BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, July 11, 2011

Interview with YA Authors Natalie Zaman & Charlotte Bennardo

Today I'm pleased to have Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman visiting us. Their debut YA novel, "Sirenz",  was released last month. Mix teenage girls, fashion, and Greek Gods, shake and you get -


Bickering frenemies Meg and Shar are doing some serious damage at a midnight sample sale when they find themselves arguing over a pair of shoes—with fatal consequences. One innocent bystander later, the girls are suddenly at the mercy of Hades—the god of the underworld—himself. To make them atone for what they’ve done, Hades forces the teens to become special-assignment Sirens, luring to the Underworld any individual whose unholy contract is up.

But just because they have an otherworldly part-time job now doesn’t mean Meg and Shar can ignore life’s drudgeries (work) or pleasures (fashion!). Finding that delicate balance between their old and new responsibilities turns out to be harder than they expected, especially when an entire pantheon of Greek deities decides to get involved. Then there’s the matter of the fine print in their contracts . . . 

Natalie Zaman is the co-author of Sirenz, the first in a YA contemporary fantasy series published by Flux. Her work has appeared in various magazines, newspapers, e-zines and anthologies for adults and children. She's currently plotting disasters for the characters of Sirenz and working on a Victorian steampunk fantasy for teens. Natalie lives in central New Jersey with her family and several fine looking chickens.

 Charlotte Bennardo is also a co-author of Sirenz, the first in a YA contemporary fantasy series published by Flux. When not contemplating embarrassing situations for the characters in the sequels, she works on her own YA, MG and adult level novels. She has been published in magazines, newspapers, e-zines and anthologies. She is held captive in New Jersey by three sons, husband, cat and friends.

