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Since the posting of her first story in November, 2002, Arianna's stories have become very familiar to long-time TS fans. She has garnered numerous awards for her tremendous range of fiction and styles, from simple story epilogues to complex series. In her hands, our favorite characters have even made trips to alternate universes, including the 'Old West'. Selected as a favorite author by fans as early as 2003 (new author, Burton awards), fans continued to recognize her overall accomplishments in the later LMFA awards, in the categories of outstanding author and 'classic' author. (archivist's note: author email found at author's page.)
We hope to give the readers a good look at the experiences which lead an individual to become such an integral part of TS fandom. So, let's start at the beginning.
I. Who are you?
Do you use a pen name? If so, why, and how did you decide on the one you use? Do you have more than one pen name?
Arianna is my pen name. Back when I first started writing fan fiction for Hercules, the Legendary Journeys, I held a very senior and quite visible position in the Canadian federal public service. Given my day job, I wasn't sure writing fanfic would be accorded good press by the media. I made up the name and only later learned it wasn't all that original. My 'yahoo' and Live Journal name is Caarianna Arianna with CA in front because I'm Canadian.
I should say, though, that I told my colleagues and boss that I wrote fanfic, just in case the story broke. Eventually, when I was a guest speaker at conferences as a sort of leadership guru, I admitted it to large gatherings of fellow executives as an example of finding time to balance one's life to pursue a hobby. Given the job I held, if I had time to have a hobby like this, they, too, could make time for their interests or families. It was amazing how well this information was received! True, my Deputy Minister looked at me like I was crazy, as did a few others, but most thought the whole idea of fan fiction and writing was pretty cool. Many asked where they could find my stories and also asked if I'd be a contact for them or others (IE for their kids or nephews, etc) who wanted to be writers but didn't know where to even begin.
I'm retired now, so using a pen name isn't as necessary, but I'm known as Arianna and it might be confusing to simply revert to my real name.
Would you tell us where you live?
I currently live about an hour from Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada, just at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. However, next year I'm hoping to return to my roots in south-western Ontario, near Toronto, to be closer to my family. I've also just begun to spend almost half the year at my winter retreat in Sky Valley, a natural hot spring resort near Palm Springs, California, which really helps my arthritis.
Would you tell us a little about your life?
Oh, wow, where to begin? I'm the firstborn of five, two brothers of contemporary age, one sister ten years younger and my youngest sister is nineteen years younger than I am, born in the same hospital where I was taking nursing training. So one of my life lessons was to learn to treat even a babe in arms, let alone a chatty five-year-old, as a complete equal. I'm not sure most adults think of little kids as fully their equals, and it made for interesting relationships both with my sisters, who remain very close, and my nieces and nephews. In my childhood and youth, we were very poor, and lived for many years in an extended family arrangement (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all under one very large roof).
As a child, I always wanted to grow up to be a nurse. So, after high school, I went into nursing training in the old three year 'in hospital' program, where we were given the training as well as room and board in return for the work we performed while learning. As a nurse, I learned to deal with death and dying, with people at their most vulnerable. Those lessons were reinforced in my early twenties, when about a dozen people who were very close to me died (accident, illness) within a three month timeframe. Consequently, I learned in a very personal way while I was still pretty young that we are all mortal, and we never know if we or the people we love will be here tomorrow. So it's really important to make sure that the people we love know it, and that we do as much, live as much, give as much and love as much as we can, every single day.
After graduation, I worked as a psychiatric nurse, and later, while still a nurse and working full time (so I could now pay the costs), I got accepted into university as an adult student, and obtained a four year Honours History degree in three years. Unfortunately, I drove myself into a bout of situational depression by not knowing how to say 'no'. But therapy taught me how to say 'no', and I learned that sometimes we need to stop and take a deep breath and probably rest before doing anything else, to regain perspective. I believe that if we're not laughing, we're not healthy, it's as simple as that.
Following university, I joined the federal public service. What an adventure that was! My jobs over the next twenty-seven years allowed me to travel the country and then the world. At various times, I worked in departments that supported our aboriginal citizens, our youth and disabled, our seniors and our unemployed, our homeless, immigration, and our Department of National Defence, as well as for several 'central agencies' where I learned all about the internal workings of government and governance. All of that background knowledge in very useful whenever I move my characters out of their normal environment, as I did with Blair when he was hiding "In Plain Sight".
