Monday, July 18, 2011

Interview with Sirenz Authors Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman

Welcome to our interview with co authors Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman. These ladies have written a fantasy novel about two friends who make a deal with the devil...if you consider the Greek god Hades as the devil. 

Along with this interview is a prize pack that includes a printed copy of the book as well as some swag. #weloveswag! So if you would like to enter the contest, leave us a comment with your email address. Now, on to the interview. 

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Q. What’s your book about?
A. When two high school girls fall in love with one pair of on-sale designer shoes, there’s going to be a fight. Unintentionally Meg and Shar cause a tragedy to an innocent bystander that only Hades, Lord of the Underworld, can undo—for a price. Employed as his new sirens, they must complete a task or face eternity serving him.

Q. Was the storyline for Sirenz a mutual decision?
A. It had to be. We each drafted individual chapters but we needed a single storyline to stick to—or we’d still be working the book! We’d brainstorm together to get direction, go home and write, then come together again to edit.

Q. Are you your characters?
A. Yes and no. Both main characters have a bit of each of us. Meg (Nat’s character) is an earthy, vintage loving pixie—just like Nat. However, Meg is eco-friendly to an extreme, just like Char who’s really into recycling. And Shar, (Char’s character) is an outspoken, blond, exuberant shop-a-holic. Nat is the bigger and more savvy shopper, while Char is blond and exuberant. So the characters are an amalgamation and mix-up of both of us.

Q. How long have you known each other?
A. Funny you should ask—we were just trying to figure that out! Nat joined Char’s critique group back in 2004 or 2005, somewhere in there. So that would make it… 6 or 7 years or thereabouts.  It feels like we’ve known each other forever, but also, oddly enough, there are days when we feel like it hasn’t been that long. Time is weird like that.

Q. What is it like co-authoring?
A. Co-authoring has its challenges and perks. The challenges are different views, styles, visions, and schedules. You have to learn to work through all those—and there’s no “Co-Authoring For Dummies” book. We’ve prioritized the friendship over the book because if we weren’t speaking to each other, we couldn’t write the book anyway! The perks are you only have to write half the book, the other always brings a fresh perspective so there’s no writer’s block, you can torture their character in your chapter, and you always have someone to keep to the schedule and encourage you.

Q. What kind of writing schedule are you on?
A. At the moment it’s a bit of a shipwreck; between family stuff and promo for SIRENZ, there’s hardly been any time to tap out a few words, BUT when things are normal (as normal as things get with three kids and husband each), we work individually, then send chapters to the other to edit and add the next chapter. This back and forth goes on until we have five chapters, or a chunk as we call it, then we get together to go over chunk changes. A chunk can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on what’s going on (kids, activities, emergency trips to the beach for sanity, etc.). All in all, we work whenever we can.

Q. Are you a Plotter, Panster or Plotski?
A. Initially we were ‘pansters’ flying through scenes by the seat of our pants, and the book ran off on too many tangents. We put on the brakes and roughly plotted out what would have to happen in each chapter so the story came to the conclusion we wanted. We’ve since evolved into ‘flying plotters.’ We brainstorm like maniacs, pulling in all crazy and outlandish scenarios, then sit down and choose which one to follow as we plot, chapter by chapter.

Q. What advice would you give to writers?
A. We’ve tried to narrow it down to five: 1-take the time to hone your craft. This can be hard to do when you’re excited about a project, but so important. Practice really does make perfect—and it’s not a race to see who’ll finish first. You’re not in competition with anyone but yourself to write the best novel you can. 2-Be active online. Network with book bloggers, readers, editors and other authors, it’s a friendly community and the camaraderie is great. 3- Join a critique group or do beta-swaps with other writers because there’s nothing like another pair of eyes. Add to this to learn to take criticism, if you haven’t already, it’s extremely helpful and will make you a better writer. 4- Finish. Your. Novel. Sadly, most people don’t. 5- Never, never, NEVER give up.

Q. Describe your co-author in 3 words.
Char about Nat: free-spirited, unconventional, creative

Nat about Char: hysterical (as in funny), big-hearted, and boundlessly enthusiastic (I know that’s 4, but her enthusiasm bears description!)

Q. Any projects coming up?
A. Nat: Together Char and I are working on the Sirenz series, and plotting out a co-authored middle grade novel. On my own, I’m revising my Victorian fantasy and slowly but surely writing a new contemporary fantasy.

