Author Spotlight: Ashley Saunders & Leslie Saunders talk The Rule of One
I'm thrilled to welcome the Saunders sisters on today's blog! Hailing from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders are award-winning filmmakers and twin sisters who honed their love of storytelling at The University of Texas at Austin. While researching The Rule of One, they fell in love with America's national parks, traveling the path of their characters, Ava and Mira. The sisters can currently be found with their Boston terriers in sunny Los Angeles, exploring hiking trails and drinking entirely too much yerba mate. Visit them at thesaunderssisters.com or follow them on Instagram @saunderssisters.
“Ava and Mira’s world is an all-too-believable mix of advanced technology and environmental collapse. In their debut, Saunders and Saunders, themselves twins, lend an authentic voice to the girls’ first-person narration…Readers are in for a fast-paced ride, poised for a sequel, as the twins embrace their father’s call, in the words of Walt Whitman, to ‘resist much, obey little.’” —Kirkus Reviews
“Dystopia fans will enjoy this adventure set in an all-too-plausible future America.”
—School Library Journal
“Utilizing a sf-fantasy setting and a survival-oriented plot, the Saunders sisters are careful to promote growth and differentiation between the twins…There are parallels to current news stories, such as immigration, environmental resources, and an autocratic political system. Try this with fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series, Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Double Identity, or such clone books as Rachel Vincent’s Brave New Girl.”
“The Rule of One, penned by IRL twins Ashley and Leslie Saunders (with another book to come), will be your new favorite YA series.” —HelloGiggles
In their world, telling the truth has become the most dangerous crime of all. In the near-future United States, a one-child policy is ruthlessly enforced. Everyone follows the Rule of One. But Ava Goodwin, daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, has a secret—one her mother died to keep and her father has helped to hide for her entire life. She has an identical twin sister, Mira. For eighteen years Ava and Mira have lived as one, trading places day after day, maintaining an interchangeable existence down to the most telling detail. But when their charade is exposed, their worst nightmare begins. Now they must leave behind the father they love and fight for their lives. Branded as traitors, hunted as fugitives, and pushed to discover just how far they’ll go in order to stay alive, Ava and Mira rush headlong into a terrifying unknown.
And now, here's my chat with the Saunders sisters!
Hi, Ashley and Leslie! Welcome and congrats on the release of The Rule of One. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
The Rule of One is about twin sisters born in a future United States that has adopted a one-child policy. Their world gets turned upside down when the governor’s son discovers their secret and they are forced to go on the run.We always wanted to tell a twin sister story and put our own perspective out there on the unique bond that twin sisters share. We also both love adventure novels and films, so we thought about how we could put twin heroes in the highest stakes possible and came up with the one child policy inspired by China. Everything fell into place from there.
The Rule of One is set in the near-future. How did this setting help you explore the consequences of modern-day issues?
We did a year of research, studying the effects of climate change and the effects of an overpopulated world with dwindling resources. We wanted to make a very plausible future America that readers could envision happening in the not too distant future. The story of the Rule of One started as a screenplay that we wrote a few years ago. It is both fascinating and terrifying that a lot of what we wrote about is coming to life in present day.
As directors and producers, you’re used to working closely. Was the experience different collaborating on a book? How did you split the work?
We both heavily outline together—we like to “walk and talk”, around reservoirs or mountain trails— then divide the work. It was a lot of fun for us with the book because we decided to have two POV chapters through the twins. Ashley wrote all of Ava’s chapters (the elder) and I (Leslie) wrote all of Mira’s chapters (the youngest). We like to write one to two pages then send them to the other to edit, so we are constantly being critiqued and pushed to go beyond our initial ideas. We then will read each other’s entire chapters and go through another round of editing. I feel really fortunate to have my sister as a writing partner—she always pushes me to do my best.
I believe every story teaches its writer something new, so what did writing The Rule of One teach you?
Having a screenwriting background, writing The Rule of One as a novel taught us so much about not only extending a story to be 70K plus words, it also forced us to dive deeper into our characters and plot in a way that made us better writers. It was also the first time we both ever wrote first person----which was a challenge at the beginning but then ended up being freeing in a new way because we suddenly were allowed to write about a character’s inner thoughts. We got to establish the differences in how Mira and Ava think and react in a way a movie could never depict because as readers we’re inside their heads and feeling what they’re feeling.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Currently binge watching season 2 of The Ozarks. We love the show’s atmosphere and family dynamic. Amazing writing and a stellar cast.
I think it’s super interesting how The Rule of One focuses on the sibling relationship instead of centering on ‘the usual’ romantic interest. Was this something that was important to you from the get-go?
Absolutely. We knew from the start we wanted the focus to be on the relationship between the sisters-----it’s their love story essentially. When we were initially pitching the story as a feature film, the lack of “the usual” romance became an issue for execs----they were really pushing for us to add a love interest that came between the sisters. When we adapted the screenplay into a novel, our publisher never once asked us to add in another romance, which is how we knew they were the right people to help us tell Ava and Mira’s story.
And finally, what’s the most essential lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing/publishing career?
Always trust your instincts. The only regrets we have are moments when we didn’t listen to what our gut was telling us. Also, never give up. It took us two years to publish this book, but we believed in the story and just kept pushing and pushing. Believe in yourself and your dreams, always.
Many thanks go out to Ashley and Leslie for taking the time to tell us more about The Rule of One, their creative process, and the push to keep Ava and Mira's sibling dynamic the focus of the story. Be to sure to add this fast-paced dystopia to your Goodreads list, or order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. And to further support these authors (and your community!), don't forget to request this title at your library/local independent bookstore!
And, as always,