At age 12, identical twins Brianna and Brittany Winner of Orange County, Calif. completed their first novel.
The Strand Prophecy was the start of four award-winning novels for the girls, who would also go on to write a screenplay, a comic book, and a guide to writing –– all before graduating high school.
And they are not alone.
Identical twins Dané and Julie le Roux, 17, of Coldstream, already have one published novel, which, coincidently, they also started at the age of 12, and they have two more on the way.
For the girls, writing comes as natural as does completing each other’s sentences –– which they do when you talk to them. It’s also that way when they map out their stories.
Julie always begins, and Dané always writes the end.
“We always have to know how we’re going to end the story when we write a book,” said Dané.
Now in Grade 12 at Kalamalka Secondary School, the sisters’ first book, The Watching, a horror mystery geared for youth ages 12 and 13, follows two friends, who after hearing a ghost story, are faced with the feeling that someone is watching them.
To start The Watching, Julie wrote the first few chapters with whatever came to her mind.
“I would look at what she wrote and would say, ‘I could work with this,’ and I’d add my part,” said Dané, adding, “That first sentence Julie wrote stayed the same from the first time she wrote it out to the published book.”
The girls have always been close. They have done well at school and are both artistic, says their mom Lynette, adding Dané has an interest in painting, while Julie can always be found writing away in her journal
“They used to draw pictures like comic strips when they were young,” said Lynette. “Their grandmother was also that way. She would send poems and writing to be published in South Africa.”
It was 13 years ago that Lynette and her husband, Dr. Kobus le Roux, moved their family, including five children, from the diamond mining town of Kimberly in the Northern Cape of South Africa to Canada.
Dr. le Roux took up a practice in Maple Creek, Sask. and the family lived there for nine years before coming to the Okanagan.
“When we arrived, we didn’t know anyone,” said Dané. “We had started our first book in Saskatchewan… We moved here in the summer, and we were not in school making friends, so (writing) gave us something to do.”
“It was also hard to start at a new school. We missed our friends, so we wrote and wrote and wrote,” added Julie.
Because they were busy adjusting to their new community, the completed version of The Watching didn’t come out until the girls were 16. It was Lynette who looked for a publisher on the Internet, and iUniverse out of Indiana expressed interest.
“They had actually heard about us and pursued us for the book,” she said. “There are few books out there for young teenagers… The editor was harsh. He pushed them.”
“There were things like getting the dates and times correct, such as if a telephone was around in that era,” said Dané. “They had some good ideas, and would say ‘fix this; think that.’”
“They also let us send in some ideas for the cover,” said Julie, adding “I look back on when we wrote it.. We were so young. I don’t know how I feel about it now.”
However, both agree the lessons they learned from their first novel helped them with their second and third books.
Together, the twins filled notebooks with details such as character description, relationships, even adding symbols.
Everything was written out in point form, said Julie.
“I usually write out four points and then Dané writes another four points; that way we always know what the other person is going to write.”
The twins’ second effort, entitled Dream with Me, is now finished. It’s a mystery that follows a young girl who wakes up from a horse riding accident alone and unsure of her surroundings. The book is loosely based on a Saskatchewan trick rider, who died after a horse-riding accident.
“The book is quite sad. It makes you think about life after death and even about life if you don’t die,” said Lynette, adding the book is ready for publication, “We’re just looking for an editor.”
Meanwhile, the twins’ third book, a drama called Liquid Ice: The Legend, is almost done.
“It’s a legend on how greed consumes people. It’s set in the present but also goes into the past,” said Julie, adding she and her sister like to leave a lot of room for the imagination using foreshadowing.
And the future looks bright as the twins prepare to graduate in the coming year, and are applying for district scholarships.
The girls are looking forward to their first local book signing when they join fellow local writer Sarah Gabriel, who recently published her memoir, My Resilience, at Coles book store in the Village Green Centre Nov. 17 from 1 to 4 p.m.
The Watching is available in paperback and as an e-book through the Internet. Those interested in more information can contact the twins via email at email@example.com.