How long have you been writing, and what made you decide to start writing fan fiction?
I've been writing since I was about eleven years old. I got serious about it for a while during my college years, but then the real world intervened and I got a job in corporate America, which can suck you dry of creativity. But in late 2003 I tripped over something magical, and a monster was (re)born. (There's a question about discovering fan fiction, and the rest of the story is there.)
How did you discover fan fiction?
Christmas of 2003 was a very bad time in our family. We were watching a family member's terrible battle with cancer come to an end. He was staying with us for a last holiday with his family, and I found it nearly impossible to sleep for worrying about everyone. At the time I was reading a fiber blog (knitting freaks are nearly as much fun as the people who write fan fiction) and was linked to a short piece of humorous Harry Potter fan fiction. It paired Severus Snape with Hermione Granger in an almost-romantic story, and after I got over the shudders, I went looking for more. By February of 2004 I was writing my own first fan fiction, "Give Me Your Hand, Miss Granger." The rest is history.
Do you have any writing experience outside of fan fiction?
I am currently working on some original fiction, still in the fantasy romance genre, with an eventual hopeful goal of becoming a published author some day. Back in my college days, I collected quite a pile of original Harlequin-esque novellas. I think there are seven of them lurking in the basement somewhere dark and cobwebby.
Where do you get your ideas or inspiration? Do other people ever suggest the ideas for your stories?
A lot of ideas spring from a single image, or even a phrase or lyrics from a song. The story "The Highwayman" was written from the ballad of the same name by Alfred Noyes, although I reset it into the Potterverse and changed the ending somewhat. Often something someone has said spawns a plot bunny, and off I go. I do occasionally write fanfiction from challenges, and one of my longest stories ("Day Job") I wrote because so many reviewers begged for a sequel where Snape and Hermione could have a happy ending. A lot of my inspiration also comes from the natural world.
Which story are you the most happy with how it turned out? Looking back is there anything you'd want to change about any particular story now?
I am most happy with the story "The Highwayman." For some reason it made me happy to write that story, and I have enjoyed rereading it from time to time. The story I most want to change is, of course, the first one, when I had no idea what "canon" even was. I just wrote a story, and later I discovered how many canon/fanon mistakes I'd made. But even so, that story is still one of my most popular in terms of sheer read-count on some archives.
Which story was the most difficult to write and why?
"Needfire" was the most difficult to write. It was my first attempt at novel-length fiction, and I was writing the POV of Snape with another writer doing the Hermione POV. That fic touches on a lot of very adult themes and deals with tremendous personal loss and grief, so those things struck fairly deeply with me. It took a lot of emotional energy to write that story. The coordination of plot and character with another writer was also a challenge. A tremendous experience all around!
Do you have any favorite authors (original and/or fan fiction)?
In original fiction, a few of my favorite authors are: Elisabeth Ogilvie, John Irving, Alice Hoffman, Annie Proulx, Dean Koontz and Stephen King.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about writing their first fan fiction?
Ignore the politics, ignore the critics, ignore the flames. Write what you want to write. Make your best effort at spelling and grammar and story, and get a good beta reader, one who not only can help you with the technicalities of writing, but one who isn't afraid to say, "This just doesn't work" when you've written yourself into a corner, or decided to rewrite the great cliché for the fiftieth time.
Do you find any particular genre (angst, romance, humor, etc.) more difficult to write? Do you prefer to write any particular genre?
Humor is especially tough to do well. Humor requires subtlety and particularly tight writing. It can't wobble around. It needs to hit the target every time. It's hard to make humor really fresh. My preferred genre, however, seems to be a bit of angst with romance. I seem to torture my characters so that I can delve deeply into their poor little psyches. At least, that's what I keep writing!
Was it harder to read fan fiction after you started writing it?
Actually, I found myself reading MORE fan fiction after I started writing it. Once I started shifting from fan fiction to original fiction, THAT'S when I quit reading it. Everything began to blur together into one giant Snape/Hermione story; nothing seemed fresh or new any longer. I think I wore out the fandom.
