I had a startling revelation yesterday: I felt good. Not just not-sick, but healthy, for the first time in more than a month. The nagging cough is finally gone, and I had energy. I walked to the library and went to the coffee shop, and the lady who runs the coffee shop asked where I'd been. She was wondering what happened to me. I guess that means I'm now an actual "regular." Cool.
I think I've also found a new way to force myself to focus and work, especially on revisions. Revision and editing is really difficult when your mind wanders far afield. You can find yourself skimming your eyes over words without even seeing them while thinking about all kinds of random things. But last night, I started reading out loud as I worked. That really kept me focused, and it also helped me fix awkward phrasings I'd have never found reading silently. Plus, I was reading it as though it was a public performance, acting it out and doing character voices, and that helped me edit dialogue to really sound like the characters. For today's work, I need to do some writing from scratch, and I don't know how that will work. I guess I could be all those annoying TV/movie writer characters who read out loud while they type. I'm not sure I'm coordinated enough to do that. If I try to talk and type at the same time, I'd get my fingers tangled, and I can't possibly type as fast as I talk, so the reading wouldn't capture the flow of the words. I may have to find another way to focus for that kind of work.
So while I try to figure out a cure for my writing ADD, I've got a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit post. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is back with two books that launch a new series, The Squad, about a group of government operatives who double as high-school cheerleaders. Think Charlie's Angels meets Bring It On.
The first book, Perfect Cover, introduces Toby Klein, a sophomore computer hacker who doesn't play well with others. She has zero school spirit, a black belt in karate, and what her guidance counselor calls an "attitude problem." She's the last person you’d expect to be invited to join the varsity cheerleading squad.
But things are different at Bayport High.
Bayport's varsity cheer squad is made up of the hottest of the hot. But this A-list is dangerous in more ways than one. The Squad is actually a cover for the most highly trained group of underage government operatives the United States has ever assembled. Athletically, they're unmatchable, though they make it all look easy on the field. Mentally, they're exceptional - but with one flash of their gorgeous smiles, you'll completely forget that. Socially, they're gifted, so they can command and manipulate any situation. And above all, they have the perfect cover, because, beyond herkies and highlights, no one expects anything from a cheerleader. Toby Klein might not seem like the most likely recruit, but she’s never been one to turn down a challenge. If she can handle the makeover, Bayport High may just have found its newest cheerleader.
The story continues in Killer Spirit. Something’s about to go down in Bayport, and the Big Guys Upstairs need to know what. The Squad is on the case, but it looks like this mission could put the "L" in lethal. And if the spy business doesn't kill Toby, it’s starting to look like Brooke, the team's captain, might. The nominations are in for homecoming court, and rumor has it that Toby is the unlikely frontrunner for queen.
I asked Jen a few questions about her books:
What inspired this series?
From the time I was twelve until I was fourteen, I was part of a competitive cheerleading program. Seriously, think Bring It On, only smaller and younger. I always wanted to write a book that incorporated that experience and the way that people tend to view (and sometimes dismiss) cheerleaders. I've also always loved secret agent and spy movies and books, and one day, it occurred to me to combine the secret agent novel I'd always wanted to write with the cheerleading book I'd always wanted to write, and voila- cheerleading secret agents.
When you were a cheerleader, were you the "countercultural" type, or did you really fit in with the other cheerleaders (and be honest here!)?
There were ways in which I fit in with the other cheerleaders and ways in which I didn't. I wasn't really the "counterculture" type, but I was on the math team. I was also several inches taller than most of the other cheerleaders, and I was pretty shy. That said, it's not like the other girls were a certain "type" of girl, and I didn't fit in because I wasn't that type- my squad had a lot of different people on it, many of whom were honors students, multiple-sport athletes, and quirky in their own individual ways.
With all your prestigious schooling, have you had to deal with that former cheerleader stigma, like "what's a cheerleader doing with a Fulbright scholarship?"
Never. Sometimes I get the "YOU were a cheerleader?" question, but after a minute, they say, "Yeah, I can see that." In general, I think it's pretty easy for most people to accept that a smart or successful person can have done any variety of things- cheering among them. I think it gets dicier when you go the reverse direction- there might be people who would never in a million years expect a cheerleader to win a Fulbright, even if these same people wouldn't attach the cheerleading stereotype to someone who'd already won one.
If your cheer squad had been a top secret espionage team (or, was it?), what would your spying specialty have been?
Back in my cheering days, I was really flexible, so my contortionist abilities definitely would have come in handy (think Ocean's 11 and the guy who can fit in a duffel bag). Also, I'm really, really good at looking very innocent and non-threatening (even if I'm trying to look intimidating, which just doesn't happen), so if I could acquire some fighting skills, I'd be good to go.
In a dream crossover among fictional spy worlds, would you want your characters to have to work with the gang from TV's Chuck, TV's Alias or Jason Bourne (or maybe someone else), and how do you picture that going?
I think the idea of The Squad working with Jason Bourne is just full-out hilarious. Bourne could take down an entire government, but I think he'd meet his match in ten teenage cheerleaders who can match him step for step- while staying completely under the radar.
What are you working on now?
I just finished the first book in a new four-book series about a girl who discovers that if she doesn't master high school science, the world is going to end in seven years. It's part Heroes, part Dawson's Creek, with lots of awesome science woven into the text. Since I'm a cognitive scientist in my non-writing life, it's fun to get to do something that mixes my two passions.
For more info, visit The Squad web site. Or buy Perfect Cover and Killer Spirit from Amazon.