Female Creator Friday: Chelsea M. Campbell
Female Creator Friday is where we interview women working in the media, and although this isn’t Friday, we had to have this run upon launch day!
Chelsea M. Campbell is an author I admire and respect. She’s been published traditionally and now self-publishes her middle grade and YA. I just had to have her talk with me about writing, publishing, and what it’s like being a “girl” writer in a male-driven genre of superheroes. She’s the first guest in our post series Female Creator Fridays, where we’re interviewing a female creator in media, whether it be comic books, publishing, television, movies, or more.
The Rise of Renegade X: 16-year-old Damien Locke wants to be a supervillain like his mother, but his plans are derailed when he discovers his long-lost father is a superhero.
The Trials of Renegade X: Sequel to The Rise of Renegade X (I don’t want to give away any spoilers!)
Fire and Chasm: A dark fantasy in which a teen boy with no memory of his childhood puts his murderous impulses to work assassinating wizards in the war between adherents of the church and practitioners of magic, until he discovers one of his targets holds the key to unlocking his forgotten past. (Note: Out May 2015 from Skyscape)
Starlight: High-school loser Adrienne Speck wishes on a star and gets her own personal genie, in the form of a hot-but-obnoxious boy who may do more harm than help.
Growing Up Dead: Nox, a vampire trying to survive junior high, has to keep the band together for the upcoming contest and keep his worst enemy from revealing his crush.
Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye: Harper, a hard-boiled detective in seventh grade, gets a stuffed-shirt partner he can’t stand, battles the PTA mafia, and is the only person who believes his delinquent ex is being framed for a crime she didn’t commit.
You have two books in the superhero genre, a category largely dominated by male writers. Although we have an abundance of female characters in the superhero world, there are less female authors than males in the genre. How has your experience been so far, both as a traditionally and self-published author?
When The Rise of Renegade X was traditionally published, it was marketed to the YA audience, so it had mostly female readers. I know some bloggers mentioned in their reviews that they thought they wouldn’t like it–because it sounded like a “boy book” or just because it had a male protagonist, even though the author, me, is female–but fell in love with it once they started reading. Younger guys read it, too, and wrote to me to say how much they enjoyed it. They were all really nice and polite and didn’t seem to care that the author was female.
When I got the rights back and self-published the book (same cover, though we changed the lettering), I put it in the superhero category on Amazon, and I got a lot of adult male readers. Most of them are awesome, but some of them are really not so much. Like the guy who titled his review “Not Bad But I Could Tell It Was Written By a Woman.” He seemed to think I was writing the book to live out some female fantasy where the love interest sleeps with everyone in town and then gets the nice, hot guy anyway. O__o My first thought when I read that was, “That’s not the female fantasy!” Also, that’s so not what happens in the book–he read his own biases into it. It’s the most misogynistic review I’ve gotten, and it just goes on and on, mentioning me by my first name (as if he knows anything about me). It’s so weird!
And then another guy emailed me to say he normally hates women’s writing, but he liked mine. He seemed to honestly mean it as a compliment, but it’s hard to know how to take something like that. And then there are the reviews that sound like a pat on the head. Like, they loved the book and are giving me permission to write more or something. And I don’t want to sound like I don’t appreciate how much people have loved the books (because I’m a woman, so I have to be grateful for any successes or else!), because of course I do, but it’s just weird to me how different the adult male audience is from the teens. It’s like they reach a certain age and have had all this anti-women stuff ingrained in them. I mean, I’ll admit I’ve absorbed a lot of that, too–it’s so hard not to–but it’s been kind of an eye-opener for me.
What was your first “fandom”?
When did you first began writing seriously? I know your newest novel, Starlight, was an early work you wrote. How do you feel your writing has changed?
I started writing novels when I was 11, and I even finished a couple of them, but I didn’t get serious about it until I was 16. I was like that girl in Whisper of the Heart–I just got so obsessed with this book I was writing, and I spent all my free time on it for months. That was 16 years ago! I wrote Starlight probably 8 years after that? And next was Renegade X.
My very first book was about dragons, and the book I got so obsessed with in high school was about a town/kingdom of quirky frogs. It was an episodic comedy that focused on how out of place the one sane frog in town felt while living amid a lot of absurdity. It was basically a sitcom in book form.I still think it was pretty hilarious, even if my writing wasn’t there yet. The most common question I got about it, though, was, “Why are they frogs?” They were frogs for the comedy, and because sometimes it’s funnier when we see ourselves with that bit of distance. (More meaningful, too. This is probably why pretty much everything I write has fantasy elements.) I think if it had been a comic or a TV show, something more visual, people would have accepted it. But I got self-conscious and stopped writing about animals anyway. Back then I wrote only in third person, and now I pretty much only write in first (Starlight was my first book written in first person and was a huge breakthrough for me as far as voice). I haven’t written anything episodic since then, though I really want to.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a female author wanting to write in a traditionally male-dominated category?
I never thought of myself as writing in a male-dominated category–I just wrote what I wanted, to entertain myself and my friends. So my advice is to write whatever the hell you want and not worry about it.
My thanks so much to Chelsea for sharing her experiences as a working full-time writer with us! All of her books are available on Amazon.com and other online book retailers. Visit her Amazon author page for more information on her books and to purchase or sample any of these titles! You’ll also find her at ChelseaMCampbell.com.