The following is a reprint of an interview conducted with Herb Schultz, author of RonnieandLennie that first appeared April 8, 2017 on The Hungry Monster.
A Turbulent Time
RonnieandLennie is a story about conjoined twins, set in the hippie days of 1960s, which depicts the challenges of being incredibly close to family at all times. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
I’ve had a long-time fascination with the lives of the original Siamese Twins, Eng and Chang Bunker. These two men joined at the chest for their entire lives managed to marry sisters and father 21 children between them. I found that amazing. I tried to imagine how the Bunkers – or any conjoined twins – negotiated life’s private moments in the company of one other. It’s almost impossible to comprehend simple acts like going to the bathroom, meeting a girl, having sex – accompanied at all times by another human being. I assumed any conjoined twins would long to be separated, yet I discovered in my research that sometimes newly freed siblings would suffer from chronic adjustment disorder. Being attached to the same person for decades then suddenly cut loose could be the foundation for an interesting conflict. I built the story of Ronnie and Lennie around their picaresque lives together in a turbulent time contrasted with tragic setbacks that arise following their accidental separation.
Ronnie and Lenny are fascinating characters with much depth. They go through many trials throughout the story. What is one obstacle you felt was important for their characters?
Again, going back to the Bunker’s, Chang was the dominant brother over Eng which was the basis for a good deal of conflict and animosity between them. Unlike normal identical twins who seem to me to be highly compatible with very similar interests, I imagined conjoined twins having great difficulty living in harmony. Ronnie is dominant like Chang, Lennie is more submissive like Eng. So the biggest obstacle for Ronnie and Lennie is their physical attachment to one another. But equally challenging is their innate, fraternal desire to make each other happy. The conflict impels them.
The story is set in 1960’s America. Did you grow up in this time? I felt that you captured the essence of this time well. Why did you pick this era for your story?
Once Ronnie and Lennie are introduced, the bulk of the story takes place as they grow up in the 1960s and early 1970s – which is when I was a kid around the same age as them. Perhaps because this was my first novel I fell back on writing about an era with which I had first-hand experience. As Ronnie and Lennie are rather feral kids raised by their single, middle-aged aunt, I wanted to put them in a time when kids could behave with wild abandon – before the world became paranoid and protective. I wanted them to do crazy things. Experiment with sex, music, drugs without helicopter parents hovering about to ruin the adventure. I also needed to set it in a time when separating conjoined twins was impossible or at least too risky.
I also set the beginning of the story – before the twins are born – in 1950s Las Vegas which is a fascinating time and place. Big hotels and casinos are just starting to boom. The army is blowing up nuclear bombs in the desert. It was great fun researching and writing about those times.
What is the next book that you’re writing and when will it be available?
After RonnieandLennie, I wrote two more novels and a collection of short stories. Another genre that I enjoy is the tale of the con-game and revenge. My second novel, “Architect’s Rendition” is the story of an architect, determined to marry his mistress, enlists three associates in a complex scheme to murder his wife, and each other. The third is “Double Blind Test” in which a professional mediator is conned by identical twin businessmen who sought her help to resolve a dispute. She later meets another woman in a suspiciously similar circumstance, and the two women team up to take down the con artists.
After the publication of the short story collection “Sometimes the Sun Does Shine There,” I started writing screenplays, and have spent the bulk of my energy in that dispiriting endeavor.
Find RonnieandLennie at majorterata.com.