Hi ladies, welcome to the Nook and thank you both for taking the time to stop by and answer some questions. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? BTW Natalie, the picture on your blog of you with pink hair is wonderful. The color actually works on you. Was it really that color or did the photographer photoshop it?
Nat: Thanks!! I USED to have pink hair for real—about a million years ago—but the pic on my blog was photo-shopped by fellow Elevensies Lisa and Laura Roeker. I had them pink me up for the launch of their book THE LIAR SOCIETY earlier this year :)
How and where did you two meet? What led to your writing together as a team?
Nat: I was at one of our NJSCBWI mentor sessions (our chapter does all sorts of great things for its members—mentor sessions are retreats where authors can meet/get advice/crits from agents and editors), and mentioned to the critique group coordinator that I was looking for a group to join. She told me she had the perfect one for me—because she could see that I took criticism well (LOL!). Char and I became friends after that—our kids are very close to the same age—the youngest are the same age. Then one summer I asked if she would rabbit sit for me...
Char: And the ungrateful wretch bit me. I made him ‘email’ his mother and confess. Nat was ‘busy’ so the ‘cat’ answered, telling him to stop whining. That was our first project- E-Meow. It was fun, but it didn’t go anywhere. Realizing we worked well as a team, we hashed ideas around to write a full length novel. (OMG, LMAO. I'd enjoy reading that. - Bea)
Why writing? Would you all continue to write if you were no longer published?
Nat: I have to write. For years, I kept (and still keep) a journal, so I've always written just for myself. I'll always write, even if its just a to do list :)
Char: If I couldn’t write, I’d go insane- I HAVE TO write. Even if I didn’t get published (although I’d keep trying) I’d write novels, stories, articles, poems, letters to the editors… anything!
What is your favorite part of writing? What is your least favorite part?
Nat: I LOVE revising. Love, love love it. The initial write is always hard for me, but I get it done—but when I get to go back and fix things—add, take away, enhance—I feel like I'm really in my element.
Char: I ADORE the writing- especially the initial draft. I feel the muse and write like a demon. Revising- first one, ok. After that, I’d rather have root canal. 
How do you write as a team? Are each of you responsible for certain characters, do you each do a chapter, how does it work for the two of you?
Nat: For this project, we each wrote the initial draft for a specific character; Char did Shar and I did Meg. From there we would go back and forth—Char would send her chapter to me, I would edit it, then write my chapter based on what happened in hers (and according to our plot-planning), then send it to her. She would mark up my chapter. We would physically get together to go over changes every five chapters or so and go over any changes before putting them in—then it was onto the next chapter chunk.
Char:  From the beginning we knew it would be alternating POV with two main characters, so we didn’t foresee many problems.
Would you describe yourselves as planners when writing or do you wing it?
Nat: I think we started out winging, and then we had to plan—to make sure the story had an end. On my own, I come up with an idea and then take a lot of time to write the first ¼ to 1/3 of the book, then plan and outline.
Char:  I’m a semi-winger; I get an idea, but I generally know the ending and certain scenes that will take place. For SIRENZ, we had to plan because the story was going all over the place. Books 2 and 3 in the SIRENZ series were outlined (SIRENZ Back in Fashion, due out 2012, is already written and Book 3 is roughly outlined.)
Your take on mythology is …. different. Was that deliberate or did it evolve as you wrote? Did either or both of you enjoy reading mythology growing up?
Nat: From the start we wanted to put the gods in a modern setting—so it was totally deliberate. And we wanted them to have a stylish edge. I always loved mythology and fairy tales—I think the similarities between cultures is both telling and interesting. So many of us have the same story to tell; we're all interconnected.
Char:  I’ve always loved a good mythology, whether it was Greek, Roman, or other. However, there were some things, like Hades being ugly and totally evil that we didn’t like. Personally, I think he got a bit of a bum rap.
Has there been someone who was, or is, particularly helpful to you? Was there someone who inspired you in your writing? In what way(s)?
Nat: Char and I wouldn't have met if it wasn't for the NJSCBWI (the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). We met through the organization (see above). Lyn Sirota (author of  several nonfiction books for children) was the critique group coordinator who hooked us up, and our Regional Adviser Kathy Temean and the Assistant Regional Adviser Laurie Walmark, provided us with so many opportunities to present and polish SIRENZ. We can't thank them enough.
Char:  I’d have to add our friends Yvonne Ventresca and Elisa Roland, who read many of the drafts of SIRENZ.  And they still bought the book! 
Natalie, you have a Twitter account, a facebook account, and a blog. Do you think those are important for today’s authors, particularly a YA author? 
Nat: I really think twitter has helped us get the word out about SIRENZ—more than any other social networking site. I really should blog more often than I do, but there's only a finite number of hours to get it all in (hours I share with my husband, mom and three kids!). Hopefully this will change come the fall as Shar and Meg will be launching a Sirenz life and style blog. Hopefully a little discipline (and cutting off sleep time) will do the trick! I think it is important for today's authors to have a web presence—but make no mistake, it's all about making connections with people, not about selling yourself. The minute you start doing that (only talking about things you're doing, only talking about your book etc. etc.) it turns people off. It's a delicate balance to strike—being out there, but still maintaining the personal. For YA authors, I think it's even more of a must. Kids live online.
Charlotte, what do you think? You’re fairly active on Twitter but your blog is quieter. Time is a problem I’m sure. I know it’s an issue for me with mine.
Char:  Guilty of neglecting the blog! (You can be sure I’ll update it before this comes out!).  Especially now that we have to do PR for SIRENZ and I have other projects I’m working on, kid going to college, etc., I find Twitter and FB the easiest to keep up on. I’m not as tech savvy as Nat, but she and my son are trying to school me.
Do the two you prefer paper books or ebooks? Why?

