Saturday, 9 March 2013

Lex Chase's Casting Couch Interview

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Lex Chase, I’m 33 going on 12, a lifelong geek and pop culture diva, and I don’t know my natural hair color is anymore.

I’m the writer behind the superhero romantic comedy series Pawn Takes Rook due out this Spring from Dreamspinner Press. It’s the torrid tale of a disgraced brooding badass superhero told from the POV of his plucky hyperactive sidekick. Think Dark Knight Rises told by an over excitable bright-eyed chipmunk.

How did you get started in writing? What made you decide to submit your first story and what was your experience with that? Who was the first person you told when you got your first contract? What was their reaction?

I won’t say I’ve been writing since Kindergarten because that’s a copout answer. But since my teens I’ve been making up characters and stories, it was my way of coping with the schoolyard bullying. All my life I was an artist first, I dreamed of drawing comics and when I finally got a shot at that dream, I was shocked that my peers didn’t know the first thing about telling a story. They wanted someone to write a story for them to draw. And I was absolutely puzzled that wouldn’t you rather write and draw your own? That was my goal. I didn’t actually decide ‘I’m A Writer’ until my health required me to rethink my career path as an artist.

I’ve actually been actively writing since 2009 and have gone back to school to become a journalist. I make it a goal to write 1k a day and I’m always working on something to challenge myself or improve my craft.

I wrote Pawn Takes Rook in December of 2011, it wouldn’t be until almost a year later in August 2012 that I had handed it in to Dreamspinner. I was cripplingly self-conscious about the story. It’s told in First Person POV which is something that totally turns me off when I read it other books, but it just seemed to fit. My critique group (The Pensacola Writers and Critique Group Hey guys!) pretty much kicked me in the head and shocked me with cattle prods to hand the thing in. So off it went, and I basically sat back and fretted like a total flutterbudget.

As for who was the first person I told, that was my parents. They were actually on a cruise to the Caribbean, and we Skyped while they were out to sea. I read them the acceptance letter and pretty much got a blank stare. Kind of awkward. Plus I think something was lost in translation with Carnival’s satellite internet. But they’ve come around since then. My parents don’t get how publishing works, but they say they’re very proud of me anyway. When I registered for my passport for the cruise we took in January, my profession actually says ‘Author.’ Isn’t that cool?

Where does your inspiration come from for your books?

Kind of everywhere. Originally when I conceived Pawn Takes Rook, I wanted it to be told from the First Person POV of the brooding hero Memphis Rook, but I realized the story would have been too dark and depressing. The series overall deals with quite a few serious themes and has some angst filled moments, but they’re softened through the happy rosy lens of the sidekick Hogarth Dawson. 

I’ve always loved superheroes. I grew up reading every Marvel Comic I could get my hands on. I was actually quite fond of Wolverine, Gambit, and a rather terrible character Shatterstar. Shatterstar’s gotten quite the fantastic reboot in the last couple years, but believe me, when he started no one liked him. He’s also one of the few gay characters in Marvel’s roster. 

I also love the superhero tropes, just when you think about it, how crazy dumb they really are. And I really mean that with nothing but the very deepest love for the genre. Everything is bright candy colors, s-curls, and big gleaming grins that sparkle. Pawn Takes Rook cranks the tropes to 60. From character names so bad they’re good and Garth and Rook are our everymen looking around and wondering if a Care Bear went on a bender and puked and explosion of Baskin and Robbins.

How do you make the important choices when it comes to writing your stories? Point of View? Voice? Theme? Title?

Hmmm. That’s a tough one really. I honestly don’t think about such things too much. Usually these things reveal themselves in planning stages. Usually when I get a new idea for an all new world and characters, I say to myself ‘I want to tell a story about this kind of character. They’re like this. They do this. They live here. This is their problem. The book is what happens next.’
I feel the voice of a book kind of automatically works itself out with the content of a book. If the book is about the grace and elegance of a queen in a lavish palace, the book is going to be flowery and metaphor heavy. If the book is about a brutal war in an urban environment, the voice is going to be curt and direct and get to the point with brutal efficiency. In the case of Pawn Takes Rook, I call it Stream Of Consciousness With A Plot. Because it’s Hogarth narrating, and he has a quite remarkable way with ADD. How he gets from Point A to B is a thing of beauty in its quirky way.

