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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interview: Chelsea Campbell (Author of THE RISE OF RENEGADE X!)

Chelsea Campbell, debut author of The Rise of Renegade X, is at The Hiding Spot to answer a few questions about Renegade, her current writing project, and the mindnumbing effects of Minesweeper.

A Brief Bio
Chelsea Campbell grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where it rains a lot. And then rains some more. She finished her first novel when she was twelve, sent it out, and promptly got rejected. Since then she’s written many more novels, earned a degree in Latin and Ancient Greek, become an obsessive knitter and fiber artist, and started a collection of glass grapes. As a kid, Chelsea read lots of adult books, but now that she’s an adult herself (at least according to her driver’s license), she loves books for kids and teens. Besides writing, studying ancient languages, and collecting useless objects, Chelsea is a pop culture fangirl at heart and can often be found rewatching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, leveling up in World of Warcraft, or spending way too much time on Livejournal and Facebook.
For more information about Chelsea, visit her webpage HERE.
 Give a short statement describing THE RISE OF RENEGADE X.
The Rise of Renegade X is about Damien Locke, who's been raised by his supervillain mom, has only supervillain friends, and plans to go to a kick-ass supervillain university. But then, on his sixteenth birthday, he finds out that his father—the guy his mom had a one night stand with—is actually a superhero. And not just any superhero, but, like, the goody-two-shoe-iest superhero of them all. This throws a big wrench into all his plans, especially when he has to go live with his dad, annoying superhero family and all. It's Damien's worst nightmare, and to make it even worse, his dad is intent on proving to him he has hero potential lurking deep inside.

Your novel is one of the most unique I’ve ever encountered and it is definitely not a book that I thought I’d enjoy nearly as much as I did. Was the concept one that you developed over a long period of time or did it simply pop into your head in all its glory?I was in the car one day listening to My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade. In the first song on the CD (on a whim, I bought an actual CD, and then ended up with a car that could only play CDs, so this worked out well), there's a part where they emo-scream “Save me!” and something just clicked in my brain. I started thinking about how everyone wants to be saved in some way, even if it's not obvious on the surface. And then I thought it would be really cool to have a bad guy character, instead of a hero, who really got this idea. I wanted a villain who had to save people and do good deeds. When I got home, I just started writing. Not anything even remotely close to what ended up in the book, but I just played out all my ideas until they morphed into something real. I think that first day I got about 6,000words, mostly nonsense but still progress. I know within the first couple days I'd figured out I had a supervillain character who finds out his dad is a superhero, and the whole Hs and Vs on their thumbs thing kind of wiggled in there because I have an obsession with hands. I seriously have no recollection of why or when I started writing about them having letters on their thumbs, but I know it showed up sometime in that early writing. I wrote about 35k of “practice” writing, just working out ideas and playing around with different possibilities before I started the actual novel, and a few weeks later I had a 60k or so book. That was 28 days after I had that first idea in the car (and also almost three years ago), so it all seems like a blur. (The finished book, after revisions, ended up being about 85k for anyone who's interested.)

I loved that Damien is extremely sarcastic and funny. I think that it is his personality that really cemented my love of the novel. Did you find it easy to channel his snarky attitude?
Yes! Well... eventually. At first I found him a bit daunting. I had this character who had to be scheming and “bad,” yet still good and likeable. I was worried about pulling that off, especially the scheming. To handle that, I tried to have him manipulate someone, even if only subtly, in every scene. That helped a lot, I think, whether his schemes are small, like seeing how long Sarah will let him borrow her glasses, or more elaborate, like the kitten in the tree thing. The sarcasm and humor come a bit more naturally to me, so while it's always a little overwhelming in the beginning when you feel like someone's poking you with a stick, going, “Be funny!”, once I was actually working on real scenes and had gotten the hang of writing Damien, the humor and snark just flowed.

How many novels do you hope to write about Damien and his adventures?
I think Damien and his world could hold up a sequel or two, but the more time passes after writing the first one, and the more books I write in between, the more distanced I feel, so it's hard to say what the future holds. Sometimes I want to write more about him, and sometimes I want to quit while I'm ahead.

Do you have a favorite superhero? Or a superpower that you’d like to have?
There are so many great superheroes, it's hard to choose. I'm extremely partial to the Spider-Man movies, but overall I think my favorite superhero is Batman. I love him in movies, video games, comics, whatever. And he's pretty dark and always has hard choices to make, and the villains he has to deal with are great, too. And they LOVE tormenting him. It helps also that the Joker is one of the greatest villains ever. I really didn't like him when I was a kid—I wouldn't even watch the old movie, though watching it as an adult it seemed silly—but I love him now.
As for superpower, as a kid I always wished I could fly, but as an adult I wish I could teleport. I could go anywhere, whenever I wanted, for free. How great would that be?

Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel?
I just finished up a paranormal historical, a genre I never thought I'd be able to write. It's called Shades of Rome and is about Julius Caesar and Cicero having to team up as young men to fight ghosts. I majored in Latin in college, so this was something that's kind of been building in me for a long time. Even though I studied all things Roman for years, I still had to do a lot of research for this one. I combined some real life things that happened to Caesar (he had some very interesting and awful things happen in his teens) with Roman beliefs about the spirits of the dead and a paranormal story that “could” have happened. (Maybe. If you squish a three year timeline into more like six weeks.) It's kind of like Rome meets Supernatural, and it was both the most daunting and the most rewarding project I've ever taken on.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
A good book is usually the best way to escape reality, especially if there's something you can relate to in it. Sometimes the only one who really “gets” you is the book you're reading, you know? TV or movies are good, too, and if I want some good old fashioned mindless escape, I play Minesweeper. I am good at four things in life: writing, Latin, knitting, and Minesweeper.


  1. Great interview. I bet it was super hard to make a character be "bad" but still likable. A very fine line to walk!

  2. Poking you with a stick saying "Be Funny!" - :D I can relate. Humor for me is so hard to pull off. That is one I really want to work on. And the Rome paranormal sounds great! Though from the sounds of how good this is, I hope this isn't quite the end for Damien.

  3. I was totally there when she named Shades of Roman!!!! Well, there as in on twitter, anyways.


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