Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR & THE NARRATOR
What inspired you to write The Templeton Twins Have an Idea?
Ellis Weiner: I thought it would be fun to write for a younger audience, who seem up for anything in terms of absurdity. Also, I realized that such an audience would be perfect as the targets of “abuse” from a narrator who is a gigantic pill—a cruder and more ridiculous form of those great Nabokovian pill-narrators like Humbert Humbert (Lolita) and Charles Kinbote (Pale Fire). So I thought of The Bobbsey Twins books I read as a kid, and decided it would fun to establish a pair of twins as the straight men of the piece. I could therefore split between them the attributes and interests I wanted to take seriously and still be able to surround them with absurd adults.
The Narrator: It may interest you to know that, in fact, the individual who narrates The Templeton Twins Have an Idea—and who, therefore, can actually be said to have “created” it—is not Mr. Ellis Weiner. Mr. Weiner is merely a person whose name is on the cover. I will say that I was compelled to narrate The Templeton Twins Have an Idea for reasons and by forces I am not disposed to reveal at this time. They may be divulged in a later book.
What was your inspiration for the ridiculous dog?
Ellis Weiner: The hyper-active, white, constantly-electrified smooth-haired fox terrier named Cassie in the book is somewhat based on a hyper-active, white, constantly-electrified smooth-haired fox terrier named Cassie, which I used to own. In fact, forget “somewhat.” The twins’ dog is my (late) dog.
The Narrator: Mr. Ellis Weiner insisted that the twins obtain such a dog, and I had no choice but to go along with the whole ridiculous business. I am not, you will be unsurprised to learn, “a dog person.”
Would you like to own a personal one-man helicopter?
Ellis Weiner: Yes, although I fudge in the book about how heavy the battery would have to be and how loud the whole thing is.
The Narrator: No. The prospect of hovering over people, and thus being subjected to their constant attention, is not appealing. Neither is the idea of having to take the equipment off once one arrives at one’s destination, store it in some fashion, and then put it back on in order to go home.
What was your favorite thing to do when you were John and Abigail’s age?
Ellis Weiner: Play softball and touch football, and read. I do play the drums, but I didn’t start until I was sixteen.
The Narrator: Collect postage stamps from many lands, build scale models of aircraft carriers, and pretend to conduct symphony orchestras being played on the hi-fi.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Ellis Weiner: I didn’t have a favorite book so much as favorite series, which were Tom Swift (Jr.), and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. Or maybe The Complete Sherlock Holmes.
The Narrator: Atlas Shrugged. Eventually I outgrew it, as one does. But up until about the age of 13 I was its most ardent devotee.
What is your motto?
Ellis Weiner: I don’t have one. Or, if I did, it would be something like, “Beware people with mottoes.”
The Narrator: I do not have a motto of my own, per se. However, I am very fond of the motto I saw printed on a check from a restaurant inBaltimore,Maryland, called The Harvey House. It’s from many years ago and the establishment has long since been out of business, but its motto endures in my mind. In fact I am thinking of adopting it as my own. It goes thus: “Cut your steak with a fork, else tear up the check and walk out.”
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Ellis Weiner: Well, aside from looking like a non-obnoxiously-handsome leading man, probably being able to play piano like Oscar Peterson. Or drums like Dave Weckl.
The Narrator: I would have liked to be able to sing like Mandy Patinkin, with great feeling. As it is, I do sing with great feeling, but with an inferior voice.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Ellis Weiner: Theoretical physics.
The Narrator: Professional ice dancer.
What makes you laugh?
Ellis Weiner: Apparent absurdity that reveals its sense. Watching others be exasperated. Indignant bombast. Accurate parody.
The Narrator: Slapstick of the Laurel and Hardy (but not the Three Stooges) kind. Being right about something after being told that I’m wrong.
What’s the funniest question anyone has asked you at a book event or school visit?
Ellis Weiner: “Do you know that we have an 8-year-old student here whose name is also Ellis Weiner?”
The Narrator: “What is it about Ellis Weiner that you admire most?”
Can you tell us what the Templeton Twins will be up to in book two?
Ellis Weiner: The Professor will take them to the Thespian Academy of the Performing Arts (TAPAS), where he will invent a breakthrough theatrical device and the Dean twins will try to obtain rights to it. There will be a new nanny, the same old (and ridiculous) Cassie, and the twins will get into and out of various scrapes as only they can.
The Narrator: Does it matter? So long as I am narrating it?