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December 13, 2012
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Former Tahoe Valley students turn fact into fiction for new book

Editor's note: This is the first installment of a three-part series on South Shore authors and the routes they've followed to publish their works.

If you grew up in the South Shore, you might recognize some of the characters from a new children's book published by two locally-born authors.

Christie Rassuchine and Robyn Lindner met in kindergarten at Tahoe Valley Elementary School. Fast-forward to 2012, and the two women - or at least their fictional counterparts - are still learning in that classroom.

Earlier this month, Rassuchine and Lindner self-published the first book in their children's series, "The Crazy Club," which is based on their experiences growing up in South Lake Tahoe.

It all started when the pair founded the real-life Crazy Club in fourth grade. Nine students comprised the group's core, but others came and went over the years, Rassuchine said.

"I guess what we had in common was that we were creative and we came up with fun things to do during recess and after-school," she said.

The book follows the adventures of outgoing Jilly Bean, the school's newest student Lindy Hopp, and tall, mean Rhonda Jam at their elementary school, Tall Pines. Jilly steps in to prevent Rhonda from bullying Lindy, planting the seeds for what eventually grows into the Crazy Club.

According to Lindner, all of the characters correspond to real members of the club. Lindy Hopp is based on Lindner, even though the latter was never the new girl at school. The fictional group competes in recess piggy-back races just like the original Crazy Club members, and Jilly Bean receives - and subsequently trades - bizarre lunches like liverwurst and caramel sandwiches similar to the meals Rassuchine's father used to pack.

Accomplished percussionist Nicole Grant comes back to the South Lake Tahoe elementary school in the form of Nikki Gong, while Mr. Harmony --the teacher who helps unite the book's club members --bears a distinct resemblance to South Tahoe High School's musical and performing arts department chairman, former elementary school teacher and original president of the Crazy Club, Bob Grant.

"As president, they would just meet in my room. They felt like it was home. It's great. Tahoe's like that. I've seen friendships made during school and in the theater department that last forever. It's funny. I know what the Crazy Club is, but I didn't think that it would be in a book," Grant said.

Rassuchine and Lindner went their separate ways after graduating from South Tahoe High School, but kept in touch throughout college. After studying at Saint Mary's College, Lindner moved to New York, where about a year and a half ago she woke up in the middle of the night with the idea to revive the Crazy Club through writing.

The women wrote "The Crazy Club Gets its Start" together in New York and used Skype to collaborate on the next four installments in the series. They decided to self-publish the book to speed up the printing process by eliminating the need of a traditional publishing house.

"(Self-publishing) is possible. You can make it happen. You don't have to shop around and wait. And it's becoming a much more popular and accepted thing to do," Lindner said.

It's a route that's earned some authors enormous success. Take E.L. James, author of the New York Times bestselling erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey." Random House, which picked up the self-published hit based off "Twilight" fanfiction, just announced a $5,000 company-wide bonus for each of its employees due to the success of the book and its two sequels.

Self-publishing has almost tripled since 2006, according to a recent Bowker report. With more authors looking to pave their own way, the traditional publishing houses are faced with major changes. Penguin and Random House announced a merger of their two companies in October, creating the largest consumer book publisher in the world once the deal is finalized.

But self-publishing certainly doesn't guarantee monetary success. Rassuchine and Lindner used Amazon to publish "The Crazy Club Gets its Start," and have so far sold about 150 copies at less than a dollar a piece. If you have a book to sell, Lindner said, Amazon's the place to do it, but the pair still hasn't seen profits.

Rassuchine and Lindner uploaded files to Amazon's online workspace, purchased an ISBN - or International Standard Book Number - and reviewed a printed proof before the pages hit the press. Less than a week later, the paperback copy went up for sale on Amazon's website for $4.99.

Lindner said they'd like to pitch the series to a publishing company once they've established a larger fan base. But as nice as it would be to see the project turn into a national hit, it's still just a good way for two friends to stay in touch, she said.

And it's gratifying to see the Crazy Club commemorated in print, Rassuchine said.

"For now it's a fun thing to do with my friend. We know that this is still a learning process. The whole time I guess I thought, it felt good just to be writing it. If nothing else, we'd accomplished something together, even if no one else saw it. But when I saw it in print, against all odds, it was a great feeling," Rassuchine said.

- To see the book, visit www.crazyclubbooks.com.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 13, 2012 07:16PM Published Dec 13, 2012 07:12PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.