Char: Sirenz Back in Fashion edits, finish writing Sirenz 3, push for Sirenz 4; A MG novel I’m working on with my agent; developing a contemporary MG series with Nat; put other manuscripts on hold while these are completed.

Q. What would you be if you couldn’t write?
Char: Maybe be a book reviewer since I love reading, but I’d have to be dead not to write.

Nat:  Miserable probably. I’d have to write something—even if it was just for me. I’d need to keep my hands busy so I’d probably be knitting, spinning, making jam…

Q. Where can we purchase your book?
A. If your local indie bookstore or big chain store doesn’t have Sirenz on their shelves, ask for it and they can order it for you. (Mendham Books where we had our launch party has several signed copies for sale.)

Excerpt from Sirenz:
“I don’t want your soul. I want your service. You two will be my new Sirens.”
          “Your what?” I asked.
          “Greek Mythology, Shar,” whispered Meg.  “The Sirens were these bird women who sat on the rocks and sang.  Sailors couldn’t resist them, so they crashed their ships and drowned.”
          Meg and her occult studies.  Who knew they would come in handy?  She could converse with psychos.
          “Hello?  That’s a fairy tale—the stuff they make a TV series out of!”  It’s not real.  It’s not!  I refused to believe it, but the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that I was kidding myself.  I turned to Hades.
          “Fine.  Okay, let’s pretend that you’re telling the truth—hypothetically.  Why would you need new Sirens?  What happened to the originals?”
          Hades shook his head sadly.
          “Once Odysseus sailed past without succumbing to their call, they threw themselves into the sea and drowned.  The same thing happened when Jason and the Argonauts resisted them.  They didn’t take rejection very well.  So I kept replacing them. I need a steady workforce.”  Hades grinned and I felt sick all over again.
          “You mean, they died??” I was only 17 and not liking what I was hearing.
          “Every profession has its risks.”  He straightened his immaculate Jerry Garcia—signed—tie. “No one’s immortal but us gods.”
          “Get to the point,” Meg said.  “What would we have to do?” 
          “Oh it’s easy,” he purred, “You two will bring me a specified individual who executed an agreement with me, and which, shall we say, is about to expire. You lure him to an underworld portal which will send him to Tartarus, my kingdom.  In exchange, I will undo this terrible tragedy and you’re off the hook. A one shot deal. Simple, no?”
          “Too simple,” said Meg.  “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.  What happens if we can’t do it?”
          Hades looked sideways at us and grinned with a sly smile.
          “If you fail, you must reside with me. In the Underworld.  For all eternity.  And I’ll have another job for you—taking care of my pets.”

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We want to thank Charlotte and Natalie for stopping by to chat with us about Sirenz and their journey in writing. Be sure to listen in on Wednesday at 3:30pm PST when we interview them on Blog Talk Radio.

Now's your chance to win the prize package we showed above. Simply leave us a comment with your email address and you will be entered. It's that simple. We look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Thank you for a very good interview. The books sounds great!


  2. I'm very intrigued now, i think i shouldn't have read the excerpt, definitely is going to my tbr list, thank you for the interview and the giveaway!!


  3. I am intrigued by the teamwork involved.

    I don't know if I could write with a partner.

    When it comes to some things I am "the does not play well with others type".

    It's because I was an only child. At least that's what I blame it on. :-)

    I just think writing an entire book with someone else would be so hard. You guys are amazing for working together to create such a fab book.

  4. Fun interview! I've been following Nat and Char's blog tour, and I'm getting more and more excited to read this book. I love the humor, even in that short blurb. Definitely checking this one out!


  5. Sirenz sounds great! I really like the excerpt of book.
    Thanks for the great giveaway!

    artgiote at gmail dot com

  6. What an awesome concept for a book - looking forward to reading more!

  7. That sounds like a really cool book. Even cooler because it's co-authored! Twice the fun? :)
    vickikeire (at) gmail (dot) com

  8. Enticing excerpt. Book sounds like an amazing read. Enjoyed the interview very much in getting to know the authors. Lovely concept for this series.

  9. This was a really fun interview!! I've had the book on my wish list forever and would love to win a copy! Thanks for a great interview and giveaway!

    Destiny P.