The Art of Working Together

What twins tell us.

Posted Sep 27, 2018

We know from twin studies that individual differences in vocational interests, work values, and job satisfaction are partly influenced by genetic factors. We also know that identical twins are socially closer to one another than fraternal twins, in general. An in-depth look at two pairs of collaborating—one identical and the other fraternal—can tell is a lot about what it takes to work well together. Both twin pairs are female and are made up of one twin who is a professional writer and one twin other who enjoys writing but has a different occupation. I discovered both of these fascinating sets because of Literary Orange, book festival held once each year in Newport Beach, California. I was a speaker at one of the sessions, as were the writers from each of the two pairs. I did not encounter the twins when I was there, but one of the organizers brought us together. Who are they?

The identical twins, Hollie and Heather Overton, come from Los Angeles, California and the fraternal twins, Sandra Sellani and Susan Hosage, live in Newport Beach, California and Wyoming, Pennsylvania, respectively. It was a treat to get to know each one in four separate interviews.

Hollie and Heather. Hollie started out her professional training as an actress, at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and with private acting lessons. She then enrolled in New York City’s Hunter College and chose English as her major area of study. But her interest in writing occurred earlier, evidenced by contributions to her school’s newspaper and her personal journal. Before heading to Los Angeles, she explored screenwriting and won first prize for a short film and a one-year fellowship at Warner Brothers studios. Her job as a television writer segued into a novel writing project. The result of these efforts was Baby Doll, a novel with a twin-based theme that has sold thousands of copies worldwide. She went onto write a second novel, The Walls, and is at work on a third.

Hollie’s twin sister Heather also enrolled in Hunter College and the American Academy for the Dramatic Arts. Her acting interests soon turned to behind-the-scenes activities. She considers herself a “closet writer” and while she has a book idea in mind, she jokes that families have room for just one writer. Heather works at Hallmark as a television executive where she developed new programs and has opportunities for writing. She sometimes senses slight jealousy at Hollie’s literary success, but supports her sister completely, defining twinship as always having a best friend who understands you better than anyone else.

The twins’ current goal is developing a script for a television pilot and to see it through to production. They are lucky to live just one mile apart which allows for hours of “brainstorming.” They have a set procedure that they follow when they work together—composing an outline, dividing up scenes, then discussing them. These sessions remain friendly and fun as long as they do not ask their sister, “Does this make sense?” — a question that both find annoying. Heather claims that it is not necessarily easier to work with her twin than with other people, but that working with Hollie does not feel like work. Hollie echoed agreed and emphasized her sister’s writing talents.

Hollie’s novel Baby Doll concerns separated identical twin sisters — the relationship and sacrifices that they make. Heather read through early drafts of the book before it was published and suddenly realized that one of the twins in the was modeled after her. “I am Abby,” she said. Hollie recalls this moment as one of her favorites!   

Sandra Sellani and Susan Sellani-Hosage. Sandra and Susan are fifty-eight-year-old DZ twins who were raised in a small eastern Pennsylvania town. They grew up in a large Italian family, which largely explains their interest in cooking and their successful book collaboration. Susan still lives in Pennsylvania, but Sandra located to southern California about thirty years ago. Despite the distance between, they get together several times a year, and stay in contact by telephone and e-mail. The twins are the same height and nearly the same weight. Sandra was married but is now single and Susan has been married for twenty-seven years.

Sandra is a brand strategist, a job that involves promoting a particular brand and developing a strategy for doing so. She is also a marketing consultant and the author of What's Your BQ? Learn How 35 Companies Add Customers, Subtract Competitors, and Multiply Profits with Brand Quotient, published in 2007. Her most recent writing venture is a cookbook co-authored with her sister. Sandra has, however, worked in healthcare and real estate. She went from being an omnivore to a vegetarian at age twenty-five and became a vegan at age fifty. These decisions were a response to a friend’s animal advocacy and her own fondness for animals.

Susan has always been involved in business, particularly management, strategic planning, and human resources. She is also an instructor, currently associated with the Society for Human Resource Management via the University of Scranton’s Professional Development Center. Susan is neither a vegan nor a vegetarian, but she has reduced her intake of meat due to her twin sister’s influence. 

These twins published their cookbook titled, The 40-Year-Old Vegan: 75 Recipes to Make You Leaner, Cleaner, and Greener in the Second Half of Life in 2017. The cookbook is actually a creative compilation of recipes for dishes that Sandra and Susan remember eating during their growing up years, but the ingredients have been modified for vegans. The book was Sandra’s passion, but Susan was excellent at recalling the various recipes as well as the stories that went with them. behind them. The twins encountered no work conflicts while writing the book. Susan’s married name is Hosage, but they decided to use the same last name (Sellani) on the book cover to highlight their twinship.

The shared interests, talents, and values of these two twin pairs—one set identical, one set fraternal—have enabled them to work together to achieve a common goal. Their personalities and temperaments are also very compatible and their relationships are close and trusting. Clearly, both pairs of twins show us the ingredients needed for collaboration in workplaces, on athletic fields and in academic settings.

Note: This entry was adapted from a longer article about these two twin pairs, to appear in the journal Twin Research and Human Genetics