I am so excited today to welcome authors Charlotte Bernnardo and Natalie Zaman to The Cover Contessa!
I had the honor privilege of meeting these two awesome ladies (and subsequently having a long chat with them about co-authoring a book with my friend) at YA Fest 2012 in Easton, PA:
Charlotte and Natalie have co-authored this awesome series of books!
Click books to go to Goodreads!
Let's learn a little bit about Charlotte and Natalie before they answer my questions!
Protected by Hera, Charlotte Bennardo is living one of her dreams–writing our story. Others will be chased dependent upon money, time, political unrest, contractual duties, book signings and revisions, if the cat will get off her lap, and if she has to make dinner.
Natalie Zaman is kept busy by pointy things. Pencils. Pens. Needles (the knitting and sewing variety). Arrows. She also has an eye for the sparkly, and obviously likes black–good for being inconspicuous in the Underworld and keeping an eye on Hades…
And now, let's hear what these awesome ladies had to say!
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
C- Always wanted to be a writer, although for a time I dreamed about being a gymnast (not that I had any talent or training).
Nat: Once upon a time I had dreams of being a pilot. Now I tolerate flying--they really need to bring back that whole grand ocean liner thing...
How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?C- Hmm. Depends how motivated/inspired I am, or how time crunched I've become. For my first book, when I worked full time and went to school at night, it took me ten (10!) years. For Sirenz it took Nat & I a year. For my MG, 3 months. For my other YA novels, I'd say about six months because I write them in between everything else. Of course these times don't include revisions, rewrites, reworkings.
Nat: Too long! On my own, I would say it takes me 6 months to a year from the inception of an idea to a finished first draft. Tandem projects take less time--the back and forth really makes things roll along :)How do you come up with themes for your stories?C- Usually an idea will smack me in the gray matter; an event from my life, something I heard in the news, playing "What if..." with other people's books, and sometimes my children's homework.
Nat: Inspiration comes from everywhere, and I have to be ready for it. I always carry a notebook with me, and keep one by my bed. Some ideas go nowhere, others might take a long time to come to something.Do you have a schedule of when you write?C- Whenever I'm alone in the house (kids in school, hubby at work, phone ignored) I write novels, guest posts, research. When my kids were in sports where I was a prisoner, I'd write while they practiced or played. If I had to wait on line for anything, like the Motor Vehicle, I'd bring a notebook and jot down a scene or dialogue.
Nat: I try to write whenever I can, but I find its easier to be on a schedule when my kids are on a schedule. I also have to travel for my daughter's swim practice, so no matter what else happens during the week, I know I have those three days where I'll have a few solid hours of work time.How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?C- I do w my writing/book PR during the day when no one's home, or late at night, when everyone's watching TV or sleeping. I can't think with music, noise, phones, people asking me where their fencing pants are, etc. So when the house is people, I concentrate on the motherly/wifey/housey stuff.
Nat: Not easy. When I'm coming to the end of a project it's aways hardest because it seems to be the most intense. I'm lucky that my family is so supportive ♥What elements do you think make a great story line?c- I love a twist. Vamp novel, great, but what's the twist? Even something small, one element that's out of the expected, draws me in. Also, believable dialogue. (Use contractions, people!) I don't like 'thin' books- I need to see, hear, feel, taste and know what the character touches so I can 'be' there too.
Nat: I like characters I can relate to and settings that make me feel like I'm there.What was the hardest thing about writing a book?C- Self doubt. I know I can get it done, and I don't worry about making it perfect (that's what endless revisions are for) but I worry that how I started out is so vastly different from the end. Does it still work? Did I get too far off the original track of my thought? Is it compelling enough? That's what you have crit groups and Beta readers for- to kill the doubt.
Nat: Have to agree there. And a word of wisdom from George Tekei's facebook page: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” The quote is actually from Steve Furtnick. Check out this blog post for some more great advice :) http://myercblog.wordpress.
com/2012/09/17/insecurity/How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?C- I've written 10 (2 co-authored with Natalie). My favorite has to be Evolution Revolution- Simple Machines because it's a book that is 'me' on so many levels; it has suspense, action, humor, animals, science, love and death--and it's a MG novel inspired by my son's 4th grade homework.
Nat: I'm not nearly as prolific. I've done 4 so far (2 co-authored with Char). No favorites... the works-in-progress are still evolving.Do you have a favorite character?C-It's a toss up; favorite 'human' character is Hades because he's bad, but not the worst, he's a tease, but he's vulnerable, he's devastatingly handsome, but insecure. He's a continual surprise, even as we write him. My favorite animal character is Jack the squirrel from my Evolution novel. He's bright, an unsure and unwilling but unstoppable leader. His courage I admire so much.
