‘Hamilton,’ ‘Great British Bake Off,’ Destroying Chicago: An Author’s Life

Books GeekMom



Our guest author today is Lexie Dunne, a life-long winner of the coveted trophy for participation and author of the SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS series. By day a mild-mannered technical writer and by night a writer of masked crusaders, she hails from St. Louis, home of the world’s largest croquet game piece. Her newest book, HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD, is available from HarperCollins on November 1, 2016. Follow her on Twitter @DunneWriting.

Lexie shares what she geeked out about while writing her latest book AKA how Google Street View helped her destroy a part of Chicago and why she needed the warm hugs of the Great British Bake Off.

Five Things I Geeked Out Over While Writing How to Save the World

1. Hamilton

I know this is a little bit outdated by this point, but Hamilton had just begun to sweep the nation when I was writing the book itself. I was actually a little behind all of my friends, too. Everybody on Twitter and Tumblr was raving about this hip hop musical about the founding father. As a fan of In The Heights, I had a lot of faith in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ability to write (the man can turn a tale like none other), but I kept pushing it off and pushing it off until I finally turned on Spotify. In hindsight, listening to it may have been a mistake; it’s not very good music for writing! I still get distracted when “Satisfied” comes on, to this day.

2. Street View

So in How to Save the World, which is the third book in my Superheroes Anonymous series, I realized that gathering a group of supervillains in Chicago meant I would get to destroy a popular Chicago institution. But which one? The Sears Tower—sorry, I guess that’s Willis Tower now? The Bean? The Navy Pier? The lions in front of the art museum? So many choices! Well, the problem is, I don’t live in Chicago. I’m from St. Louis, home of a croquet hoop that somehow wound up on Honey I Blew Up the Kid.

When I was plotting my giant battle and destruction of this great Chicago landmark, I did a lot of research. Movies, Google Image searches, native Chicagoans talking about it. And most importantly, I used Street View on Google Maps, which is now my favorite thing forever and ever. From the comfort of my pajamas, I could walk through Millennium Park and explore the Loop, get a sense of the buildings and even some of the atmosphere. It really helped me when I needed to raze this famous spot to the ground. Which spot did I pick?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Lexie Dunne
Lexie Dunne with Team Dunne in support. Image via Lexie Dunne.

3. Great British Bake Off

Confession time: I don’t remember writing How to Save the World. I know I listened to Hamilton. I’m pretty sure I may have slept at some point. I wrote the book very fast at Starbucks while my dog was at home entertaining herself and dealing with abandonment issues, and it basically consumed me. So, here, have something that I geeked out over while I was recovering from How to Save the World: the Great British Bake Off/Baking Show. If you haven’t seen this show, imagine a long, warm hug from somebody that only wants the absolute best for you. Now add delicious baked goods, self-deprecating British humor, a couple of wisecracking hosts, and enough butter to put the Illinois State Fair butter cow to shame. GBBO looks at every other cooking competition show and scoffs at it. The contestants actually help each other out and cheer one another on, judging is strict but gentle, and more than the final product is appreciated. Watching amateur bakers fumble their way through technical challenges and signature bakes for 10 very warm episodes at a time was exactly the balm my soul needed.


4. The Little Dinosaur Game That Comes Built-in with Chrome

If your computer or phone is offline, Chrome shows you a little dinosaur. Only, if you tap the phone screen or press the space bar… it’s a game! You run as the little-pixelated dinosaur and leap over cacti and duck under pterodactyls. I’m actually terrible at this game, possibly because whenever the dinosaur lands on a cactus its little eyes bug out. But I definitely spent a lot of time playing this game while puzzling over thorny plot problems.

5. The Multiverse

This is a misleading answer because now everybody’s going to wonder if my books feature multiple worlds (they don’t), but I love multiverses. While I was working on How to Save the World, I read A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, which is a wonderful story where the main character jumps into different versions of herself while trying to find out what happened to her father. She lives in alternate worlds, where she can be a princess or a fashion designer or even living aboard a ship. My adoration for the TV show Fringe, which also features multiple versions of the main character, rears its head at the best moments. After reading Gray’s books, I wondered at times what a different universe version of my main character Gail Godwin would be like. Maybe one where she hadn’t been kidnapped by every villain in Chicago and never inherited the powers that make her close to indestructible? Or a world where she received her powers much earlier? What would her world look like? I spent a lot of time geeking out and spinning story ideas…

…and then I realized I was doing this to procrastinate and got back to work on the world where Gail Godwin does have superpowers and for some reason, those powers are the only thing standing between the bad guys and the destruction of superhero civilization as we know it. How to Save the World might not be a guide, but it’s definitely illuminating. I hope.

And that, my friends, is my list of five things I geeked out over. I even managed to get one science fiction thing in there! Two if you count dinosaurs jumping over cacti.

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