When I already have the characters all fleshed out I decide all sorts of trouble they can get into. Like while on a romantic vacation to the English countryside, the characters encounter a young homeless woman living off the grid in the wild claims to have witnessed a murder, only to discover said witness is a victim of a child abduction from 20 years before—only she never knew she was missing. You’d want to read that story wouldn’t you? And see how the characters solve it? Excellent because now I have to write it.

As for the theme, the theme never is what I think it is. Your readers will tell you what the theme is. Like a story about warring nations of vampires and shifters is not survival of the fittest but actually a statement on racism. A story about two lovers reunited 20 years later in an epic war is not about love conquers all but about letting go of your childhood. Pawn Takes Rook? I think it’s a story of self-discovery, and opportunity knocks when you least expect it. That’s likely not at all what it’s really about. To quote the writer George Saunders: What a book’s theme is doesn’t involve how it’s made.   

And titles? Sometimes they’re easy, sometimes they’re not at all. Sometimes I give something a code label when I don’t want a certain someone to know what I’m working on. And then so far down the line, calling it that thing, that ends up being the title. Pawn Takes Rook, I can’t tell you how I got there. It just fit. And it fits for a number of reasons that I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.

Are your characters purely fictional, or do you sample from people you’ve met in real life? Which one of your characters is most like you? How so?

Considering I don’t know any seven foot tall Thor look alikes in my daily life that’s safe to say the cast of Pawn Takes Rook lives safely in my head. I do sample people for some things. Like some of Rook’s ways of expressing romance come from my older brother. Rook’s smoothness in flirting is something I could only wish to have in real life and I think comes from years of playing role playing games. Rook has also been cannibalized from characters I had created when I was much younger, so he inherited a lot of previous character quirks.

Hogarth has a lot of me sunk into him without being me. He battles with being insecure, fearing of not living up to expectations which are two of my huge buggaboos. He also rambles and is very excitable and talks just like me which terrifies people will think Hogarth is a self-insert. Which no. He’s not. He also loves Nyan Cat. And who doesn’t love Nyan Cat?

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

Some people would say ‘Getting published! Doi!’ but I think for me it was recognizing this is who I am and what I’m meant to do.

If you could co-author a book with any other writer, who would it be?

This is going to sound so nerdy and journo of me, but I’d adore to co-author a fiction book with Anderson Cooper. Yeah. The CNN News Anchor guy. He wrote a memoir called Dispatches from the Edge and I make a note to listen to the audio version at least once a year. With all of his life experiences, I’m sure he could tell a damned good fiction story. Plus I just want to shove a straw in his brain and suck out his sense of word choice.

Check it out:

“As a boy looking at the globe, I grew up believing, as most people do, that the earth is round. Smoothed like a stone by thousands of years of evolution and revolution. Whittled by time. Scraped by space. I thought that all the nations and oceans, the rivers and valleys, were already mapped out, named, and explored. But in truth, the world is constantly shifting: shape and size, location in space. It’s got edges and chasms, too many to count. They open up, close, reappear somewhere else. Geologists may have mapped out the planet’s tectonic plates – hidden shelves of rock that grind, one against the other, forming mountains, creating continents – but they can’t plot the fault lines that run through our heads, divide our hearts.”—Dispatches from the Edge pg. 4-5

Oh. Em. Gee. Right!

What is the one book that you think that very few people have read but everyone should read? What are you reading right now? 

Hero by Perry Moore. Quite possibly my favorite book ever. Young Adult tale of a gay teen superhero finding his place in the world. Totally hits on all the superhero tropes and then some, and just when you think you got it figured out you still have it the wrong way around. Also there’s Gorran and he’s quite dreamy. 

What I’m reading right now is whatever is holding my attention the longest on my Nook. I’m dividing my attention between Ana Bosch’s Bonds of Death (mmmm… Westwood.), Jeffe Kennedy’s Rogue’s Pawn, and The Writer’s Compass by Nancy Ellen Dodd.

What do you find the most difficult part of the writing process?

Of all things, getting over my insecurities that my words are good enough. I think everyone deals with that in some way. Like being told you’re beautiful and all you see is that your eyes are brown and not blue. 