Travel and writing have been my two life passions. My various jobs and most of my vacations over the years allowed me to indulge my desire to travel; during those years I managed to see a huge part of our world ... like Petra and Greece, Rome, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and India, most of western Europe and the UK, Russia and, Turkey, Israel and Jordan, Brazil, Chile and Mexico. I've also cruised from Tahiti to Hawaii, from Vancouver to Alaska, and from Spain to Vancouver, via the Atlantic and the Panama Canal. All this travel and diverse work experience has made for rich memories that provide a backdrop for stories, whether contemporary or historical. I'm grateful that I had decided not to put off the traveling until 'later' because, by retirement, I was seriously disabled by systemic arthritis, which has limited the amount of travel I can now do. For anyone who really wants to know more details about my life, you can check out marilynhay.livejournal.com.
I wrote my first story when I was six years old, as soon as I'd learned to print and could make words. I wrote stories for Rawhide and Bonanza when I was nine and ten, long before I ever discovered 'fan fiction'. And I started what I hoped would be the great Canadian novel when I was sixteen ... and gave up not long after starting because I realized I didn't have enough life experience to write anything great at that stage. Life intervened and I didn't write fiction again until I was in my mid thirties, and felt moved to write a couple Hardcastle and McCormick scripts. Unfortunately, when I finally found an agent who would talk to me, I also discovered the series had just been canceled. It was another nearly fifteen years before I discovered The Iolausian Library, an archive for stories about Hercules and his lifelong best friend, Iolaus. So, at the age of fifty, I discovered fan fiction. Talk about a late bloomer!
I've since written about two hundred stories and, when I became disabled, my computer became my window on the world. Because of the stories and fandom, I've met such wonderful friends around the world, like Jess, Quietwolf, and Janet, Pythia, Mary, Sylvette and Suzanne, StarWatcher, Rhianne and Alyjude and so very, very many more. And I've had the great good fortune of being able to travel and meet all of these friends, and have some of them come visit me, over the years. Fan fiction has truly enriched my life, and writing has, for years, been my joy.
What work, volunteer or paid, do you do? Do you have any pro-fic writing experience or aspirations?
As I noted above, I've been a Registered Nurse specializing in psychiatry (though I also won an award for Operating Room practice) which has definitely helped with the h/c stories! and held various positions in the federal public service. I have not been a volunteer in a community organization, but I worked with and supported many volunteer organizations over the course of my career.
I'd love to be a pro fic writer. Writing fan fiction is one excellent way of learning the craft of writing. But I fear I lack the imagination and the ability to create original characters readers will care about, which is so required in the world of pro fiction. I have written an original novella, in a three day writing contest, and one day I may get around to cleaning it up and trying to market it to a publisher. People who have read really enjoyed it, but I know it really needs a lot of work.
Your long history of public service didn't end with your retirement. It is widely known in fandom that you have volunteered many hours of your time to Moonridge events. How did that come about?
Oh, hey, first let's be clear that hundreds upon hundreds of people contribute toward raising funds to help care for the animals at Moonridge, either by making donations of items to be auctioned, or in bidding and donating funds to win those items. In addition, people have come from as far away as the UK and France to be present on Sentinel Day at the Zoo, to participate on the on-site animal 'auctions' to support their care and feeding. To date, the Sentinel fandom has raised in excess of $140,000 in support of the Zoo, which is really incredible. The lion's share of the volunteer work done each year to make the online auction happen is undertaken by Alyjude, who is supported by the website designed and maintained by Virginia Sky. I've happily contributed a few stories over the years and, occasionally other items, and I've been glad to help Aly, along with several others, with the loading of the auction site in years past. And I've snagged some terrific items in the auctions! LOL, I'm far from the most popular writers who draw in the really big bucks, but I have to say it's a huge thrill to know people enjoy my work enough to donate real dollars to get to read it before it's publicly posted, and every little bit helps. Because of the lessons learned while helping Aly, I was able to lead a small online auction in the Hardcastle and McCormick fandom that helped raise the funds necessary to get a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Brian Keith. I felt really good about being a part of making that happen.
How did I get involved in Moonridge in the first place? Well, I suppose for the same or similar reasons most contribute in one way or another. Becoming engaged in the Sentinel fandom, writing stories and making such wonderful friends, has changed my life and given me great joy. Contributing to Moonridge, Garett's personal charity, is the only meaningful way I have of thanking him for bringing that joy into my life. His performance as Blair is what hooked me from the first so, without him, none of the rest would have followed. And I really like the idea of helping wild animals who have been hurt and wouldn't survive but for the care they receive from the staff at Moonridge.
II. When and how did you become a TS fan?
When did you first see or hear about The Sentinel?
