Monday, May 17, 2010

Interview with Chelsea Campbell

Today I am pleased to welcome the fabulous Chelsea Campbell to my little corner of the interwebs. For those who don't know Chelsea is the author of the newly released The Rise of Renegade X. Which is a simply amazing book and a must read! And after just a small amount of begging and Twitter stalking, Chelsea agreed to do an interview. =)

What is your writing process like?

While I'm writing, I have to have silence. Or mostly silence. If I'm already really into what I'm doing, a little noise is okay, but if I'm just getting started, then everything feels like an annoying distraction. Once upon a time, before my family had a computer, I wrote my novels on notebooks (a giant stack of them), but now that I'm used to the computer, I can't write them out longhand. I mean, technically I can still write things on paper, but my brain's not cool with creating on paper. I can't think properly about what words to put down unless I'm typing.

What was your worst subject in school? Your best?

My worst subjects in school were P.E. and Handwriting. At least in elementary school. I got Cs in both of them. Later, in jr. high and high school, it was P.E. and science classes. My best subjects were always English, Art, and Foreign Languages.

What was your first job?

I was an English tutor at my community college. It was a pretty okay job. I mostly got to sit and read, until someone needed help, and then it was mostly Japanese exchange students who needed help with little things like articles and prepositions. I could only work 16 hours a week there, though, and people kept being like, “Whoa, only 16 hours? You're going to get a 2nd job, right?” I lived with my parents and was in school full time, and writing like crazy on the side (though that never counts to the type of people who think you should have two jobs just because you can), so I was fine with only 16 hours.

What’s your idea of the best meal ever? What sort of foods do you like to eat when you are sick?

Oh, I'm so glad you asked this. I happen to know what the best meal ever is, because I have eaten it! It goes like this. A couple years ago, my parents came up for my college graduation and took us to Black Angus. And there was this big poster on the wall of a Father's Day special with steak, baked potato, a thing of King crab, and a freakin' lobster. I pointed to it and was like, “Whoa! Who needs all that food? Who do they think is actually going to order that?!” And then in true Chelsea fashion, I ordered it. And I ate every single bite of it—plus some potato skin appetizers my parents got, plus part of their baked Alaska for dessert—and every part of that meal was so delicious. I was afraid I'd get full and not be able to finish things, but what makes this meal the best ever isn't just that it all tasted awesome, but that I was able to eat everything I wanted to. I was on a roll.
What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

Hmm. Maybe not the most surprised, but pretty much every time I think the word “probably,” I also hear the Goose saying “probably-obably” in my head, as in, “You probably-obably could if you tried.”

If we were able to take a peek at your nightstand, what book(s) might we find there?

I very recently cleaned it (sort of), but up until a week or two ago, I had several lovely toppling stacks of books that included my ARC of The Rise of Renegade X, Bleeding Violet, a Latin textbook (Familia Romana, if anyone's curious), a book on Julius Caesar and one on Cicero, Roller Girl, Too Many Curses, Skullduggery Pleasant, and Before I Fall.

What is the book that you most want to read again for the first time?

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman.

Are there any books that you might have lied about reading (we promise we won’t judge)?

I only lied about them in school! I would never lie about reading something in real life. But I may have not read the Iliad like I said I did. (I tried, though, I really did.) And I never finished Silent Spring back in high school. (I know; I'll pause a minute for you to gasp and be shocked.) It was the first book I didn't finish for school. I made it to the last 80 pages and then couldn't do it anymore. (If you haven't been forced to read Silent Spring, it's a non-fiction book about how DDT, a chemical sprayed to kill bugs, actually kills everything and gets into our systems and is awful. I don't think they use it anymore, because of this book, but being important doesn't make a book interesting.) We had a test on the book, or an essay or something (it was probably an essay) and I got away with just not mentioning the last 80 pages. But, I mean, that book is no page turner. I think getting that close to finishing is still pretty good.

What’s a book you’ve been a book bully for. (ie one you’ve liked so much that you practically beat people over the head just to get them to read it)

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and the workbook that goes with it. These two books saved my life. They made me think about the conflict in my stories and if I was having the worst thing possible happen at exactly the worst time for it to happen. They made me think about larger than life characters and raising the stakes until they're as far as they can go. Writing the Breakout Novel makes you ask yourself the right questions about your stories and characters to make them the best that they can be. After reading them and doing the exercises in the workbook, my writing was ten times better. I wouldn't be the writer I am today without them, and I might not even be published. So for a while I was really insistent that all my writing friends NEEDED to read this book. They always just kind of look at me like, “So?” and I can tell they're never going to. But a couple of them have now! One read it in practically one sitting, while he was sick, and was just as affected by it as I was.

When you write, which comes first title, plot or character(s)?

Characters! I've tried starting with title or plot first, and it never works out for me. Plot on its own is too boring for me, and I have to have characters I want to write about first and build a plot around them.

The edit process can sometimes be hard on a novel, are there any story lines and scenes that didn’t make it into the book? And if so, which one was the hardest to cut? Can you share a bit of it with us?

During the editing process, I had to tweak the scene early on where Damien goes to visit Kat at her house. In the original version, Kat told him she was talking like a pirate today, and so they had a few lines throughout where they were talking like pirates, and I totally loved that. But in fleshing out some storylines, I had to make some tweaks that made the whole talking like a pirate thing seem irrelevant. It would have felt tacked on if I'd left it, even though it was there from the beginning. It was for the best, but I do miss them talking like pirates!

Thanks for stopping by Chelsea I hope that you had as much fun as I did.

This interview is cross-posted on Ticket to Anywhere.


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