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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interview with Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance!

Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance are the authors of The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading. Check back here later for my review!
Q: As The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading is about a geeky girl and her just-as-geeky friend trying out for cheerleading, I'm curious. In what position were you in high school (meaning a nerd, a prep, an art freak, a drama queen, a skater chick, a band geek—I think you know the rest)?
C: I was definitely a geek. Case in point: I was a Girl Scout for twelve years, which was so not cool. Until my troop earned enough money for a trip to Europe, that is.
D: I had classes with all the other geeks and we were friends so, part classic geek. But I was also definitely an art freak. I had friends who were way into band, orchestra or theatre so I sometimes hung with the music geeks and drama queens. On top of all that, my main boyfriend was a jock so I spent some time with the sports crowd too. I guess I was a Hybrid Geek, or maybe om-nerd-verous ; )
Q: Charity, after reading the "Our Story Behind the Story" page at The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading website (, I was wondering if you could tell us more about the process of being co-authors for a novel. I have read plenty of books written by two people, but never really understood how it works exactly. I mean, not everyone has the same writing style, and not everyone can write one thing with another person without having major disagreements. Would you mind clearing this up for us?

C: In our case, it helped that we'd been both friends and critique partners for about ten years or so. We find many of the same things funny, which I think is another plus.

The mechanics of it go something like this: one of us will write the draft of something, then we'll pass it back and forth. When we first started working together on The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, you could tell which parts were me and which were Darcy's.
After a while, we both learned how to make all parts Bethany's. I can't really explain it better than that except to say that, as with most types of writing, it took time and practice.
Q: You guys clearly knew each other before this novel came along. Was it weird to be working together on a book, or was it just fun to be doing something with a friend?

C: It was definitely fun. We'd been working together as critique partners for so long, in some ways this really wasn't much different--we just spent more virtual time together.

D: It was FUN!

Q: Were any of the characters in The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading based—no matter how loosely—on people from your own time in high school? Or do some of them—especially Chantal Simmons and other members of the so-called "in-crowd"—just share similar qualities to people who attended school with you at one point?

C: I draw from real life, things I've either experienced or people I've known, but no one character is based on anyone I actually knew growing up.

D: Charity already had all the characters in place by the time I started working on the book with her so I didn't establish any of them on my own. I did have people from high school in mind as I wrote though, especially those characters at the extreme ends of the popularity spectrum. Every time I even think about Todd, I see this kid named Richard's face. And, in my mind, there are two Chantals.

There's "good" Chantal who reminds of a girl I knew named Kim. Kim and I went to the same church and we had a few classes together. She was fabulously popular, pretty, from a wealthy family and she had a shoe collection that would rival Chantal's. Kim was always nice to me at church functions and in class -- but outside of that, it was like I did not exist for her. I wasn't unpopular in school but I was definitely not in her stratosphere. We could be walking down the halls in a direct path toward each other and she would never ever wave at me or acknowledge my existence in any way, but, in a different setting, she was totally cool.

"Evil" Chantal reminds me of another girl, one who I wished would not acknowledge me. She comes up as a potential "friend" suggestion on Facebook sometimes and, all these years later, I still wince when I see her face.

Q: I know tons of girls that are too afraid to try things, or even be themselves, because they think that they're not as "pretty as {insert name of popular person here}" or they "don't have the same kind of clothes as {insert name of popular person here}" or they "are too awkward and quiet for a guy to like them" or they even "are afraid people judge them because of their freckles and birthmarks—they wish their skin was more like {insert name of popular person here}". I personally find it sad that all of these girls can't even go to school without feeling like someone is going to make fun of them, or can't even leave the house without feeling nervous about being themselves. What are your views on the social status at most schools currently, and the serious issues with school cliques?

C: Darcy has answered really well (see below), but I relate. It took me a long time to work up the courage and try new things and feel good about the way I looked. I channeled a lot of that into The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading.