Pawn Takes Rook is a comedy, but most of the time I don’t know when I’m writing something funny. They’re just words on a screen that scroll by. Occasionally I’ll read back and get a giggle and see I had a moment of cleverness but I never notice my cleverness as its happening. It takes beta readers and critique partners to point out what’s funny. 

What is a typical working day like for you? Where do you write? Do you wait for inspiration? Do you set certain writing goals? Are there any specific tools you use to help you write?

My writing day is anything but typical. I’m a firm believer you can write anytime, anywhere, on anything. Also writing doesn’t necessarily mean the act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. I’m a college student and every new semester I have to work my writing schedule around it. I’m a commuter student and parking at my school is just insane so I have to go to class two hours early just to get a parking space.

In this two hour block that I’m basically sitting in a chair in the hallway in front of my classroom with pure uninterrupted time to do with as I please. I’ve edited books, critiqued pieces for my critique group, and actually have been able to spit out a good dent in my latest WIPS.
The only hard and fast goal I have is to write 1k a day or if I set a deadline to have a book done by. My deadlines for the last two years have been arbitrary because I was unpublished, but I was trying to maintain a semi-professional schedule in preparation for the big day.
My tools of choice are rather simple. 

I swear by Papermate Inkjoy pens. They’re cheap, write effortlessly, and when they crap out I don’t cringe about tossing them. I also go through a lot of pens. I’ve had pens crap out in two weeks for how much I write. These are a godsend. Not great for pen snobs who want something uberfabulous. A reviewer called it ‘Your Mom’s favorite pen.’ This pen is awesome. I basically need a stick with a point to make my mark on my cuneiform tablet. I don’t need something I can use in the vacuum of space and when the hell am I going that opportunity? Like, never?

I use Moleskine notebooks for handwriting. Not out of brand loyalty, actually I could care less about the status symbol of Moleskine. Who gives a crap if they’re the notebooks of Hemingway? You still won’t write like Hemingway. I use them because they’re small, durable, and light enough to carry anywhere. I use small bags and it fits just so.

Other assorted items I have are an Arc Notebook by Staples ( that I keep as my ‘Project Bible’ where all of my notes on my projects. It’s a fully customizable notebook system that you can define and refine just for you. Said Project Bible is also the half-size model for easier carrying. Still I’ve got the thing stuffed to the gills like a dictionary.

My digital tool of choice that I can no survive without and am actually employing this very second to do this Q&A is the Pomodoro Technique. I have an app for my phone that you can set a timer for twenty-five minutes and you give your full attention to that task for twenty-five minutes. The timer goes off, you get a five minute break, and then it starts again. After four rounds of this you get a twenty minute break. It’s to help you stay focused and more productive. I actually have two versions for my Android phone.

You can read more about my experiences with the Pomodoro Technique here. (

What is your greatest guilty pleasure (literary or otherwise)?

Does coffee count? No? Okay.

Greatest guilty pleasure has to be actually of all things, buying cat toys for my two meowing fur babies. You’d think a five year old lives in my house with the toys everywhere. My Sis-In-Law maintains I’m one cat shy of being a crazy cat lady.

And…last but not least: What are you working on now and what can we expect to see from you in the coming year?
What I’m working on right this second is getting the third installment of Pawn Takes Rook drafted. School’s in session and I need to work some things around to get it done on time. Ideally, I’m seeing six installments to Pawn Takes Rook, some little misadventure that Rook and Hogarth get into every time. The only problem I’m discovering are my installments are getting longer than expected. I’m dreading the PTR crew gets a novel one day because I promised myself to keep them short like issues of a comic. But now I’m facing the issue of the constant ‘Special Double Issue!’

You can find her on those Facebook and Twitter things at:
And her blog at

Pawn Takes Rook Pop-Culture Hunt Clue:

#45 Jack Sparrow, Titans, and a tiny kitten dealt with this beast.

Email your complete answers with the full sentence the reference appears, the page number, and your reading device to:

For Complete Rules and Prizes See Lex Chase's Blog here:

One Grand Prize Winner will receive a $25 Visa Gift Gard and other fine swag. Deadline: March 30, 2013!


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