Interview with the Author
Emily Renée Long interviews Sharon Whitlock
Emily Renée:  Thank you for allowing me to interview you, Mrs. Whitlock.  It’s for our
Jazzicals website.

Sharon:  No problem.  It’s been lots of fun getting to know the Jazzicals and writing up
their story.

Emily Renée:  You have two daughters who learned to skate here in Raleigh, and they
were synchronized skaters when they got older, right?

Sharon:  That’s right.  Evangeline and Charity learned how to ice skate at the Cary Ice
Rink right outside of Raleigh, and when we moved to Illinois, they were members for six
years of the Rockford Ice Angels and seven years with Chicago Jazz.  They’ve won
several National and International medals with their Chicago Jazz teams.

Emily Renée:  Wow.  Jazz is one of the best teams in the country.  

Sharon:  I agree, but I’m prejudiced.  

Emily Renée:  You got the idea for writing synchronized skating novels from the Chicago
Jazz, didn’t you?

Sharon:  That’s right.  I always told Mr. Mike Nardella, the parent President of the Jazz,
that someone should write books about synchronized skating.  He said to go ahead
and write them.  That’s the way Mike is, an action person.  He does more than just
dream, he works to make the dreams come true.  He’s worked really hard over the
years to build up the Chicago Jazz into a world-ranked synchro organization.  Anyway,
he told me to use whatever I needed from the Chicago Jazz teams to write my novels,
so I did.  I borrowed quite a few things from the Chicago Jazz, and the first novel is
dedicated to all the synchronized skating teams, but especially the Chicago Jazz Novice
team 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Emily Renée:  All of us from Jazzicals met you on, and found out
you’re a big fan, and asked you to write up our stories.  

Sharon:  I was honored to be asked, since I’m not a professional writer.  

Emily Renée:  But you’re a professional synchro mom, and my mama says that’s more
important.  You really know our sport, and understand skaters.  You know what
happens during practices, in the locker rooms, at competitions, and especially with the
parents.  All of this is in your book.

Sharon:  I tried to make the novel as authentic as possible.  I asked synchronized
skaters and singles skaters to read through the novel and make suggestions, and I
followed those suggestions.  This book has been rewritten so many times that anyone
who helped me by reading an early draft won’t recognize this final draft.  My daughters
also read the novel several times and helped me with authenticity.  And a couple of
coaches have read the novel and I made sure to incorporate their suggestions, as they
are the experts on the sport.

Emily Renée:  I think that people who read the novel will really want to get involved with
ice skating, maybe join a synchro team.

Sharon:  I hope so.  I tried to emphasize the positive aspects of the sport of figure
skating.  So many skating books and stories dwell on the “dirt,” the unscrupulous
coaches, the pushy parents, the spoiled skaters, the “bad stuff” that happens in the
sport.  I really don’t like this at all, especially for younger readers and teenagers.  
Certainly my family has had some bad experiences in ice rinks, but for the most part, all
of our skating experiences, even losses at competitions, have been wondrous,
delightful, the stuff of good memories.  We would do it all again, and my daughters have
told me many times that they are so glad that they were able to ice skate all through
their childhood and teenage years.  Both girls still ice skate, and so does my husband.  
We love the sport, and want others to love the sport.  So I wrote a glowing book, a book
about the good things, the good people and good times, in the sport.  Maybe some
people will say it’s too “sweet and syrupy,” but I do have hints of bad things about the
sports in the novel.  But these are subtle: a hint of a pushy parent, a hint of bulimia, a
few fights in the locker room.  These negative incidents are definitely not the focus of the
book.  The bad stuff happens outside the rink.

Emily Renée:  What age do you think will most enjoy the novel?

