Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! I'm thrilled today to be hosting Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance on their blog tour to promote their debut novel, The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading. Here's the blurb for this fantastic YA novel:

When Bethany -- self-proclaimed geek girl -- makes the varsity cheerleading squad, she realizes that there's one thing worse than blending in with the lockers: getting noticed. She always felt comfortable as part of the nerd herd, but being a member of the most scrutinized group in her school is weighing her down like a ton of textbooks. Even her Varsity Cheerleading Guide can't answer the really tough questions, like: How do you maintain some semblance of dignity while wearing an insanely short skirt? What do you do when the head cheerleader spills her beer on you at your first in-crowd party? And how do you know if your crush likes you for your mind...or your pom-poms?

One thing's for sure: It's going to take more than brains for this girl genius to cheer her way to the top of the pyramid.

Darcy was kind enough to chat a little about the book and the background of this writing duo...

Darcy, congrats on your release! You both must be so excited! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I’ve been a college dropout five times – mostly because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. Despite that, I’ve worked in Human Services most of my adult life, first in unemployment offices, then at an agency that served children and now I work as the Volunteer Coordinator for a mental health center.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading is a novel for teens and young adults. It’s about two smart, kind of geeky girls who, through an unusual set of circumstances, find their way onto the varsity cheerleading squad. It’s the story of their season on the squad.

Geek Girl’s Guide started out as my co-author’s solo novel. She had written the first several drafts of it, and it had already finaled in at least one contest, before I got involved with the project. Charity was seeking an agent to represent the book when, through another unusual set of circumstances, I had a conversation with an agent about her story. He asked me to encourage Charity to make changes to the manuscript and resubmit, but Charity was reluctant. I badgered her about it relentlessly and even went as far as rewriting her first chapter for her, but nothing would change her mind.

Then my son was diagnosed with cancer. Charity was a huge support to me during those first weeks after the diagnosis – her inbox was always open. When I sent her a message thanking her for being such a good friend, she responded right away saying something like, “I just wish I could do more but we live so far away from each other; it’s not like I can pop down the street and deliver a hotdish to you.” But the next day she did exactly that.

She sent another email to me, inviting me to join a private online group for just the two of us. In her invitation she said, “Remember that story, the one about the geeky cheerleaders? What if we worked on it together?” Charity knew that I needed something else to think about besides my son being sick. She also knew that I needed money – cancer is a really expensive thing to fix.

We worked on the book together throughout my son’s illness. My son’s treatment was a success and so were our efforts with the book. Eleven months after my son was first diagnosed, his doctor told us she thought everything was going to be okay. By that time, Charity and I had revised the entire novel, found an agent, and our agent had sold our book to Simon Pulse!

Last week, on June 13th, my son celebrated two years of being cancer free!

Wow, that's such an inspirational story! What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Write because you love it – even on those days when writing doesn’t love you back.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I have always been a “streaky” reader. As a child, I once spent an entire year reading nothing but basketball novels. I’ve had periods of reading only historicals, only fantasy, only mysteries, only women’s fiction. These days, I read a lot of Young Adult novels – partly as research, but also because I love the stripped down, “story first” way many of them are written. I’ve also been trying to revisit some classics and occasionally I read adult fiction like Jodi Picoult, or mysteries (I heart Sue Grafton) just so my entire reading life isn’t all about the OMG ; )

My favorite adult author is John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany, World According to Garp) and my current favorite YA author is John Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns).

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult thing about writing for me is starting. If I can make myself write those first sentences of the day, then I generally enjoy my writing session. I am easily distracted though, so it doesn’t always happen. The second most difficult thing for me is plotting. Oh how I stink at it! My characters would prefer to meander endlessly down the path of doing and talking about nothing of consequence. The most rewarding thing about writing is the writing itself. I just really enjoy seeing those words pop up on my computer screen – and then there’s that moment when I type ‘The End’ … that’s pretty delicious too!

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

READ! I love to read. I also like to listen to music, especially live music. I like to hang out with friends and family, watch movies, play Tetris, and go for long, aimless drives in the country.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

Hands down, it was this: When Charity and I first started working together on this project, parts of it were hers and parts of it were mine. Along the way, it started to become impossible to tell who wrote what. The novel became our characters’ story. It was magical!

That's so cool...OK, last question: What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?

My favorite movie changes all of the time. I like movies but I suspect I don’t like them in the same way an afficianado does. To me, they are entertainment. I can’t remember much about them even a week later. Having said that, I would LOVE to write a story like Slumdog Millionaire. That was amazing!

Ah, yes...Slumdog Millionaire. I'll second you there! Darcy, thanks so much for being here today, and best of luck in your blog tour, sales, and future projects!


Charity and Darcy said...

Thanks for hosting us today -- great questions!
Also, I see you are appearing at a Cheese Festival in the near future. I AM SO JEALOUS! I <3 cheese. How do I get a gig like that?

Summer said...

Very cool interview. I'm glad Darcy's son is okay.

Liz said...

great blurb! and such good news about your son!
The cheese festival is a huge deal here in Orange County, NY - I think it's because Velvetta was invented there?

Erica said...

I've never seen Slumdog Millionaire though I've heard its good :P

Diane Craver said...

I enjoyed your interview. Wonderful how well you two were able to write together.

Darcy, glad your son is fine, now. My daughter had cancer but hers wasn't as difficult as your son's. She had her thyroid removed because of Grave's Disease and cancer cells were found in her thyroid after surgery. But it was still scary because they checked elsewhere to see if she had cancer. Fortunately, she didn't.

Charity and Darcy said...

Summer - Thanks for the kind words

Liz - I checked out Orange Co and Cheese Festival sounds amazing. Not just Velveeta, but cream cheese too! There was a picture on the site of a whole table full of cheesecake! Mmmmm. Cheese+Cake=Love

Erica - You have GOT to see Slumdog. Right now even. Stop what you're doing and go rent that movie (unless, of course, what you're doing is reading Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading).

Diane - Welcome to the club that no one ever wants to join. Kids should never get sick. Wishing your daughter continued good health.


ProdElektra said...

Cool interview once again! Keep it up(Y) -Prodhi

Llehn said...

Great interview. I've heard so many good things about Slumdogs. Hope I get to catch it!