Preparing for the launch of her gymnastics-themed series of four books for tweens, Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu told IG she drew on personal experience to create characters that she hopes will inspire and entertain readers.
Moceanu, along with co-author Alicia Thompson, is the author of the Go-for-Gold Gymnasts series of four paperback books aimed at girls ages 10-12: "Winning Team" and "Balancing Act," both available in stores in April 2012; and "Reaching High" and "Unexpected Twist," both scheduled for summer 2012. The series is being published by Disney/Hyperion Books.
Dominique Moceanu (U.S.) at the 1998 Goodwill Games
"Winning Team" follows Brittany, a 12-year-old elite gymnast from Ohio, as she begins a new life at a world-class facility in Texas. Despite her habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, Brittany is determined to become friends with the other members of the Texas Twisters team, whether they want her to or not. "Balancing Act" stars Noelle, a perfectionist and star of the team. Other main characters in the series are graceful Christina, and quiet but loyal Jessica.
"In creating the characters, I asked myself a lot of questions about who the characters were," Moceanu said. "I relate to Brittany on several levels. She's a bubbly tween with a touch of sass. She's fearless when it comes to throwing big skills, and she longs for acceptance when she leaves her gym in Ohio to train in Texas. There is an unspoken connection between me and all of the characters, but Noelle is the daughter of Romanian immigrants, so I'm closest to her."
Moceanu said the idea to write the first book came when she was pregnant with her first child, a daughter named Carmen Noel who was born Christmas Day 2007. Several factors combined to provide the concept and creative process of the series, however.
"Children were on my mind more than ever, so I was inspired to create a gymnastics book series that would be entertaining but not be too far-fetched for the gymnastics world," Moceanu said. "I've always been entertained by fiction, so it was cool to use experiences to shape some events into novels. I love using words to create images and plot structures, so I've been inspired by the creative process, too. Of course I've received inspiration from good books I've read, my fans, from my husband who encourages me, and from my children who inspire me. Just like any big dream, there have been lots of inspirational moments along the way."
Moceanu said she relied on recollections of her own competitive career to shape the personalities of the characters and address the issues they face.
"There are serious strands to the storyline, like body image, fear and disappointment," Moceanu said. "We didn't want to create a fluffy account of the sport, so there are authentic issues unique to the gymnastics world. We delve into realities of elite gymnastics training, cliques in the gym, overuse injuries and jealousy, and touch on the social sacrifices many elite gymnasts make to achieve their dreams."
Born in California to Romanian immigrants, Moceanu became the youngest U.S. senior all-around champion in history in 1995, when she was 13. She placed fifth all-around and tied for second place on balance beam at the 1995 World Championships in Sabae, Japan, and won a team gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, where she finished ninth all-around.
In the summer of 1998 Moceanu won the all-around title at the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York, followed in the fall by her heavily publicized process of legal emancipation from her parents. She later reconciled with her parents, several years before her father's death from cancer in 2008. Moceanu attempted comebacks in 2000 and 2006, the latter effort following a five-year hiatus from training.
In November 2006 she married Dr. Michael Canales, a former Ohio State gymnast who now specializes in foot and ankle surgery. The couple resides in Cleveland with their daughter Carmen and son Vincent.
Moceanu said she began working with her co-author after Thompson reached out to her in 2006.
"While Alicia was never a gymnast, she's been a tried-and-true fan of the sport since childhood, and she's been reading IG (International Gymnast magazine) since her early teens," Moceanu said. "Our inspiration got a big boost when Disney/Hyperion loved our synopsis and signed us on as a team."
Although the book series will touch on serious issues, Moceanu said she wants readers to be engaged in and inspired by the bond of friendship that unites the gymnasts, despite their very different personalities.
"To start with, I hope readers laugh a lot," Moceanu told IG. "Throughout the series, readers will see the world through the eyes of each of the four main characters. The importance of friendship is a theme that runs through all four books, and their friendship is full of hilarious moments, so readers are sure to connect with the stories."
External Link: Dominique Moceanu's Official Website