How long have you been writing, and what made you decide to start writing fanfic?
I used to make up little story books when I was a small child! My first "proper" story was one I made up when I was about 11 or 12 years old – it was from the POV of a cat called Lena who lived on a space ship. I wrote a lot of it to read to my brother, who'd fallen off his bicycle and hurt his knee pretty badly. I can't remember what it was called, which is a shame. Since then, there have been two other original epics (!) written while I was at school, along with a bunch of short stories. I was a contributor then the editor of the University Science-Fiction & Fantasy Society magazine.
When I discovered fanfic (see below), I hadn't written in a while, and it took a few months for the muse to come back. I was re-reading the HP books in preparation for OotP coming out. Partway through Philospher's Stone, when Harry asks Dumbledore what he sees in the Mirror of Erised, a light when on in my head. The muse, after a very long holiday, had returned.
How did you discover fan fiction?
The entire blame rests with my best friend. I think I'd been vaguely aware of fanfic existing, and I'd read some things that were, I guess, basically published fanfic books – Star Trek and Babylon 5 mostly. (I've always been a big sci-fi geek!) Around 3 years back, when I was living with my parents, (and therefore spending a vast amount of time online) my friend sent me a link to a story called "Naked Quidditch". I didn't even know what site it was on, but clicked through and read the rest of the story, which was hilarious. I then found my way back to the main story archive which, I think, was on Gryffindor Tower. Ooh look, hundreds of HP stories... and links to other sites with more HP stories... and other stories.... I was doomed, really!
Do you have any writing experience outside of fan fiction?
See (1) for the history of me as a writer *snigger*. My two long stories were called "Life on the Outside" and "Flight of Stairs to Freedom". They were both sci-fi stories and no, they weren't published. They've both now been lost in changes between computers. I'm pretty sure I don't even have a paper copy of LotO. It's a pity – I look back on them with affection even though they're pretty crap.
Currently I have an idea for an original story, but I don't know if it'll ever get beyond an idea.
Where do you get your ideas or inspiration? Do other people ever suggest the ideas for your stories?
My husband makes suggestions all the time, but they're less than helpful! Obviously, all of my 30-Minute-Fic stories come from other people's concepts. Apart from that, though, I really don't know. I'm terribly influenced by other people's stories – not necessarily the exact subject matter but the general direction. I read a lot of Snape fanfic, which has inspired me to write my own. Lately, a lot of friends have been writing and reading Labyrinth, which re-awakened my
What draws you to a particular fandom, character or couple? Is there anything in particular, or any common threads, that explain your interest?
Like I said above, I am a bit of a sheep! But, rather sadly, I think I'm drawn to broken people and bastards. I like Sirius Black and Severus Snape, which seems to be a one-or-the-other thing in most people's books. I love Jareth. My favourite pupils at Hogwarts are Ginny and Neville. It's probably because I was a geeky, ugly kid who never fitted in at school, so I sympathise with those people who have problems. Plus they're more interesting. And, now that I've been through my bad-boy phase and married a genuinely nice guy, I can do my flirting with Nasty Bastards on the page and not get hurt.
Do you have any favorite authors (original and/or fanfic)?
I go through phases with books, but some of my best-loved authors are Connie Willis (Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Passage...and more) who can make me chortle or sob in the same book; Terry Prachett (Discworld) who has rendered me insensible with laughter; Kelley Armstrong (Bitten, Stolen, Dime Store Magic... and more) for brilliant heroines; Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising series) whose stories changed my world as a kid. JK Rowling, of course. Also, for the literary equivalent of fast-food, Connie Mason who writes amazing Gold Lettering™ smut.
In fanfic, I'm a big fan of most of the DQ authors. The ones who I'm not a fan of, it's a case of not having read their stuff yet! I have a special soft spot for White Raven whose awesome "Tea" was the first big Snape story I read, and it's still one of my absolute favourites.
Are there any particular themes that you find recurring (intentionally or unintentionally) in your stories?
Again, broken people. I try to avoid the my-character-has-a-deep-dark-PAST trap, but it's very easy to do. Snape comes with a nasty back-story already implied by JKR, which is just begging to be elaborated upon. Ginny has the link with Lord Thingy. My Sarah (in "Home") has a nasty past which, so far, I've only dropped hints about. I'm also a big fan of the surprise / shock ending in my short stories.
Is it difficult to write dialogue that stays true to the characters?
It depends on the topic. Sometimes, if I'm writing from the POV of one of the Hogwarts pupils, I find myself losing track of the fact that they're still kids. I'm having difficulty in "Home" trying to keep Alice six years old. Other things are tricky, like Snape in an intimate situation.
What's the one topic you'd really like to tackle in fan fiction?
