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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beyond the Page with Chelsea Campbell

Chelsea Campbell, author of The Rise of Renegade X, stopped by to by to talk about the thought that spurred her to write Damien's story, the world she created in Golden City, and whether she'd rather be a hero or a villain. Her debut novel releases next month and was optioned for a movie earlier this year. One lucky reader will win a signed copy of her book and three others will win RRX Swag.

Release Date: May 11, 2010
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 352

Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she's been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father's too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he's not a hero in any way, or else he's stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.

To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad's "flying lessons" that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city--despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights--thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero.

About the author:
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. 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.

By the Numbers

Time it took to write The Rise of Renegade X: 28 days. Though it took me a year and a half to find a publisher, and another year and a half for it to hit the shelves.

Number of revisions: Two. I added about 20k for an editor during the submission process, and then I added another 5k when I did edits with Egmont.

Final word count: 85K


Did Damien or the story of The Rise of Renegade X pop into your head first? How did it evolve from there?

 The idea that originally spawned the book was that I wanted to have a bad guy who had to save people, and as I played around with that and the idea evolved, I knew I had this supervillain kid, who I wanted to be scheming and funny, and this story where his life gets turned upside down after finding out his dad's a superhero. So I guess you could say they came together at the same time.

You've created a world of heroes and villains that could easily translate to the world of comics. Have comics or graphic novels influenced you at all?

DON'T KILL ME but I'd actually never read any comic books before I wrote Renegade X. I'd just never really had the chance to read any, except some old Donald Duck comics I had as a kid that don't really count. (I remember a part where Huey, Duey, and Luey are looking at a river and talking about the "rapids." I couldn't figure out what they were talking about and thought maybe the rushing water looked like "rabbits" and that that's what it meant somehow.) But I'm a total sucker for superheroes and LOVE all the movies that have been coming out. (Yes, ALL THREE Spider-Man movies.) And I'm chomping at the bit for Iron Man 2 to come out already!

Oh, and since writing Renegade X, I have been reading superhero comics. One day I was at a friend's house for writing group, and he discovered I'd never read any comics and sent me home with a stack of graphic novels to read. My favorites so far have all been Batman--The Long Halloween and Arkham Asylum especially. I love Batman, whether he's in comics, movies, or video games. One of the things that makes Batman so great is that he has such a great nemesis in the Joker. I can't think of any other superhero stories where I want to read just as much about the villains as I do the heroes. (Though Smallville comes close.)

Which character in The Rise of Renegade X do you most closely relate to? Which was the most difficult for you to write?

Damien. We think a lot alike, which I think might surprise some people. The most difficult for me to write was Gordon, Damien's dad. He really believes in being good and doing the right thing, according to a predetermined set of rules, all the time. It was hard to blend that with him being a real person with problems and flaws and maybe wanting to do the right thing all the time, but sometimes misjudging it.

Tell us a little bit about the setting for the book, Golden City. Is it a mish-mash of real cities or an entirely fictional one?

Golden City is entirely fictional, though it is set in the U.S. (Damien mentions this a couple times early on, plus the characters, to me at least, seem very American.) In this alternate version of our world, superheroes and supervillains exist and, depending on their genetics, their thumbprints rearrange themselves on their sixteenth birthdays to form either an H or a V. Damien, having parents from both sides, gets an X. He thought he had everything figured out, and now he has to figure out who he is all over again. Golden City has the highest percentage of heroes and villains in the country, so a lot of their culture is based on hero and villain stuff, and it's where tourists go if they want to see a superhero (or get mugged by a supervillain).

Disney Original Movies has optioned the film rights to The Rise of Renegade X. If you had your pick, who would play Damien? Sarah (The Cosine Kid)? Kat?

If I had my pick, Damien would be played by Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, Skins), who I hear can do an American accent. (And he sings!) For Sarah, I'd cast Hayden Panettiere from Heroes--think of her in her Malcolm in the Middle days, though, and I think you'll see why I picked her. As for Kat, no one really comes to mind, though I'm sure there are a lot of people who could play her.

Superhero or supervillain? Why?

This is a tough question. In the world of Golden City, I think I'd rather be a villain, since they have more freedom and don't have to take as many photos with tourists. In, like, Gotham or Metropolis, though, I'd rather be a hero.

What are you working on now?

Wait for it... wait for it... Nothing! Okay, not *really* nothing. I just finished a paranormal historical YA about Julius Caesar and Cicero teaming up to save Rome from an army of ghosts. I tend to write fast and then need a few months in between to recharge. If I'm not recharged, I have trouble falling in love with any ideas and actually wanting to work on them. So right now I'm mostly waiting. Waiting for Renegade X to come out, waiting to hear back from editors about the Rome book, waiting for the right book idea to take hold of me. (This last one isn't completely a waiting game. I don't just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, but I find I do have to wait around for my brain to be in the right state to want something to stick, and once my brain wants something to stick, then, magically, the "right" idea comes along.)

Thanks to Chelsea for a wonderful interview and for donating prizes for this great contest. Make sure to pre-order your copy of The Rise of Renegade X.

*Description and author bio from Amazon.



  1. This is my first visit to Wastepaper Prose - way cool blog layout!!!
    I remember reading the PM blurb when Chelsea sold this book and was instantly intrigued. I'll be first in line on release day. Congrats, Chelsea!

    (Also - 28 days??? For realz? Dude, that's amazing and I'm not wooorthy!)

  2. Great interview! I interviewed Chelsea as well, but I won't have it up at The Hiding Spot until the release date. I laughed as I read your interview - two of our questions were nearly identical. Great minds think alike, right? :)

  3. Thanks for the contest and great interview...can't wait to read this book!

  4. Love the interview and thank you for this contest! This book is already on my wishlist!
    Thank you for this chance!^O^

    Giada M.

  5. Sounds interesting. I enjoyed the interview :)