I was writing fan fic in the HTLJ fandom, and one of my friends there said she'd love me to write TS stories. I'd never heard of the show and, by then, it had been off the air for years. She sent me a box containing videos of every episode, as well as pointed me to some fanfic in the Cascade Library. Because she'd given me a synopsis of the show, I knew Blair had died at some point. So I started there and watched TS, Too and the last season first. Big mistake. Took me a very long time to develop any sympathy for Jim, and I often still have to work at liking him at all; I have to tell myself that Blair wouldn't give everything up for a jerk, so I really try to see Jim as Blair sees him.
Why did you decide to write fan fiction about these characters? Had you read other authors and stories that introduced you to the series and/or fan fiction?
Well, I love to write and Ceryndip asked me to write stories for the fandom. But, more than that, she was absolutely right that I would fall hard for the show and these characters. I'm a sucker for the 'buddy relationship' shows like HTLJ and Hardcastle and McCormick, and I'm a particular fan of the sidekick. The hero has special skills, like being a demigod with the strength of ten men, or being a retired superior court judge with an estate in Malibu, or a cop with five enhanced senses. The sidekick, though, doesn't have these advantages and is particularly vulnerable throughout the series; in both HTLJ and TS, the sidekick actually dies and the desperate hero finds a way to bring him back to life. The hero is driven, often stubborn, usually lacks much insight, can be a bit or more than a bit self righteous, but also does the best he can to do the right thing, which makes him lovable, despite his human flaws, and he relies upon the support, loyalty and friendship of the sidekick. The sidekick doesn't have the special skills or status, and serves or supports out of friendship, courage, his own integrity about doing what's right, compassion and, ultimately, unconditional love. The sidekick, in this case Blair, represents the best humanity can aspire to be, an individual who will give up anything and everything for his friend, because it's the right thing to do, and because of love.
The mystical side of TS also appeals to me because I believe there is more in this universe than we can grasp or understand, more beyond our rational, concrete world. I like that Jim could harness the power of the spirit guides to bring Blair back from the dead, and I like to think about what the blue jungle is a holding space, a waiting place, a transition place, a place of peace and restoration? I also very much like the multicultural nature of TS, and the respect shown in every episode, in one way or another, to both genders, diverse ethnic and racial groups/individuals and cultures.
Finally, there are great supporting characters in this show Simon, Joel, Jack Kelso, Naomi, William, etc. and really excellent bad guys that can believably come back to create more trouble, so there's lots of room to play, to create storylines and 'what if' scenarios.
What do you think the readership finds most interesting in gen TS fiction?
The friendship dynamic between Jim and Blair, whether that's played out humorously, in case stories or angst and h/c -fests, is irresistible. There are so many ways to explore their relationship, and so many different stages of that relationship to build upon, from the early days, through the fun times, to when the strain begins to show and times get really tough. Also, the creators did us a favour by leaving us with an ending that allows an infinite number of possible 'next steps' scenarios in a post TS by BS universe. LOL, I should know has anyone written more post-series 'fixes' than me? TS gives us so many choices in terms of storytelling, from high adventure and action to spiritual themes and the core elements of trust, compassion, and unconditional love, the foundation elements of any significant relationship.
Doesn't hurt that these guys are gorgeous, either, so it's fun to think about them, to picture them in their world.
What do you appreciate most when you read TS fiction? Who are your favorite gen TS authors and why?
Well, again, I look for the friendship dynamic. I don't like stories where they end up going their separate ways, or stories that focus on their relationships with others, particularly some love interest. I don't usually want to read death stories, unless they go together, or end up back together in another lifetime. I love Karen's humorous stories and I hope she'll cross-post them from the Sentinelangst Library to the Cascade Library, so more people can enjoy them. But I have to admit that I'm more of an angst and h/c fan, and I truly love a good case story. Jess Riley and JET are the queens of smarm and I wish I could write like they do. StarWatcher owns the 'slice of life' story genre. LKY, Gil Hale, Alberte, Quietwolf, D.L. Witherspoon are all really excellent writers. DawnC has a magnificent story about clones that ripped my heart out. Doggy J, Rebel, Ysone and Shedoc, Jael Lyn, Saorisce, Laurie and T Verano ... the list could go on and on. So, so, so many talented writers it's impossible to name them all, but I've spent innumerable very happy hours with the authors in this Library, reading their work and, in some cases, enjoying their friendship and company when I've been able to visit them. I'm so grateful to all of them for sharing their creativity and enriching our lives.
Fannish pursuits are usually very 'interior experiences conducted anonymously. You are among a few people who made it an interpersonal effort via travel and also by extensive correspondence with both new and established readers and authors. How did this alter the course of what most consider to be your 'retirement'?
