this story come about?
Kate: Alison and I have known each other since the summer of 2001. One evening we were sitting around talking about how we wished we had a good story to work on. Alison said: Why don’t we work on a story together? I said: A story about what? And Alison said: A story about a short girl and a tall girl.
Alison: If memory serves me correctly, and it doesn’t always, Kate and I met in the fall of 2001 at the former Figlio’s restaurant in Minneapolis. We were laughing within a minute of meeting—always a good sign.
Can you explain the logistics of the collaboration?
Kate: Every morning for, I don’t know how long, I came over to Alison’s house and we sat in her office and wrote the stories “out loud” together. We yelled at each other and made each other laugh. It was a lot of fun.
Alison: I remember wanting to write a book with someone, the someone being Kate, and we decided to write about two friends. We had no idea how to begin this project—neither of us had ever collaborated with another writer—and I’m pretty sure that we began by giving our two friends a sock, just to see what they’d do with it. And it went from there.
We wrote the whole thing together. We set specific two-hour time slots to work on it, and the rule was that we were never allowed to work on it when we were apart. Sometimes we’d start to zip revision ideas back and forth over email, but that was breaking the rules, so we’d stop ourselves immediately.
Sometimes we were stumped, sometimes everything flowed easily, sometimes we argued, but we almost always laughed and laughed and laughed.
How old are Bink and Gollie? Their parents are never in the picture—will they show up in future books?
Kate: I don’t know what Alison thinks, but I very strongly doubt that we will ever see the parents of Bink or Gollie. However, I do think it would be fun to make Tony Fucile draw portraits of the parental units and have those portraits sitting on Bink’s mantel or in Gollie’s kitchen. Glowering. A little.
Alison: I’m not exactly sure how old the girls are, but I can pretty much guarantee that their parents will never show up. That would mess up the fun. I do, however, very much like Kate’s idea of having Tony draw their portraits.
You’re very clever about explaining the meaning of certain words in the dialogue (such as “compromise”). Do you hope that kids will learn new vocabulary by reading Bink & Gollie?
Kate: What would make me happiest is if kids read these books and think: there is so much to love in the world; and words are so much fun.
Alison: I don't care if they do or not. May God strike me down with a hammer on the head before I write a book with a teach-y goal! What I hope is that the book delights children. What I hope is that they laugh and laugh and laugh, just as we did when we wrote them.
Have either of you ever worked with a co-author before? How is this experience different from writing a book by yourself?
Kate: I’ve never worked with a co-author before. Writing for me is a pretty scary thing, so it was a huge comfort to have someone in the room working with me. It became less like work and more like play.
Alison: I had never worked with another writer before. I loved the experience, loved loved loved it. It was so comforting to have someone else there doing the work with me—writing is such a lonely thing to do.
Growing up, did either of you have a friendship like the one portrayed in Bink & Gollie? What’s the weirdest adventure you ever went on?
Kate: The weirdest adventure? They’ve all been weird. And yes, I have had many friendships that are similar to Bink and Gollie’s. I’m always looking for someone to feed me. And to make me laugh.
Alison: Growing up, my best friend Cindy was very short, whereas I was very tall, but the dynamic was very different from Bink & Gollie’s friendship. What’s my weirdest adventure? Yikes, there’ve been so very many. Perhaps the pig+vegetable+Taiwanese-army-guys boat ride to the island off the coast of Taiwan qualifies as the weirdest. Or at least the most seasick.
Bink is short and blonde and Gollie is tall and brunette—not totally unlike the authors! Any other similarities between the two of you and Bink and Gollie?
Kate: Like Bink, I am short, loud and perpetually hungry. Also I (like Bink) tend to be a tiny bit clueless.
Alison: Like Gollie, I love adventurous travel. I also love pancakes, and making pancakes for other people. You would definitely find me in the airy treetop as opposed to below ground. We're both good in a crisis. And beyond that, Gollie and I are less self-assured than we look on the surface.
The illustrations are just wonderful, and certain details really add to the story. (For example, Gollie’s modern house in the tree’s branches versus Bink’s little cottage at the tree’s base.) How closely did you work with Tony Fucile? Did he have free rein to illustrate as he wished, or did you give him suggestions?
Kate: We made some illustrator notes on the text (that Bink is short and Gollie is tall, that we thought that Bink would live at the bottom of the tree and that Gollie would live at the top) but most of what you see is just the sheer, absolute, happy genius of Tony Fucile.
Alison: Beyond telling Tony that Gollie was tall and Bink was short, and giving him a few personality tips, Tony had free rein. And didn't he do a glorious job?
What are you working on now? Do have any individual projects planned?
Kate: I’m at work on a novel. I’m hoping that it’s a funny novel. Some days it seems funny. Other days it doesn’t.
Alison: For children: I’m writing a picture book about the Big Dipper and a novel about a cricket, a firefly and a vole. For grownups: I’m writing poems.