Shauna Cross as her alter ego Maggie Mayhem of the LA Derby Dolls
How would you feel about derby becoming a professional sport?
Great. But I don’t think that making money should be the immediate focus. I think having a bunch of self-funded leagues where lots of girls can afford play is a better initial goal. There shouldn’t be a rush to grow too fast and make it all about business.
One of the biggest things that attracted me to roller derby, that is unique about the sport, is it’s theatrical flair - attitude, costumes, alter egos, etc. It was kind of anti-sport, the home misfit anarchist chicks. It would break my heart if it lost that quality, to me, the soul of the sport. I care way more about that than pro vs. non pro.
Though I think it would super cool to see derby girls on a box of Wheaties. That’d be redic!
Do you still play derby?
I’ve been on a little hiatus due to work and family stuff, but I am dying to get back training and skating again. All my pent up aggression has nowhere to go. I’m planning to start training again soon. Watch your backs, bitches!
How long did it take you to write Derby Girl?
About four months. I completed it a year before it came out. That’s how the book world works.
What did you do to get it published?
Before I ever started derby (I’m one of the Derby Dolls founding members, so I’ve been at it since the early days), I was a writer. But a screenwriter, not novels. However, I love coming of age stories and just as I was getting the itch to try my hand at it, my good friend/ fellow writer introduced me to her book agent, Steve Malk. I tossed him the idea of a derby book, he loved it. I spent a month writing the first few chapters and then he shopped it around to publishers and Henry Holt ended up buying it. Unlike anything else in my little writing career so far, it happened very fast.
How did you come up with your main character?
Like I said, I love good coming of age stories (b/c my permanent emotional maturity is that of a 16 year old), so I had the idea of this misfit girl in small town Texas since college. When I found roller derby, I quickly realized I had a unique world to put her in, and the story developed from there. But I always start with character.
Is this book autobiographical at all?
Yes and no. I’m from Austin and I love love love that I grew up there. And I do play roller derby, but I play in Los Angeles (woo-hoo LA Derby Dolls!), but since the whole revival of the sport started in my old hometown, it’s only fair to give those girls their due.
Plus, I think it’s more original to write about Texas than New York or LA. Though maybe not as much these days since Austin has become so cool, a city people like to name drop. But, believe me, when I was growing up there, it was not that way at all. Our big claim to fame was the fact that the Clash’s "Rock the Casbah" video was shot there. That’s it.
How has this book changed your life?
Not much, except it’s the most public attention I’ve gotten for my writing. So that’s cool, it allows me a little more leverage to work towards other things I want to write. But still, I have to work just as hard; I ain't coastin'.
How did this book go from fiction to film?
Well, since I started as a screenwriter, I always thought it could be a movie, so early on I pitched it to Drew Barrymore’s company Flower Films. They came on board right away and after I turned in the script, she decided to direct it. So, it’s really taken on a life of its own.
How has it been working on the film?
It’s fun. Film is very collaborative, with lots of people applying their talents to your original idea. It’s great to see it grow beyond my little book and I’m stoked to see the final product.
Any advice for other rollergirls looking to fulfill their dreams?
What?! Are you kidding?! All the rollergirls I know are such strong badasses, they don’t need my advice. They inspire me.
Actually, that’s one of my favorite thing about derby. It seems really tough (physically, it is), but it’s got its emotional gushy center, because off the track, these girls would do anything for you. Sure, game time, they’ll hip check you over the rail, but after the last jam, they’ll buy your bruised ass a drink. I don’t think that happens in ice skating.
What are your future plans?
In terms of derby, I’ve been working on the book and movie for three years, so I’m looking forward to just skating again - and not writing about it. Lots of girls in my league have skated with other leagues when visiting other cities; I’m dying to take a monster road trip and hit every city doing that.
Writing-wise, I have some other film projects -- some at big commercial studios, some more indie -- all different stories about funny, smart chicks.