Please give a warm welcome to...Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance, co-authors of A Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading, the story of Bethany and Mona, two self-proclaimed geeks who challenge stereotypes when they try out for their high school's varsity cheerleading squad. (And, while they may be geeky, their story is really cool. Read my original review here: http://thechildrensbookreporter.blogspot.com/2009/07/reporters-review-geek-girls-guide-to.html)
CBR: The characters in A Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading are comprised of many types of people, all faithfully represented: geeks, cheerleaders, etc. What category do you find yourselves in, or do you fit into more than one? If only one, how did you research "life on the other side"?
C: In high school, I really felt like I fell into the geek category. And since I work for a software company as a technical writer, I’m still pretty geeky. That being said, both Darcy and I have known a lot of different types of people thanks to various life experiences. One thing I think is important is any character (the antagonist, a secondary character, a bit player) is the hero of his/her own story. Even if they don’t have a point of view in the story, keeping that in mind can help you write more well-rounded characters.
D: When I was a teenager I moved in and out of a lot of different groups: the geeks, the free spirits, the strivers, the jocks, the slackers; I had friends (and enemies) (and frenemies, come to think of it) in each of them. These days, I manage an amazing bunch of high school and college volunteers. Some of them are misfits, some are prom queens. As an adult it is so much easier to see that the differences between these kids are really so slight compared to all they have in common.
CBR: Did you ever take a risk similar to Bethany and Moni's when you were a kid? If so, how did it turn out? If not, what do you wish you'd done?
C: Well, the premise for The Geek Girls Guide to Cheerleading is based on real life, sort of. A friend convinced me to try out for cheerleading, although she wasn’t as serious about it as Moni is in the story. We both made the squad, but the similarities (mostly) end there. I don’t know if I took risks so much as stuck with things. I stayed with Girls Scouts all through high school, which was a terribly geeky thing to do. But! We ended up going to France and England between junior and senior year of high school. And that was undeniably cool.
D: When I was 16, we moved to the same small town where my mom had gone to high school. She pushed me to be more involved in school activities there, and I did. I told myself I was just doing it to make her happy – but the truth is – I really liked it. I wrote for the school newspaper, went to all the football and basketball games, helped out with the prom committee and had an amazing time that entire year (while pretending to my city friends that I was really too cool for all of it). My senior year I went back to my old school and back to being too cool. I did continue to write for the school paper but I wish I’d had the courage to stay involved. I probably would have had more fun.
CBR: What was it like for you both co-authoring a book? What were your biggest surprises and challenges and what did you like best about it?
C: It was fun, hard, challenging, and fun. Did I say fun? I think that may have been the biggest surprise. I have this hazy memory of having both the master copy of our manuscript plus the marked up copy from Darcy on my computer screen (fortunately, I have a wide screen) and the marked up pages from our editor on a document holder, to one side, and Darcy in IM on the other. It was crazy--clearly. We really only had one big argument over a plot point, but it all worked out in the end (both the plot point and our partnership).
D: Co-authoring with Charity has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve never had a sister, but I imagine writing a book with someone feels a lot like that. You share so much. Some of it is hard, but all of it is amazing.
CBR: What is one writing tool (a special chair, notebook, pen, mug, etc.) that you couldn't do without?
C: When I write longhand, I really like using the Uni-ball vision pens and I like writing on notepads instead of in notebooks. Of course, I leave a couple of blanks pages on top so no one can see all the secrets I’m writing.
D: I’m partial to Mirado Black pencils when I’m trying to pull the knots out of a scene, but other than that, I’m pretty flexible.
CBR: As a geek myself, I just have to ask... Star Wars or Star Trek???
C: Oh, this is a toughie. Star Wars was my first love. I was very young when Star Trek first aired—and people kept dying; I didn’t like that. (I was too young to get the concept of the “red shirt.”) But, while in college, I had this ancient black and white TV that only picked up one channel. That one channel aired Star Trek: TNG along with the original series. It was a steady diet, kind of like the mac and cheese in the hot pot. Still, I saw the original Star Wars in the theater fifteen times. I’m thinking I have to call this one a draw.
D: Star Wars! Although I loves me some vintage Trek (especially TNG) I was actually too busy last spring to catch the Star Trek movie while it was in theaters. I cannot imagine a set of circumstances that would cause me to miss a Star Wars movie on the big screen. Even if the world was coming to an end and I had the only secret *whatever* that could save us all, I’d still probably be all – Hold on, I’ll be there after the 7 o’clock show!
CBR: You have another book coming out next year... Anything you'd like to share about that?
C: Actually, we don’t have a book coming out next year (but we wish we did!). We are working on several projects, in various stages of completion.
D: I wish we had another book coming out next year too. We do have a few things we’re working on, both solo and together. Right now I’m at the beginning stages of a non-fiction book for middle graders that I’m pretty excited about and trying to lure Charity into helping me with. We’ve also got a couple of geek girl style stories in the works that are a lot of fun.
CBR: Finally, you have the chance here to answer any question you've always wished to be asked... or just spout random interesting facts. We like that, too.
D: I’m all about the random interesting facts. Remember that non-fiction book I mentioned? It’s about the national anthems of North America -- which sounds like a pretty dull topic, but No! Did you know that Canada’s national anthem took 100 years to write? Or that the Cayman Islands anthem discusses rare juices? Or that the lyricist for the Cuban anthem shouted the words to his song as he faced a firing squad?
CBR: No...I didn't! But thanks--I love learning random facts... And thank you both so much for this interview!