Nat: In my own work? Vi, my Victorian Dragon girl. I'm kind of immersed in her at the moment. She's many things I'd like to be--more of a risk-taker, and a bit of a gear head. Other author's characters... I think Laini Taylor's Karou is just awesome. I also like Richard from Neverwhere. And Bilbo Baggins. Hobbits are the best!Where do you write?C- I do most of my writing in my office because it has my thesaurus and other reference books, printer, laptop power supply. It's also on the third floor and out of sight, out of mind... But I also like to write on my patio during the summer. If I get stumped over a plot point, I can jump in my pool and swim some laps or putter in my veggie garden until I work out the kinks.
Nat: I have an office at home, and a reserved seat at several Starbucks in central New Jersey.When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?C- Nat and I, as members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) attended a lot of conferences and mentor dinners with editors, agents and published writers. Self pubbed works were scorned by the publishing industry and we wanted to save that as a last resort, so we kept revising, submitting and following up until we got the call from Flux.
Nat: Just about everything I did I learned from the SCBWI--it's a great and supportive organization.Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?C- Husband and sons haven't read the books (too girly- to which I say No Lambourghini for you!). My mom and sister read everything I write (the only ones...) but my aunts and cousins are reading the pubbed works as they debut. They all think it's funny and sounds like me. (Maybe Nat and I are more alike than we thought!)
Nat: My immediate family doesn't read my stuff--probably for the best, they do enough for my writing already! My mom did read Sirenz (she's 84, bless her) and she said, "I would never have read something like this if it wasn't yours... " Thanks mom!
What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?C- swim in my pool, go to conferences, work in my meditation garden, READ, entertain for the holidays, and enjoy my home and family.
Nat: Hmmm... Spend time with my friends and family, travel, knit, peruse dog-rescue sites (want a dog!)
What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?C- There is no 'start' there is only 'do.' Even if you think it's junk, it's a beginning. Force yourself to complete a project, but jot down ideas for other novels so you always have something to work on. Don't even think about contracts, agents, or anything else but perfecting your craft. Once you get into your flow of writing, don't let yourself be interrupted for too long by anything. You can write for 5-10 minutes while dinner is in the oven, you can write during the kid's soccer practice, you can write instead of watching that movie you've seen 15 times at least. Just WRITE it.
Nat: Don't stop. It's very easy to stop--but you can't. Take a break--everyone needs a break--but don't quit. Too many good stories die that way.What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?C- I think the most complete author is JRR Tolkien. His Lord of the Rings series has prose, poetry, foreign languages, good vs. evil, love and death, hope and despair, war and peace, history and fantasy, EVERYTHING. But I admire a lot of other writers; Anne Rice-Vampire Chronicles, Christine Feehan-Carpathian series, and so many more. Each one inspires something different. Julie Garwood helped me learn dialogue, Shakespeare the beauty of language, Mary Janice Davidson, humor. I take what I can from them to keep me envisioning.
Nat: I have to agree with Char on Tolkien. I re-read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings every year--and each time I get something new out of it. I like books like that, the kind that have layers of meanings (intentional or not) that you can read and re-read. This is the kind of book that eventually, I would like to write. Other authors that knock my socks off and inspire me: Neil Gaiman, Franny Billingsley, Laini Taylor and Jane Austen. I also love history that reads like fiction: Allison Weir, Simon Schama and Antonia Fraser.
Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?C- My co-author Natalie Zaman and fellow Writing Wencher, Yvonne Ventresca, are my go to Beta readers. Some polishing, then it goes to my agent, Natalie Lakosil of the Bradford Literary Agency. Our critique group is enlarging so I'll have more indentured reviewers.
Nat: I have six people that I trade manuscripts with regularly--there's nothing like another pair of eyes.Are you working on anything now?C- I'm working on four books currently: first priority is Blonde Ops (co-authored with Nat) to be pubbed by Thomas Dunne in 2014. Think Devil Wears Prada meets "Jane" Bond. A hacker girl, trouble, Rome... Also with Natalie is Sirenz 3- Myth Appropriated. We're hoping it'll come out in June, 2013. At the moment, it's going right to ebook. Then there's my YA ghost/horror story, Crash and Burn which is being picked apart by my agent, and Splice, a medical paranormal, which is in front of me. And I did write a one line "What if..." for a future story.
Nat: In addition to the stuff Char and I are working on together, I'm waiting for feedback on a revision I completed (read as: Couldn't look at anymore; eyes other than mine need to see it). I'm expecting to do another pass or two on it before I send it to Agent Natalie. I'm also have my Reaper story that I need to revise, and I have two other ideas that I'm playing with, another YA and a Middle Grade--who would've thought?
I want to thank Charlotte and Natalie for stopping by today and entertaining us with their awesome answers to our questions!
Aren't these ladies AMAZING? Doesn't this just make you want to run out and read their AWESOME books? Well, what are you waiting for...GO GO GO!!