D: I could write pages and pages about this – oh wait, I did – they're all in The Geek Girl's Guide! But really, I spend a lot of time in high schools and it is just like you said: there are tons of girls who suffer through some pretty brutal self esteem problems. Most of the worst ones I've seen were caused by other people who were cruel and thoughtless – but a lot of the time, girls put these judgments on themselves.

We all think that everyone is watching every move we make but the truth is, most people are so wrapped up in worrying about themselves that they don't even notice that zit you have on your chin or the way your belly fat muffins over your jeans, or even that huge extra chunk you accidentally tweezed out of your eyebrows when you sneezed (oh wait, that one was me, not you, lol).

The best thing girls can do to combat this is to just suck in a big breath and ask themselves, What is the worst thing that could happen if I…? Usually, the worst thing isn't any more awful than what is already going on. And yeah, it won't always work out – some people will label you and try to keep you from getting outside of the box they've placed you in, but that's not as sad as staying in that box on purpose. TRY. It could turn out to be amazing!

Q: High school! Some say it's the worst time of your life, others say it's the best! What are your views?

C: Actually, I hope it's no one's absolute best time of their life, because I sincerely hope everyone has much more living to do after high school. I also hope it's no one worst, either.
D: I wouldn't say it is the worst time or the best time. I had an awesome time in high school but, would I go back and do it all again? No Way!
Q: What was your writing process for The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading?

C: It went through a couple of stages before Darcy and I collaborated on it. I wrote the draft, revised, but really didn't do much with it. It was much too short (can you believe the first draft was only 30,000 words?).

I shelved it and wrote a few other things, then--as a writing exercise--I pulled it out again and revised it using Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. That version got me several almost-but-not-quite rejections.

Q: Did you listen to music at all while writing The Geek Girls Guide to Cheerleading? If so, what type of music? Any bands/artists in specific you were drawn to?

C: I don't listen to music while I write, but I definitely associate songs with stories. If The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading had a theme song it would be The Reason by Hoobastank.

D: You asked Charity this one but I'm stepping all over it, sorry! I made a playlist that I listened to while helping to revise Geek Girls. It included all kinds of music – stuff from "geek" bands like Weezer and They Might Be Giants to "jock/cheerleading" songs like Get the Party Started and Y'all Ready for This. There were songs that helped me get into the emotions the characters were experiencing, like Stuck in a Moment by U2 and, since we did a lot of work on the book over a summer (the book is set during a frigid Minnesota winter) I started every writing session out with The Walkmen's Blizzard of 96. Music helps me get to my writing "place".

Q: Did you guys ever get into any serious disagreements while going over the book before getting an agent/moving forward in the stages before the book could be published? Be honest here, guys!

D: Although we occasionally disagreed about the little things, we really only had one big time argument, and even that didn't happen until we had a publisher and were revising the novel for our editor. The whole thing was over when a plot element should be revealed. We both had pretty strong opinions on it and, I think, pretty good reasons for doing it either way. It was a difficult few days. We went with Charity's option because she was the Plot Master, but we agreed to let our editor be the final decision maker.

Q: From what I read on your "Our Story Behind the Story" page, there were no serious complications while trying to get the book published. Would you mind going into more detail about how long it took to get the book published, whether or not it was difficult to find a publishing company that was interested in publishing the book, or anything else you see fit to add about the process?

C: I wrote the first draft in February of 2004, so Geek Girl has been around for a while. Like Darcy mentions below, what you see on our site is really the last year or so in a long journey.

D: What you've seen is really the tip of an iceberg. The point where we received interest from agents, chose one, and she sold the book would not have come without years and years of learning how to write, learning how to accept criticism and grow with it, learning how to approach an agent. From the time we finished revising the manuscript until Simon Pulse agreed to buy the book was short – just about ten months. But that was the Bell Lap after a ten year-long marathon.