Really? Is that so rare? LOL, I know when Pythia first came to visit me, her friends and colleagues thought she was crazy to travel halfway around the world to meet someone she only knew online, and when Karen was excited that we'd be talking in the UK, and was telling her friends about me, they were astonished that she cared so much for someone she had only met online. I value relationships; I really enjoy getting to know people and that's been reciprocated by most of the people I've come to know. I'm lucky enough to have the resources to be able to travel to meet and visit with people around the world, but many have also come to visit me, or call me from Australia or the UK or France or Hungary, let alone the US! Remember, I'm disabled, I spend a huge chunk of my life now at the computer, online, and the people I meet in cyberspace are my neighbours, my community, my good friends, and some are, well, family now. I'd be lost without them.
III. About being a writer ...?
Why do you write?
I have always, from some of my earliest memories, wanted to be a writer, to move people, to touch them and inspire them with words, and maybe illuminate their world a little with a different perspective or different ideas. It seems a miracle to me to have this venue to write about beloved characters and tell stories that are read by people all around the world, and to have so much fun creating stories while also learning how to be a better writer. Recently, a teacher in Glasgow asked permission to use one of my stories, to be read in conjunction with 'The Merchant of Venice', to help her students really understand what unconditional love means. Now, to have one of my stories mentioned in the same breath with The Bard's ... well, that was so touching and amazing. I've had parents write to tell me that the whole family reads my stories together, and then they discuss the underlying themes and lessons. One young person wrote that she loved the stories, but also felt she always learned something from them. I've had a minister ask permission to share an excerpt of one of my stories with her congregation. Fanfic has allowed me to realize my dream of being a writer who has positive and memorable impact upon the reader.
When I ended up disabled, and had to give up my day job, I think I would have gone out of my mind if I hadn't had this world of fanfic to play in, to create in. My biggest fear is that the muses will forsake me, and I'll run out of stories to tell.
What was the first story you wrote, and how did it feel to first place it into the public eye? Do you write in other fandoms besides TS?
'The Gift of Peace' in the Hercules, the Legendary Journeys fandom, in which Hercules has no other choice but to kill Iolaus to release him from eternal torment don't worry, I have to have happy endings. ::grins:: I was terrified to share, and so very hopeful that people would like it. And I was terrified I'd never come up with another story idea.
Other fandoms? Besides HTLJ and TS, I have written stories for The Professionals (1), Starsky and Hutch (1), Hardcastle and McCormick (10), and Supernatural (1).
What do you think/hope readers most appreciate in your stories?
I hope the characters sound real to them, and I hope they enjoy the stories, which are usually dramas filled with angst and, especially in the early days, h/c. I can't believe how often I had Jim or Blair or both in the hospital! But I also hope that some of my AU stories share a bit of history and reflect upon the horrors of prejudice and discrimination.
How do you decide whether to write in a first person POV or third person as a narrator?
The muses decide. I just put my fingers on the keyboard and type. I know that sounds ingenuous, but the best stories just flow and, quite often, go in directions I would never have imagined when I started. Most of my stories are third person, but I think first person gives more energy. First person POV is harder, though, and takes more skill and discipline because the writer really has to stay in the character's head, can't drift around into other heads between scenes or chapters.
Have you ever had a writing coach?
Yes, the brilliant Pythia, from the HTLJ, Buffy, and Quantum Leap fandoms. When I first discovered The Iolausian Library archive, I read the award winning stories and authors first, and fell in love with Pythia's incredible writing. She doesn't write stories; she creates universes. After having read for days, I decided to try writing one, and I sent 'A Gift of Peace' to her, as a humble offering of thanks for all the hours of enjoyment she'd given me. She sent back pages and pages of editorial critique and tutoring on character motivation, character development, plot development and pacing, how to write a dream sequence better than I had, and a suggestion for an epilogue to bring a better finish to the story. With her help, that first story became so popular it ended up on a charity CD of stories nominated by the readers. After that, for nearly two years, I worked with her on just about every story I wrote, to learn how to write better. We even wrote a story together once, and she gave me some wonderful scenarios for stories to write, which she didn't have time to write herself. I found not only a generous and skilled writing coach, but a wonderful friend, who has visited me, and I've visited her in the UK, and we traveled New Zealand together.
Do you work with a beta? Why or why not? What is your process for determining when your story is ready for posting?
