Thursday, June 13, 2013

Author Spotlight: Lex Chase, Author of Pawn Takes Rook

In your book, Pawn Takes Rook, you explore the superhero world. What about superheroes interests you most, and why did you choose that theme for your book?

For one, I grew up reading comics. I pretty much collected everything I could get my hands on. My collection eventually grew to over two thousand single issues and about fifty or so graphic novels. And that’s small compared to other collectors. 

And two, I made a go at drawing comics for a living. As it turns out, I loved writing the stories of these superheroes more than actually drawing them. I’ve always been drawn to superheroes and the concept of having superpowers. Every story I’ve ever written had superpowered beings in some way. 

It’s kind of a combination of things of why I love superheroes so much. I love the hyper-realistic take with Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman with Batman Begins, the Dark Knight, and the Dark Knight Rises. I am so pumped for Man of Steel—the realistic Superman reboot. But I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. Avengers was freaking amazing and funny. I recently saw Iron-Man 3 and it was like the studio went “Here! Have Avengers Part Two just with Tony!” I loved it and it was a nice finale to the Iron-Man set of movies.

On the same vein of loving the hyper-realism I also love the godawful silly stuff. Like we can all agree as human beings that most superhero tropes are actually very, very stupid. Like the horrible codenames. Like when a hero smiles, he has waaaaay too many teeth, they’re all mirror white, and they actually sparkle. Or a hero talks in a really overdone booming ‘heroic voice.’ And on the same vein the anti-hero that talks in the husky growl that sounds like he’s constipated. Or the silly spandex outfits. Or the S-curl on the middle of the forehead. Or the sound effects. Just seriously what is it with the sound effects? What kind of sound is Budda-budda-budda! (apparently it’s an automatic rifle in the Aliens comics.) Or the ever famous Snikt! Snikt! (which of course is Wolverine’s claws.)

Pawn Takes Rook is kind of a primordial stew of all those things. Rook and Garth are the reader’s ‘everyman’ heroes as they navigate the bright candy colored world of capes and cowls. It’s with them, they point out how stupid and superficial everything is. Still Rook and Garth aren’t immune to the silliness themselves with some of the misadventures they have. A lot of the Checkmate series requires the reader to just roll with it. Because it’s superheroes. The second you try to contextualize it about how it would all really work that’s where it all falls apart. Does anyone really believe the story how Wolverine got his adamantium skeleton? Does anyone have a logical reason why Superman can fly? The easy answer: They just do.

As a member of the LGBT community, what advice would give men and women struggling with their sexuality?

I’m probably the worst person to ask about struggling with sexuality, because at this point in my life at 34 it’s a big huge *shrug* I’ve been single and not dating at all for about a decade and I’m not inclined to meet anyone. I always say I’m perfectly content to retire a confirmed bachelorette like a female version of Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady. 

Aside from sexuality, I’ve struggled with other things all my life. Mental illness, self-confidence, self-image, just liking myself, and my place in the world. Sexuality seemed like it belonged somewhere on the list, but it never really was a thought. When I was a kid, and I’m talking little like under ten, I knew I was different for many reasons and not just being I was curious about girls. I struggled in school, I was perpetually bullied, I was called all kinds of names from kids that had no idea what they meant like ‘Psycho,’ ‘Dyke,’ and ‘Stupid.’

Like I mentioned on my blog, when first kissed a girl, suddenly it was like the veil was lifted. But what I didn’t say was for a year before that, I crushed on her hard. She was my best friend. And I was all up in my head all the time of “Do I like girls? Am I supposed to like girls? What do I like about girls? Is there anything I like about boys…Hmmmm no.” 

I think for me, the good news is the first kiss went swimmingly and is one of my most romantic memories. While I didn’t get a happy ending with the girl, I’m still glad I took the step.

I guess out of all of this gloom and doom is if people are struggling, they absolutely should not jump in 
whole hog and test out the theory. That leads to a whole host of problems. There have been countless studies of kids who become sexualized too soon before they’re mentally able to handle it. You have to love yourself first. You have to be comfortable with who you are. And if any readers are out there in high school you might be looking at this like I just asked you the impossible. And I did.

Middle school/junior high and high school are a special kind of hell. I actually dropped out of high school two weeks into my sophomore year and then went to homeschooling. But you have to grit your teeth, dig deep, and get through it. When you have to walk through Hell, put on your Asbestos lined boots and start marching. Just remember, you are a soldier and this is your war. Glory is forever and chicks dig scars.

You will not know who you are, or be comfortable with yourself until later. Yeah, it definitely gets better. And it really does get better. But it’s not an instant thing. The relief isn’t immediate. It’s a slow evolution, and when you fully evolve, the world is beautiful.  

