Monday, May 3, 2010

Interview with authors Charity Tahmaseb & Darcy Vance

by Brittany Geragotelis

I read a book recently that was both adorable and fun—and totally spoke to the nerd in me! The book (and the story behind how the book came together) is inspirational and all about doing what you love, believing in yourself and sticking by your friends.

Authors Charity Tahmaseb & Darcy Vance were nice enough to take time out of their busy writing schedules to answer a few questions about life, reading, writing as a duo and getting published!
Me: You two are the brains behind the super-fun book, The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading. Charity, why a cheerleading book?
Charity: I wish I could remember exactly what sparked the idea. I must have been reminiscing about high school, and all of a sudden remembered my time on the cheer squad. I do remember thinking: Maybe that could be a story. And immediately after that, I e-mailed Darcy with my idea. Her response was: “I will either steal your story idea or kick your scrawny cheerleader butt if you don’t write this.” True, Geek Girl did start off as my solo project, but as you can see, Darcy was there all along.

photo credit: Simon Pulse
Me: You have a really unique story behind how this book came to fruition. Do you mind sharing it with us?
Sure! Like Charity said, Geek Girl’s Guide was originally her idea, but I loved it from the start. Whenever Charity would get tired of working on it, I’d push her to keep going. I even took a few of her first chapters and rewrote them (a definite no-no in the writing world). I knew she had something special. There was a point where Charity had given up, and nothing I did or said could get her started on it again. Then my 21-year-old son was diagnosed with tongue cancer.
After that first horrible week, I sent Charity a message thanking her for being such a good friend to me. She said she wished she could do more to help me, “…but we live so far apart. It’s not like I can pop down the street and deliver a hot dish to you.” (Charity lives in Minnesota and I’m in Indiana.)

The next day she sent another e-mail asking me to join her in a private online group called “Hotdish.” When I signed in there was a message saying something like, “Remember that story, the one with the cheerleaders? What if we worked on it together?”

Charity knew I needed something else to think about besides my son being sick and needed the money (paying for cancer treatment is expensive). She knew that if we worked together, we might be able to turn Geek Girl’s Guide into a story that a publisher might want to buy. And, if that happened, I could use my part of the money to help pay my son’s doctor bills.

courtesy of Darcey Vance
So, in between taking my son to doctors and hospitals, Charity and I worked on the book together. By the time my family found a doctor who could help us, we'd rewritten most of the book. Charity spent the week my son was in the hospital to remove his tumor, writing to agents. My son’s surgery was a success—and so were Charity’s letters. Several agents got in touch with us about our book right away.
The same month that my son’s doctor told us everything was going to be okay, our agent sold The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading! The book was published 11 months later, two years and one week after my son’s diagnosis. He was with me the first day I saw our book in a store and he’s still cancer-free (check out Darcy with her son to the left)!

Me: That’s an incredible story on its own! Are you two planning on teaming up on another book in the future?Darcy: We’re working on a couple of books at the moment, not true sequels, but other “geek girl” types of books. Charity is working on something called Dating on the Dork Side, which as a novel—and social experiment—is still a work in progress.

Me: What’s it like writing a book together? Do you take different chapters, different characters, etc? How do you deal with creative differences along the way?
Charity: We brainstorm in chat sessions (we almost never talk on the phone!) and we each have strengths we bring to the process. I can keep the structure of the story in my head, while Darcy knows when we’ve repeated an unusual word one too many times. She has a feel for characters I can’t get a handle on, and vice versa.
Usually, if we disagree, we can either find a compromise, or one of us will feel more strongly than the other about the item in question. If it’s a big disagreement (and we did have one while writing Geek Girl), we’ll go with whoever has the strength in that area.

courtesy of Darcey Vance
Darcy: There was one point in the novel that we came at from totally opposite directions. We had a pretty tense couple of days. Eventually, I gave in because it was a question about plot—and that’s the area where Charity shines and I really struggle. We agreed to try it her way but if our editor said anything about it, I reserved the right to say “I told you so.” It turned out Charity was right. It also turned out that Charity is much nicer than I am—she never said “I told you so” to me. Not once.
But writing together was an amazing experience. In the beginning, it was easy to tell the parts Charity had written from the parts I’d written. The deeper we got into rewriting the story though, the harder it became to tell us apart. It was like we’d created a third person out of the best of both of us.
Me: How does it feel to see your labor of love on bookshelves and in the hands of teens?
Charity: Awesome. Incredible. Surreal. Even now, it’s a treat to walk into a bookstore or the library and see it there on the shelf. Even more incredible, teens have sent us e-mails letting us know how much they liked the book.

courtesy of Darcey Vance
Me: What inspires you?
Music. A great book. Eavesdropping. Seriously, inspiration is everywhere, even when you don’t realize that you’re looking for it. The other day, I spied the cutest teen boy, all decked out in a Snuggie, in the middle of Starbucks. He was happily texting his friends. I know there’s a story in there, somewhere.

Me: What books are you fans of?
Charity:Oh gosh, we’re both big readers and there are tons of books that we love. A favorite of ours is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Some of our favorite modern writers include John Green, E. Lockhart, Sarah Dessen, Maureen Johnson, Suzanne Collins, Elizabeth Scott, Catherine Murdock, Deb Caletti and Stacey Jay—even though she features evil cheerleaders in her latest novel.

Me: What advice would you give others who’d like to write books?

Charity: Butt in chair. Hands on keys. There’s no magic secret to becoming a published author. The only way to do it is to write a book that people want to read. And the only way I know to do that is to write, write, write, and…write!

Me: In your journey to being published, was there ever a time you wanted to give up? How did you push yourself to go on?
Charity: Plenty! In fact, I shelved the Geek Girl manuscript twice before pulling it out a third time to try again. For me, it really helped that Darcy was there all along, believing in my ability. Believing in it so much, that it hurt her when I shelved the project. Of course, what the story needed was both of us, but her steadfast belief in the story is why it’s in bookstores.
Darcy: I loved the story so much and felt so honored that Charity let me be a part of writing it. For me, every minute I spent writing was like a mini-vacation from the scary awfulness of my son’s illness. Writing Geek Girl was what recharged me and made it possible for me to give him the care he needed.
**Be sure to pick up The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading today!


Agency Gatekeeper said...

This is an awesome story. Thank you for sharing it!

Charity Tahmaseb said...

Thanks for having us today! We enjoyed doing the interview.

Brittany said...

You're the best! Thanks for sharing your experiences in the industry. It's all very inspiring!