Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris are the authors of the upcoming choose-your-path romance novel My Lady's Choosing. These ladies are creative, smart, and incredibly funny. Read their Q&A below!
Hey Kitty and Larissa! Can you tell us a bit about your 2016 Kickstarter project Taylor Swift: Girl Detective and how it led to writing My Lady's Choosing?
LARISSA: Taylor Swift: Girl Detective in The Secrets of the Starbucks Lovers came about when Kitty made me a gift of a Nancy Drew-style cover illustration for the photo/comedy-caption blog I was writing at the time, Taylor Swift: Girl Detective. We were relatively new friends at the time, and had worked on a project that never quite got off the ground with some other writer friends, but the gift of that image helped kick our own friendship and writing partnership into full gear. We put the illustration on the blog, and ideas of writing an actual novella into our heads.
KITTY: Shortly after this we had some celebration drinks about the cool fans the blog was getting. This eventually turned into a very blurry night, during which I gave Larissa an extremely bad accent tour of the UK and nearly got flattened by an angry cyclist.
LARISSA: I ate a friend’s cold takeout pasta with my hands at the bar!
KITTY: I feel that after that night there was no way we could consider the other an intimidating, dignified being ever again. Which is of course important in both friendship and comedy writing partnerships.
LARISSA: The idea for The Secrets of the Starbucks Lovers became a reality when I finally broke out of a bad relationship and Kitty suddenly got laid off from work.
KITTY: I remember we were both sitting depressed in Larissa’s kitchen, before having a sudden moment of “NO. This is NOT how we are going to spend our evening. WE WILL MAKE A THING.”
We plotted out the basic bones of the story that very night.
LARISSA: Then I wrote it, while Kitty revised and banged out many amazing illustrations of Taylor and her squad in full-on meddling kid mode.
We needed to Kickstart the book to pay for its production, and talked about how doing that could turn out. Our best case scenario would be that we would make the money, gain new fans, and maybe the opportunity to pitch some project ideas to people in publishing or film/TV. We figured we would at least get our work out there, and make the minimum we were asking for. But, lucky for us, the project got picked as a Kickstarter Project We Love, blew up a bit on Tumblr, and got funded (and then some) by fans old and new!
After the Kickstarter closed, press outlets kept picking up the story, and we were featured on TIME.com, a morning news panel in Minnesota and were a question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire! It was wild, and beyond our best case scenario. We made a lot of new Twitter pals, and one was our amazing editor Blair Thornburgh, who Kitty invited out when she saw she was in Chicago (our town) for a book event.
Some snacks and drinks later, and we were all talking happily about gothic mansions, interactive writing, and regency romance. Lo and behold, My Lady’s Choosing heaved onto the scene!
What inspired you to write My Lady's Choosing as a choose-your-own-path book?
KITTY: Nostalgia for the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories of our misspent youth was definitely a factor. I spent so many hours spent poring over them, trying to game the book so I got the best possible ending. Which is not cheating, no matter what my sister says.
As for romance, as a regular romance reader, I’ve often found myself preferring the side characters to the actual hero (a common problem if you like them awkward and nerdy). This format meant we got to write a happy ever after ending with those characters as options too, so there’s some real long term wish-fulfillment for us here.
LARISSA: We really wanted to throw the doors open wide so readers could explore all of the quirks (get it!?!) of their own desires and personalities as much as they wanted, and worked to tie that exploration to story choices.
KITTY: I was also pottering around the idea of a similar mobile game with my sister (who works for the games industry). So many current games have similar Choose Your Own Adventure-esque storylines—see the rise of the Visual Novel!
On top of that, there has also been a resurgence of the traditional chooseable path adventure book recently—see the hilarious Shakespeare parodies Ryan North has been writing. People seem to want to make and consume stories where the reader has more of a say in how the storyline goes more than ever.
So I guess there is maybe just something in the water?
LARISSA: Or is there something in the air? You choose!
Pick three fictional characters to invite to dinner. Who are they, and why did you choose them?
KITTY: Death from The Sandman, as she would be delightful company and would have some extremely interesting stories to tell. Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter, as I have a theory she was a Bit Of A Goer in her youth and would have all the Hogwarts gossip. Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey as played by J.J. Feild in the TV adaptation for eye candy and snarking.
LARISSA: Lyra Belacqua, to hear of her adventures and learn how to work the alethiometer. The witches from Wyrd Sisters, to teach me magic and make me laugh. Poe Dameron, for kissing and a flight lesson.
Are there other novels Geek E. Girls should check out after reading My Lady's Choosing?
LARISSA: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I was supposed to read this in high school and I couldn’t be asked to read a book with such a wet blanket protagonist. Plus, I flipped through the book and was irritated it didn’t contain any sex scenes or ghosts. Oh, how foolish I was! While the protagonist is, essentially, a wet blanket, the psychology of why she behaves that way, in the thrall of “love,” is gripping. What we are willing to overlook (or actively conceal) for love and ego is a fascination point for me, as well as the sheer poetry (and sometimes acidic subversion) of du Maurier’s writing. She’s like the Shirley Jackson of romance. She would probably seethe at me for that comparison, but to seethed at by Daphne du Maurier or her ghost would be an honor.
On the lighter side, I recommend any of Mindy Kaling’s books/essays and Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. They are two of the the funniest writers working today, and I appreciate the approach they take when exploring the grim and bright sides of modern love.
Lost in Austen is a choose-your-own-path book by Emma Campbell Webster that is a total delight and wickedly hilarious.
KITTY: For those interested in some straight historical romance, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase, Joanna Bourne, Elizabeth Hoyt, Mary Balogh, Eloisa James and Sherry Thomas are my favourites. For sassy talk with fellow romance readers, go to Smart Bitches Trash Books and All About Romance’s Top 100 list is a great jumping off point.
The whole genre itself owes a lot to Jane Austen and the Brontes, so I would definitely recommend getting around to reading some of their works if you haven’t already. They are classics for a reason, and you will also look very Cultured as you read them. I’ll also add in Elizabeth Gaskell, especially North and South. Mr. Thornton and Margaret 4 lyfe.
For real life posh young woman goes on extraordinary adventures, Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford is one of my favourite books (and also J.K. Rowling's!). She lived an incredible life, and if you are ever annoyed at your family, you can console yourself that at least none of them have gone to Nazi Germany to make friends with Hitler like hers did.
If you were to offer one piece of advice to Quirk’s Geek E. Girls, what would it be?
KITTY: If a thing is worth doing, it may be worth doing well… but it is also worth doing badly. Better you create something imperfect and learn from it, than freeze in the attempt to make this ideal magnum opus and fail at doing the thing at all.
Most especially, do the things that you would be trying to do if you somehow knew you couldn’t fail. Failure gets less scary once you have been through it a few times, and learning to pick yourself up after, ironing out the kinks, and trying again is one of the most useful skills to learn in life. Even if you feel terrified while doing it. Especially if you feel terrified doing it.
LARISSA: Be with people who make you better. From friendship to creative partnership, working relationships to romantic relationships, be with the people who appreciate your point of view and skill set, and inspire you to reach your full potential. As a friend and collaborator said to me recently, “BS dulls you.” As much as you can, step out of the bullshit and into the good stuff.