Monday, 30 April 2012

Authors In The Limelight: Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

I want to thank and welcome collaborating authors, Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman for sharing their personal writing journey with us on my blog today. I can honestly say, I loved the dynamics and humor of this writing team! Sirenz, and Sirenz Back In Fashion can be purchased from Amazon, and other on-line bookstores.

How long have you each been writing, Charlotte and Natalie?
Nat: I've been making up stories forever (LOL). I actually started writing and keeping a journal in high school. It was mostly poetry.

Char: I think we all started out writing sappy poetry (at least I did!)
Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Sirenz?

Nat: I joined Char's critique group--and through that we found we had quite a bit in common and became friends. I'd started out in the group with picture books and wanted to do something with "more words." I started writing a novel (Char already had a couple of finished pieces at that point), and one day, at one of our meetings, we started talking about Twilight (just coming into the spotlight then), and we were like, "we could do that!" And we started batting around ideas for a vampire novel... (gonna let Char take it from here)
Char: But then everyone was doing vampire novels; bookshelves were stuffed with them. So, after a bit of searching, we hit on Greek mythology (at this point only Percy Jackson was doing it, and his novels were younger teen). The idea of Sirenz just seemed to jump out as unused story possibilities.

What sets Sirenz apart from other books in the same genre?
Nat: The same year that Sirenz debuted, several other mythology themed books came out--all centered around Hades. The Goddess Test and Abandoned come to mind. I know there were others. There was also at least one about Sirens. The thing that sets Sirenz apart from these books (fab books, I might add) is that we took the comedic road. Sirenz and Sirenz Back In Fashion are funny, light-hearted books.

Char: Plus, we stayed true to the mythology, just tweaked it into the modern era. I mean if you're a woman, would you wear the same old dress for thousands of years? Why shouldn't Hades be hot just because he rules the Underworld?
As collaborating authors, what are your writing processes?

Nat: Char and I plot together, and then we take turns writing chapters. When we get a "chunk" of chapters done (usually 5), we mark up the chunk individually, then get together to go over the changes. There's only one rule... (gonna be preemptive here--the editor got rid of Char's chapters too!)
Char: (Nat makes me laugh...) The rule is that if you like it, and it's in your chapter (unless you're killing off my character), it stays unless the agent or editor says it goes. This all came about because of a tampon box in her chapter that I edited out, she put back in (we went back and forth) so we call it the Tampon Box Rule. (I claim victory because editor took it out, along with 15 of the 20 chapters of the book.)

How long did it take for both of you to start and finish Sirenz?
Nat: We worked on the first Sirenz book for at least two years, going back and forth with different editors and agents, making adjustments and revising until we landed our contract with Flux. After that, we had our writing and revising system down, and we knew what direction our editor wanted. The initial draft of Sirenz Back In Fashion was done in about 3 months.

Char: We foresee about that time for Sirenz 3.
Do you each have advice for other writers?

Nat: You can't give up. Ever. It'll be hard sometimes, and you'll want to, but you can't. If you're going through a particularly rough patch, give yourself a day to cry, a week's break... but then have a date for when you start up again. You CAN do this.
Char: Be persistent and consistent- Finish a project, even if you suspect it probably won't go anywhere; you may use chunks or ideas from it for another work, and you'll never know if it's worth anything if you never finish it.

Well said! What’s next for Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman the authors?
Nat: Char and I are working on getting Sirenz 3 together--and we're doing an exciting project over at the book's website, with students at an art school to illustrate some of the other characters, and perhaps the next cover! There *might* be something more that we can't talk about just yet, and we each have individual projects we're working on.

Char: Plus we're doing signings, appearances/workshops at the NJ Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators annual conference in Princeton, NJ, and we'll have the Sirenz Back In Fashion book launch. And I'd like to get my meditation garden whipped into shape. I go there when I feel the need to scream...
Between the signings, screaming, and students, it seems you’ve both got plenty on your publishing plates! Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series – If you both could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

Nat: Tough one, as there are several places I'd like to go... but since it's on the brain, I'd pick Victorian England. Both the manuscript I'm working on, and the one that's out on sub now have steampunk elements. And I'm such a sucker for pocket watches!


Twitter:!/Natalie_Zaman @Natalie_Zaman

The Sirenz Website:

Char: Hmmm. I like my modern conveniences and the freedoms women enjoy, but if I could be a duchess (and not a kitchen wench) I'd say Edwardian England. The future just might be too scary!
My blog:

Facebook: Charlotte Johnson Bennardo

Twitter: @charbennardo
Mini synop:

Sirenz: A pair of red designer shoes comes between frenemies Meg and Shar- with tragic results. Only Hades, dark, seductive Lord of the Underworld, can undo it--for a price. The two must become his sirens and lure reclusive fashion icon, Arkady Romanov, to a portal and send him down under. They might succeed--if interfering gods don't thwart them and they don't kill each other first...
Sirenz Back In Fashion: Hell on heels- again! When Shar tries on a ring gifted from Hades, it activates a 'fine print' clause in their contract and they're back to work as his sirens. This time around, Hades has different ideas; even though Shar is sent to the Underworld to act as his hostess and Meg is stuck in the mortal realm to lure yet another soul, they must work together. Fashion was never so deadly!


  1. I am fascinated by authors who collaborate and create seamless story. Congratulations on your joint venture--may many sales result!

  2. I'm with Ann, and find it amazing that two people can write one story. Great interview, really enjoyed it.

  3. I can hardly work with myself let alone someone else on a book! Great job ladies and nice that you have such a good relationship that you wanted to continue on and do more stories. Kudos to you!

  4. Yeah, I think I'm with the others here, how can you possibly write separate chapters and keep it cohesive? I can't even keep one brain in line. Very fun interview, Sharon, and the books sound like a lot of fun. Best of luck to both of you.