Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman, authors of Sirenz

Today’s Eleven Up interview is with Charlotte Bennardo andNatalie Zaman, whose novel Sirenz debuted this week!

Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo are my agency-mates, and I was lucky enough to get to interview them! Be sure to pick up your copy of Sirenz, available. Right. This. Minute.

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 . . .
(June 8, 2011, Flux)

Interview with Co-Authors Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Sirenz?

A: We started writing together as a joke—Char sent me (Nat) an email from my rabbit while she was pet sitting for me, and of course I had to write back. When the emails got out of hand, we thought, hmmm, this could be a picture book, and actually shopped it around. It went nowhere, but the chemistry of working together felt right and we knew we had to try something else. At first, Sirenz was going to be a vampire book, but we realized that there were a lot of vampire books. We knew we wanted a fantastical element and settled on Greek Mythology (Xena Warrior Princess was discussed extensively). We also knew we wanted there to be two MCs because there are two of us. All we needed was a villain—someone more naughty than evil but still bad. Enter Hades.

Q: Shar and Meg have very different voices. What is your writing process like as a team?

A: When we first started, once we got the premise and the characters we drafted the first three chapters right away—then it had to go somewhere. We plotted the entire story together, then each of us would write initial drafts for each chapter—Nat would do Meg and Char would do Shar. Each time a new chapter was written, we'd send it, then the other person would read it, mark it up and write her chapter and send it back. Then we'd get together and go over the chapters and decide what changes stayed and which went. But we had to be careful when we edited so our ‘voices’ didn't meld.

Q: Sirenz is injected with a lot of humor. Were there any jokes that didn't make it into the final manuscript?

A: There's A LOT of funny lines (at least, we think they were funny) that didn't make it into the final manuscript. Part of our edits was the rewriting of the last ¾ of the book—so we had to come up with completely new material! And it’s always fun putting MCs in dire situations. It’s amazing how funny you can be when it’s not you or someone you know in trouble!

Q: You obviously did a lot of research on Greek mythology. What one thing did you learn that intrigued you the most?

A: For me (Nat) I would have to say (for this first book) that discovering different aspects to the Persephone myth was probably the most interesting. I'd been taught that she was stolen from her mother—abducted by Hades and taken to the Underworld where her fate was determined by eating pomegranate seeds. This sounds like a victim that isn't really in charge of her own destiny. However, there are other myths that suggest something different. We incorporated the story of the nymph Menthe into Sirenz. Hades, like his brother is a cheater (actually, most of the gods were cheaters). Like any wife, Persephone wasn't too thrilled about this. When she discovered Hades was messing around with Menthe, she turned her into a mint plant (big surprise!) and then stomped on her. Doesn't sound like a victim to me. Our Persephone is one goddess you don't want to mess with. And she's got style. Sort of. For me (Char) it was fascinating to see the many variations on the same myth; Hades is bad, Hades is misunderstood, Hades was a victim. While it made staying true to the Greek flavor of the myth difficult at times, it gave us a broader ‘pen’ to fit Hades into our story.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

N: I'm going to be boring and give the same advice I always give, because it's something that every writer deals with no matter what they've achieved: NEVER give up. Never. The day you quit could be the day that your work gets recognized. Go into this knowing that there'll be rejection, knowing that not everyone will like or get your work. It doesn't matter. YOU need to accept it. YOU need to get it. And you need to keep going.

C: I’m going to be tougher- if you can’t take criticism, numerous edits and revisions, and long waits, YOU’RE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS. It’s tough and it requires dedication, but it can be done. We’re proof, right?

Q: If your book was turned into a movie, whom would you cast as Shar and Meg?

C/N: Well we know who we'd want to play Hades—Ian Somerhalder! He'd make a delicious Hades...

N: Now that you have that visual, I found a great photo of Selena Gomez that could look like Meg...

C: I think a young Jennifer Aniston type. Unfortunately, even if they started now, Jenn would have to play the mom (but would look great doing it!).

N: Jenn could be Demeter—I bet she'd love to play a wicked woman...


Co-authors Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman (Bridgewater, NJ) are best friends. Both writers, their respective works have appeared in a variety of national magazines and periodicals.


  1. I'm so excited for this book! And I want a "deleted scenes" special edition for all the funny parts cut out.

  2. Fun interview, ladies! Now, I want to read that unpublished emails from the rabbit picture book as well as Sirenz!

  3. Great interview! I can't wait for this book! If it's even half as awesome as its authors, it will be beyond amazing!

  4. Me too, Kathy Mac! I want to read the original last 3/4 of this because Collaboration is such an intriguing art. You should be at ALL the writing conferences talking about how you do this and do it so well. Sirenz, indeed. :-)