The fall. Snape becoming a DE has been done by many people and I doubt I could come up with anything original, but I'd love to chart Tom Riddle's life. Where did Voldemort come from?
Do you find any particular genre (angst, romance, humor, etc.) more difficult to write? Do you prefer to write any particular genre?
I find romance tricky because I think it takes real skill to avoid getting sappy and clichéd. I swing between humour and angst, sometimes in the same story. I love writing humour though. The restaurant scene in "Project: Potions Master" is one of my favourite things I've written.
Almost every writer at some point or another suffers from writer's block. Have you ever had that problem and if so, how do you get past it?
Oh yeah. Sometime's I've had such great ideas at 4am, or on the tube into work but then, when I sit down at the computer, my brain is blank. The best route around it is to write something else – often it's just one story that gets blocked. The LJ community 30-Minute-Fics is great for that – the outline and the time limit force creativity in a certain direction. Sometimes, it's the perfect way to kick-start those neurones.
Do you set a specific goal with each chapter of a multi-chapter story?
Not really. I know where I want "Home" to go in general but I don't have a chapter-by-chapter outline. When I start on each chapter, I usually have some idea of how much I want to achieve by the end, but it's pretty vague. I tried doing the organised thing once, and it just didn't work.
Was there ever an instance where you had solid ideas for a story but the characters refused to cooperate? If so, what did you do?
This was where I tried doing the organised thing that didn't work. I had an outline, a prologue and half of a first chapter for a Snape/OFC. I still really love the idea, but it just stuck. Sigh. The ending would've been so good, too. It's hanging around in the 'pending' area of my brain right now.
Would you describe your ideal writing surroundings (food, weather, music, etc.)?
Cups of tea are a life-saver. My new thing for the hot weather is watermelon flavoured Tango Clear. While part of me is tempted to say I'd like a laptop on a beach with hot and cold running slave boys bringing me Pina Coladas, I doubt I'd write much. It's nice to see out of the window, whatever the weather is doing. Most of the time, I have music playing to isolate the study (it changes a lot, depending on my mood – I have very wide tastes) but, if I'm working on a fiddly bit of a story and having difficulty beating it into submission, I prefer quiet.
What is the hardest part about writing a story? The easiest? The most satisfying?
The hardest thing is getting a story going. You need a really good first couple of chapters otherwise people will give up and, no matter how thrilling things get later on, your effort will be wasted. It's hard because you know where your story is going, so you can get excited about it knowing what's to come. Your audience doesn't know that. You don't have the right to say, "Yeah, I know it's boring right now, scene-setting and all that, but wait til you get to chapter 17!!!" So I guess one of the most satisfying things is when you get that intro part right, when people get drawn into the story and want to read on. I find endings easy, by comparison. Quite often, I know exactly what the ending of a story is going to be before ninety percent of the middle is written.
What do you look for when you read a fan fiction story?
Good characterisation. I have definite ideas about characters, how they'd react to things. I'm afraid I tend to go for the 'choosing wine for the label' approach sometimes – a good summary is important. Plus sometimes I go for high ratings because I like smut ;-)
How did you go about creating an original character? What are your thoughts on original characters in fanfic?
It's important to have a good bit of back-story for your OC, even if you never tell the reader about it. It makes your character real to you, and it makes them easier to write and read about. I love OC's in fanfic, as long as they're well-written (obviously) and fit. People tend to write what they know, so it's understandable that you suddenly end up with Hogwarts filled with Valley teens but it makes me cringe, I'm afraid. I don't like the term 'Mary-Sue' because it leads to trouble, but some people do tend to make OC's either (a) themselves only a bit prettier with better powers or (b) god. It's very easy to do.
What is the best advice you have ever received in regard to writing?
Probably 'keep doing it'! Read a lot; keep writing, even if you think it's crap. And don't be afraid – of asking advice, of putting your story out there and of bad reviews. You will never write something that everyone likes. But if you please one person, that's a good thing.
Are there things you won't write or include in your stories?
I'm not a big slash fan, so I probably wouldn't ever write a slash-based story. I don't have any moral/ethical objection to it, just not keen. I wouldn't ever write anything regarding a child as a sexual person either – I'm sure there are stories out there where a 40-year-old guy is sleeping with a 14-year-old girl and she's loving it, but the mere thought turns my stomach.
What challenges do you set for yourself as a writer?
My main challenge at the moment is to keep at my multi-chapter fic. Although I've written them before, it was a loooong time ago. All of my fanfic so far has been one-shot stuff – it's something that I'm comfortable with. I also like doing the writing-to-order stuff – 30-Minute-Fics and site challenges. Eventually, I'd like to face the ultimate challenge and write a good, publishable original story. Who knows...?
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