On your blog, you wrote a very informative article about serials. However, what really caught my eye was your admiration for The Walking Dead's Daryl Dixon. As a fan of the show, the graphic novels and Daryl himself, what fascinates you most about his character?

Aaaaah. Finally an easy question! Daryl is a strange creature. I’ve watched the first two seasons and the first half of season three (I missed the other half due to life happening.) and he’s so weird. Because when you first meet Daryl he is everything I detest in a person. Racist, sexist, abusive, and just an all around ass. But you realize that’s because he was still under Merle’s influence and the desperation to find him. Once he got away from that and started becoming more cohesive with the group, he was still a horrible human being, but he was intriguing. By season two, he had his evolution of actually growing a soul—plus Rick and Shane were having that contest of who had the biggest peen which was boooooring

Over time, I was like “This character goes against every moral standing I have! But I like him! What is this madness!” And then I found the blog called Dixon’s Vixens. A group of fangirls and guys that love Daryl. Suddenly, I realized I wasn’t crazy anymore. 

And then his fling with Carol happened. And then my heart grew twelve sizes too big. And there might have been whoops and hollers of victory.

Plus Norman Reedus seriously cleans up nice. Have you seen him rocking a suit? What’s up with that?


What do you enjoy about the m/m romance genre?

Because I’ve written both m/f and m/m, I like that in m/m you can do things you can’t get away with in m/f.

Like once, I wrote a strong heroine, yeah, that’s fine. But she was an anti-heroine. She did things that were downright cruel until she had her turnaround for the better. It was her love interest, the hero that was the person that healed her.

In m/f turns out, women readers want heroines that are essentially blank slates that the reader can insert herself into. They love the idea of the tortured hero, the tragic hero, the cruel hero and they love that the woman with her magical sexy powers return him to normal.

Because I said fuck that noise to all of that, I have this epic m/f saga I can’t sell. I’m considering the self-pub route maybe. I’ve also considered making my heroine a guy. But he’d be an effeminate guy and a fulltime crossdresser. No idea how well that would fly.

So, in the case of m/m? You can have two equally strong heroes. One of them doesn’t have to have the personality of a wet napkin. You can do twists on the relationship that wouldn’t fly in m/f. The story doesn’t have to be about romance 24/7. Your heroes can go off to save the world side by side, and their love will grow stronger knowing they made it through. It doesn’t have to end with a ring, or a baby, but you can have them grow old, or you have the option of not having a happy ending at all.

As a new author, what are some of the most difficult aspects of getting your foot in the door in the publishing world?

I think mis-marketing was a lot of my problem. No matter how much I researched various companies or even attended writing conferences, my stories didn’t fit for various reasons. Like not enough romance, not really erotica (when I was sure it was pretty dirty!), more mainstream and suchlike. You would be embarrassed at the amount of books I have on my shelf about writing romance and erotic romance. But none of them actually gave you concrete details of how much romance does a story need to be a romance. Or a ballpark of how many sex scenes, or how graphic, do you need to count as erotica. A lot of it was ‘you just know.’ No, I don’t know. Give me a clue!

Pawn Takes Rook I wrote in December of 2011. I sat it on my shelf and was pretty sure I was never going to do anything with it. I was in a critique group that pretty much kicked me in the teeth into sending it in. And I must have done something right, because lo’ here we are.

How did you overcome them?

I think feedback is instrumental. Join a critique group. Find few beta readers that you can trust not to pat you on the head and tell you it’s good. I feel if people just tell you how great you are as a writer you haven’t learned anything. Everyone can stand to improve. I tried editing my own stories with no outside feedback before. I was in a complete vacuum, no one saw it, and I sent it. Needless to say it didn’t go so hot. 

What advice would you give new up-and-coming authors?
  • Be gracious. You are a very tiny goldfish in a very big ocean. If you bust onto the scene like you’re the biggest baddest muddafugga don’t be surprised when people think you’re an ass. 
  • Celebrate even the smallest success. My first royalty check was so eensybeensy I didn’t cash it, but framed it instead. But it reminds me that yes, I got paid for it.
  • Networking is important. I don’t care if you’re whining that you don’t like to talk to people. You talk to people on the internet all the time don’t you? Because not being face to face works easier for you? Use that!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t be afraid to ask your editors every last dumb question you have. Trust me, they’re not dumb. I still email my EIC questions all the time and she is very patient.
  • Be a professional. This isn’t like writing fanfic anymore where everyone gets to be complete trolls. Yes. You may joke around a bit, but you still need to act like a human being.
  • Guess what? You’re an author now. Isn’t that amazing? :D
Thanks for the great interview, Lex!

If you would like to purchase a copy of Pawn Takes Rook, click here or here.

For more information about Lex Chase, visit her blog.

~ M

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