Sharon:  Well, I think it’s kind of advanced for younger skaters.  I would caution parents
about letting little ones (under 10) read the novel because there are some scary things
and abstract concepts.  The book opens with a kidnapping, a frightening event for even
adults to think about.  Also, there are hints of romance in the novel.  And finally, the
mystery itself gets rather complex in places, as the Jazzicals try to figure out what’s
happening.  So parents should definitely screen the novel before they let their younger
kids try it. There’s only one naughty word…”

Emily Renée:  The “d” word.  My parents were a little surprised, but my daddy said it
belonged in the novel, since the character who says the word is that kind of character.  
And he only says the word once.

Sharon:  I respect your father’s opinion.  After all, he is a pastor of a large megachurch,
and he’s written many books himself.  

Emily Renée:  Thanks.  Do you think the book is hard to read?

Sharon:   The vocabulary in the book is definitely junior high or high school, with some
pretty big words.  Karina Kowalski, the main character in the book, is a very smart, and
often uses big words like “contusions” and “castigate.”  

Emily Renée:  That’s the way Karina is, but we all like her anyway.

Sharon: (laughing)  That’s good.  Hopefully some of her words will make you open your
dictionary.  Advanced readers will like the book.  And some younger children will like it if
they are good readers.  After all, kids as young as seven are reading and enjoying Harry
Potter books.  One of my early test readers was nine when she read the novel, but she's
a gifted reader and she’s also a skater, so she likes anything to do with skating.   

Emily Renée:  There’s some scientific stuff in the book that’s kind of hard to understand.

Sharon:  Yes, there is a medical discussion about GARS, the killer bacteria in the novel,
and some of that discussion gets kind of technical.  But it’s all very medically accurate,
since I work in a microbiology laboratory.

Emily Renée:  So you think most skaters except little kids will like the novel?

Sharon:  I think all ages of synchro skaters will enjoy the novel.  But I think the book is
best for preteens and teenagers.  My daughters disagree with each other;  my younger
daughter says it’s perfect for preteens and junior highers, and my older daughter says
it's perfect for older teenagers and college students.  And my husband, who is also a
synchronized skater, says older synchronized skaters and adults will like the book
because it will take them back to their days on team.   I think synchro parents will have a
good time reading the novel, and they’ll cry when they remember how much fun it is to
be a synchro parent.

Emily Renée:  All my siblings really enjoyed the novel.  Emma Ruth is over twenty and
she didn’t think it was a book for little kids.  My older sister Ella Rose liked the book, too,
but she wants to be a writer when she grows up, so she’s used to hard words.  My
younger sister Elizabeth Rae liked the romance in the book and all the deep human
stuff, but she wishes there were more boys in the novel.  She’s boy-crazy.  

Sharon:  Most Novice-age skaters that I know aren’t allowed to have real boyfriends yet.  
In future books, there will definitely be more boys, including the boys who skate with
Jazzicals.  In fact, the next novel, The Capitol Ghost, features as its main character a boy
on the Preliminary team, a boy who struggles to overcome dyslexia.  He and his
Jazzicals friends also do some ghost-hunting.  

Emily Renée:  Cool.  My parents read The Scheherazade Curse aloud to my little
brother, Eric Ralph.  He kept complaining when they deliberately left out the parts with
guns and Worldpol.   

Sharon:  (laughing) Like I said, I think synchronized skaters of all ages will enjoy The
Scheherazade Curse because they will find themselves in it.  My younger daughter is
currently coaching teams, and she told me that every one of her skaters is somewhere
in my book.  I’ve tried to include all levels of synchro in this first novel, even though the
main characters are a Novice team.  But all the different Jazzicals teams are mentioned,
and there is quite a lot of discussion at one point about the Adult team.  Synchro is a
family sport, and usually all the teams in a big organization cheer for each other.  So
that “family aspect” of synchro is in my book.

Emily Renée:  That’s cool.  I guess I’d better stop now.  Thanks so much for answering
all these questions.

Sharon:  Thanks for asking.  How does Jazzicals look this season?

Emily Renée:  Real good.  We’re really excited about competing and look forward to
seeing all our friends again.