Nat: I am finally succumbing and getting a reader—though I haven't decided which one yet. I LOVE paper books and have a serious library, but it's getting hard to store, care for and keep track of things. I think I'll still buy paper books (don't think I'll be using a reader for cooking!), but I'll just have more options (and thus can buy more books!).
Char:  I love my Kindle, but there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hand. For books that I know I’ll want to keep, like books in a series I’ve started, or a favorite author, or a friend’s book that I’ll get signed, I want the physical book. For other books I only want to read, I’ll get the e version. (I do the same; I have a Kindle :D - Bea)
If each of you could be a character in a book, which one would it be, and what part would you play? (Romantic lead, sidekick, etc)
Nat: Ooooo tough one—cause there's lots. I wouldn't mind being a hobbit—not one bit. They live on one floor, dress to kill and have second breakfasts. What's not to like?
Char:  So many choices…  Hated high school, so I don’t think I’d want to relive THAT time again! I’m not keen on living in times with no bathrooms or anesthesia, I’m really afraid of horror and getting shot, so maybe a nice fantasy where there’s a kick ass heroine, a sexy guy and a happily ever after. May have to write that one.

Thank you, Natalie. Thank you, Charlotte. This has been fun. I'm not a hobbit (though that IS one of my favorite books) but you are both welcome to drop in for tea any time. We can discuss mythology, that was the main reason I picked up your book. I almost majored in mythology and folk lore in college.



Natalie and Charlotte have put together an awesome package for giveaway; it includes a copy of the book, and fun swag such as buttons, bookmarks and stickers. The pictures below show what the winner will receive. 

Now, the gory details:

the giveaway is open internationally; you must leave a comment answering the following question - what is your favorite myth? It can be from any mythology around the world; leave a way to contact you - email, twitter name, Blogger profile, etc. 

The giveaway is open until 11:59PM EST, Friday July 15th, 2011

See all giveaway rules and policies here

That's it! Good luck and happy reading. :) 


  1. I really like the story of Actaeon and Artemis from Greek mythology. Because I love the notion that he gets torn apart by his own hounds. Does that make me weird?
    Nina @ Death books and Tea
    Twitter: serifinaxxx
    Email deathbooksandtea AT gmail DOT com

  2. I've always loved Greek Mythology in general, I can't think right now of a favorite myth.

    I'm just dropping by to say hi and thanks for being a host anyway- not being entered into the contest.


  3. LOL Nina,, nah, just makes you Greek. :P Besides, if I remember it correctly, it was a punishment to fit the crime.

    Roxanne, thanks for stopping by. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love doing blog tours with you. Yours is the best service I've worked with so far.

  4. I like the story of the God Zeus and his love of a human woman. Please enter me in contest.

  5. Great Interview Bea. Nice to see a duo interview. They can be damn tricksy these authors. LOL

  6. I love all mythology especially the greeks Zeus,Artemis,Poseidon,Athena,Apollo.I m not sure if this would count as myth or folklore but the native americans have stories about the skinwalkers they are one that fascinates me .

  7. Well the word sirens makes me think of Jason and the Argonauts which is not a bad myth but my personal favorite is probably the Arthurian cycle of stories.

    THanks for the giveaway and for opening it to worldwide entries.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com
    I Follow via GFC

  8. Thanks for the giveaway :)
    My favorite myth is Perseus and Medusa.


  9. My favorite myth is Theseus and Minotaur from Greek mythology.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

    artgiote at gmail dot com

  10. Skin walkers! A recent addition to UF. Have you tried Faith Hunter or Patricia Briggs?

    I'm loving all of these replies. :)

  11. My favorite myth is from Greek mythology about Persephone (the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld) who was abducted by her uncle, Hades the king of the underworld.

  12. Sofija, you definitely need to read Sirenz then. That myth drives the story.

  13. While, I love most of them one of my favourites is Eros (Cupid) and Psyche! Not as well known, but it's great!

    Twitter: @EverAfterEsther

  14. I guess I've always been fascinated by the story of Oedipus, the end gets me everytime!

    Great interview!

    New follower :-)


  15. I loved the greek myth about the moon Selene. Pretty much any of the greek myths but thats my favorite!
    Twitter: Mc_Carver

  16. I always loved Greek & Roman mythology. My favourite myth is Persephone, and how she brings the change of seasons to Earth (spring when she returns and winter when she is in the Underworld).

    Please enter me in the draw!

    My email address is darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com.

    Thanks for the giveaway!


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Let's talk!