Q: Darcy, before you decided to help Charity with The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading , were you ever interested in writing? If so, what types of things did you like to write for fun, if you ever got around to it?
D: Charity and I met when we signed up for a free online writing class, then stayed on to join an internet writing group, so I've been writing for about as long as she has. I'm not sure I was ever as serious about publishing as she was though, and I definitely wasn't as diligent about it.
I've written all sorts of things including personal essays and short stories for adults. All of the longer fiction I've ever completed though (four novels) has always been for kids or young adults.
Q: Being a book reviewer, I find this question necessary: Do you enjoy reading? If so, please elaborate! What are some of your favorites? What are some books that you absolutely hated?
C: I love reading, adore it. If there's a drawback to writing, it's that I have less time to read. It probably comes as no surprise that one of my favorites is Pride and Prejudice. Also Jane Eyre. I majored in Russian in college, so I have a soft spot for the literature (except Crime and Punishing--to my utter chagrin, I could never finish it).
There are also some amazing books being published today as well.
D: I don't just enjoy reading, I louuuuurve it. I read all over the place. I just finished The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart. Now I am reading the second Twilight book. Next up on my to be read pile is Moby Dick. I'm reading that one because Paper Towns, the latest novel by John Green (one of my faves) makes references to it and I somehow skipped it in high school and college. As soon as I finish that I have plans to read Elizabeth Scott's latest, and Jennifer E. Smith's new one, and there are a whole bunch of Debut 2009 authors that I can't wait to get to. Ahhh, reading, I <3 it mightily. Except Beowulf. I. Hate. Beowulf.
Q: Charity, is The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading just a one-time thing, or do you plan on surprising us with another amazing novel any time soon?
C: I don't know about soon (publishing can be a slow business), but I do have a few things in the works. I'm revising a novel right now and have a draft of another waiting for its turn.
Q: Out of the many things you hope for your readers to get from The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, what is the major message you want the book to shout out to the tons of geeky teens out there (such as myself) like Moni and Bethany?
D: I think the main message is: Don't accept labels. They really don't serve any purpose other than to place limits on how well you can know other people – and how well we can know ourselves. There's a line in the book where Bethany's trying to keep Moni from getting too hopeful about cheerleading tryouts. She says something like, "There are places that girls like us don't go – and cheerleading is at the top of that list." If readers take away anything from The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, I hope it is this: There is NO LIST of places you can't go. There are NO LIMITS to what you can become.


Anonymous said...

Great interview!

I love your template. So cute!

simply nerdy book reviews said...

thanks:) its new! kelsey did it

Charity Tahmaseb said...

Leah, thanks so much for hosting us! I like your template too.

I'm going to keep this note sort, since I just got back from an eye exam and can't really see what I'm typing. But I did want to say we had a lot of fun with this interview!


simply nerdy book reviews said...

Charity: not a problem! i had a ton of fun writing the questions! but bloggers being bad right now! lol:)it wouldnt post it this morning


Summer said...

great interview. fun to read

Charity and Darcy said...

Great interview questions! Now I've got a question for you:
Do I really have to start hating Bruce Springsteen?
Thanks for hosting us!

simply nerdy book reviews said...

Darcy. I hate to say this, but you really do have to hate him.

lol:) i know, its totally unamerican of me, but i just dont like him. at all. just like you hate beowulf, i hate bruce springsteen with a passion. even if i have NO IDEA how to spell his last name.

Charity and Darcy said...

Despite my best efforts to convert him, my son hates Bruce too. And my daughter cannot abide U2 even though it was probably the first music she ever heard -- I went to their show when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with her. So much for that music in the womb theory ;)


WordVore Prod said...

Great interview! You just made collaboration seem even better (that's big considering I never thought the idea would be this cool). And I love Weezer! Especially Island in the Sun.

WordVore Prod said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
simply nerdy book reviews said...

thanks, Prodhi!

Collegiate Bookworm said...

This book is definitely on my To Read List! Thanks!

Llehn said...

Hooray for geeks! All my friends are geeks!

simply nerdy book reviews said...

none of mine are:( im the only geeky one.


Erica said...

I'm not a geek or any specific sterotype/group I don't think. I'm a theater child, yet listen to emo music, in like everything club in existance, shop everywhere :P


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