What about on your mom’s side?
LG: Well, the writing definitely started with their generation. Our dad’s dad sold cars for a living. His wife was a homemaker. On Ma’s side, Victor, her dad, was a career soldier, and her mom did some secretarial work. They were both the first of their family to go to college.
AG: They were both black sheep. And no one knows where our sister came from, either. She was a math prodigy.
LG: She always said she ran further than we did. She looked for any medium that didn’t have any words at all, starting with math and computer science. And then, she wound up in sculpture.
AG: I stuck with video games until I was 30—I purposefully set up to not become a writer. It would be nice to do something different. I worked at becoming a non-writer. I’m a failed non-writer. But I would never have done my first novel if Lev hadn’t looked at the first few chapters.
LG: And I never would have written The Magicians if I hadn’t read those early chapters. I scrapped what I was working on and started over. And what I started writing was The Magicians. So there’s a lot of influence going both ways.
AG: I think of it as a Lennon-McCartney thing. We both make each other better, in some ways. Complementary strengths. That’s the way it ought to be, ideally.
LG: I’m Lennon, though.
AG: What? No. I’m Lennon.
LG: Fine, it’s a Lennon-Lennon thing
AG: I don’t know. You might be George. We need to come back to this.
Ok, I’ll settle this. Which one of them is older?
LG: Lennon is older. McCartney is the kid.
AG: How do you know this?
LG: I’m obsessed with The Beatles and their history. I find their story immensely fascinating. They keep putting out books, and now this three volume definite work is being written. The first volume is fantastic. Actually, Eliot in The Magicians books is based on the young John Lennon.
AG: In a million years I would not have guessed that you cared about Beatles in the slightest. Our mother was in Liverpool in the 50s, actually. She managed never to see The Beatles.
LG: That’s the story of her life.
So did your parents meet in England?
AG: Our parents met at Brandeis. They were a professor-student couple.
LG: It was less scandalous in those days.
Would the two of you ever consider writing together?
LG: I once suggested that we do that, and Austin said no.
AG: It’s still no.
LG: I didn’t ask again. The offer is off the table.
AG: I learn from things you do. There’s a collaborative element there. But let’s draw a line somewhere. What we do do is give each other comments. When I’m at the end of what I know what to do with a project, and it’s really desperate, that’s when I send it on to Lev.
LG: We show each other outlines, sometimes. I saw an outline for Crooked.
AG: Yes, that’s the manuscript I just turned in, for a book about Richard Nixon. It’s first person point of view. It’s like a history of the Cold War; that background underlay some of his decisions. Nixon was doing what he had to do.