Do you find love scenes more difficult to write than other types of scenes?
No. I love writing love scenes. It's one of my favorite things to do. The hardest type of scene to do is dialogue in a group of four or more characters. Trying to balance the movement and speech and placement is really tough.
Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you keep them straight in your mind?
I have done that in the past, and found that characters tend to bleed over each other and influence one story or the other unduly. These days I try to stick to just one story until it's finished. I might do a new story and a second draft of the first at the same time, however.
What do you do with snippets of story or scenes that you write, but that don't make it into the fan fiction? Do you save them? Delete them?
All the little snippets of story or scenes that don't make it live forever on my hard drive. The bits that I feel will work best put in an original story all go into a folder intended for re-use. I have documents for imagery, nature, characterization, etc. They may never be used, but I don't throw them away. Occasionally I've read back through something and found an entirely different plot bunny to chase down.
Have you ever been flamed or received negative feedback regarding your stories? How do you handle it?
Yes, I have. I usually thank the reviewer for taking the time to let me know their thoughts. If I plan to do something about their comment (for example, make a correction to a mistake in a story) I let them know. If I think they're all wet or simply looking for a fight, I stop with "thank you." I think that passive approach has prevented plenty of bad feelings and public arguments. That said, I have to say that sometimes watching a flame war can be pretty entertaining. :)
What is the hardest part about writing a story? The easiest? The most satisfying?
The hardest part about writing a story is usually the struggle to get the beginning just right. The easiest...those pieces where I have a strong visual or have hit a really good stride and can just write the night away. The most satisfying..."fin" at the bottom of a story I'm happy with. It's also, in a way, the saddest.
Is writing sexual tension different from writing smut?
Sexual tension is MUCH harder than writing smut, but that means it's also, in its way, better writing. IF you make it believable. There's only so many ways you can write "insert tab A into slot B" but sexual tension...you can do a lot with that. String it out, but not too long, deliver the smut right on schedule, and readers seem to really like that combination.
Do you usually write in a linear fashion or do you write scenes out of order? Does one method work best for you?
Most of my stories are written in order. However, one of my favorites, "Night School" was written completely out of order. Chapter 1, chapter 3, then chapter 8, then chapter 2, 7, 4, 5 and finally 6. Chapter 8 had to be tweaked a bit before it got posted.
What was your first fan fiction story? What was it like to post your first story?
My first fan fiction story was "Give Me Your Hand, Miss Granger." I wrote it while my husband was away dealing with family troubles, and posted the first chapter late one night while he was at a meeting. My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, and I was shaking as I pasted the first chapter into the text box. I was terrified, determined, and thrilled all at the same time. And then the reviews started coming in, and they were favorable, and I was nearly beside myself with joy. That Saturday I confessed to my husband that I had written some "smutty fan fiction" and posted it publicly. He asked me to print out a copy for him to read, and after his eyes went back in his head he asked me the next logical (for him) question: "So where do you go from here?" Many stories later, I am thinking hard about seeking publication for original work.
Are there things you won't write or include in your stories?
I used to think I had some hard rules about what I wouldn't write or include. And then I worked on "Needfire" with my collaborator, and I learned that sometimes you MUST write about some of those things you always said you wouldn't. Sometimes they are key events for a character. The important thing is not to glamorize the truly bad things. It's never all right in my book, for example, to have Lucius Malfoy sodomizing his eight-year-old son and portray that as acceptable behavior or consensual sex. But depending on the story, that abuse might be something that's needed to unfold the plot and explain how Draco became the person he is. But in that case it would be portrayed as abuse, and not sex for mutual pleasure.
What is the writing process like for you? Do you revise as you write, or do you prefer to get a first draft down first, and then revise?
It's a mix; largely I revise as I write. I tend to fiddle with a chapter until it pleases me and accomplishes its goals, and comes to a logical end. It makes a difference, as well, if I am posting a story as it is being written, or posting it once the draft is complete. In that case, revising as I go is the way I work. For original stories, I tend to get that first draft pounded out and then go back after the story is cold and read it start to finish, marking the trouble spots. Then I revise.
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