Yes, the wonderful and very patient StarWatcher has been my beta for nearly all of my TS stories, and for some of my stories in other fandoms as well. I have learned a huge amount from StarWatcher about the structure of writing. For example, I have an inordinate passion for dashes and ellipses and run-on sentences that she has helped me curb. I think every writer should have a beta because we can only see what we intended to write; the beta sees what's really there, including the over-use of certain words, wrong or missing words, holes in the plot, dialogue structure IE not to be too formal in speech versus narrative writing, and so on. StarWatcher has gone above and beyond and has helped me with a massive amount of research for some stories and, because I'm not an American, she often helps me when I've used phrasing that works in Canada but not in the US. Like Pythia, StarWatcher has helped me become a better writer than I would otherwise be, and she has also become a close and treasured friend.
I've also worked with Trislindsay as a beta, and she was ruthless about getting me to stay in a given POV and to stop over-using adverbs. Hard work, but I learned a lot. She and her partner were also very helpful in providing references, literally sending me books and videotapes when I was writing my American Revolution story. We're now friends who haven't yet met, but I hope to rectify that in the next year or so.
What genres of TS fiction are you most comfortable writing, choosing from canon, AU, case and action, drama, humor, horror, slice of life, hurt/comfort? Why?
Easier to say what I'm not comfortable in, and that's humour and horror. I like building upon canon, and using it as a touchstone to keep me honest, to keep the characters 'in character'. I enjoy writing AUs, particularly historical fiction because I love history, though it was fun to stretch my imagination to write a series set nearly one hundred years in the future.
When I came into the TS fandom, I deliberately wrote case stories to develop my skills in that genre. I like action stories, and try to include action in many of the stories I write. Most of my stories would fit in the drama, angst, hurt/comfort genres because I like to explore the characters' feelings and motivations. Since they are men, so often these emotions can only be deeply expressed in life-threatening or relationship-threatening situations. However, I have to be very careful not to slip into melodrama, and I've tried over the years to learn to resist the lure of h/c besides, I was running out of terrible things to do to these guys! I'm not good at really short stories and tend to write long, even novel length stories and, often, series of long stories that build one upon another. Given how long this interview is running, it's clear that I'm incapable of being brief. (Could be one reason I really identify with Blair!)
If you were to write a completely new AU for these characters, what would it demand of them?
Well, I have ideas for a French Foreign Legion story set in the desert of northern Africa, so they'd have to survive being VERY thirsty. And another set in the dirty thirties, in which Jim would be a beat cop and Blair a street hustler, where developing trust would be a big issue. I'm not all that imaginative, though, so I'm not sure I'm capable of coming up with a 'completely new' AU, like the worlds other writers have so masterfully created.
Which among your own works is your favorite and why?
I don't have a favourite. I like the idea of Blair disappearing in Cascade, 'In Plain Sight', but when I read it now, I don't like the ending of that story; it's too rushed or too fantastic or something. I love writing historical fiction and it was fun doing an HTLJ/TS crossover and the Old West stories, and I've enjoyed writing the SG1/TS crossovers in the SG-22 series. 'Just Friends' was fun to write because I had Blair, rather than Jim, being upset about the rumours about how close they might be. 'It's About Trust' and 'It's About Friendship' were both long story epilogues that I really enjoyed writing, one to give Blair a father and the other to explore how they got home from Peru. I love Gabe, so I enjoyed playing with his character in 'Blessed Are The Merciful' and 'Will You Remember Me?'
Which of your stories are you less positive about, why? Have you had the urge to revise any of your stories? Which ones?
Just as I don't have a favourite, I don't have a story I don't much like, either. I enjoy writing so much that writing these stories, with these characters, has generally been a joyful experience. Some have been harder to write than others, like 'What About Now?' that took forever to write because of health and disability issues. Often, when I go back to read a story after a lot of time has passed, it doesn't even feel like my story anymore ... I find myself wondering how I came up with the appropriate vocabulary for a story placed at sea, for example, or in the ancient past. It's hard to explain what it feels like to have a story write itself, to have the words flow in paragraphs and pages without effort it truly is as if I'm only the conduit. I've had occasions when a story has gone in a direction I've not expected, and thought I'd have to fix something earlier on to make it all work, only to go back and find the 'fix' was already written. It's a weird experience.
I have gone back to fix some of my earliest stories before reposting them at a new site, or before they are included on CDs of 'favorites' for charity purposes, but that's mostly to clean up punctuation and to remove hundreds of unnecessary dashes and ellipses, as opposed to changing anything substantive in the story. Generally, once I've posted a story it's done; I don't go back to read it for maybe years, if ever, and I'm on to the next story. However, until the beta is done, as StarWatcher well knows, I'm prone to go back to 'tinker', to 'smooth', or 'embellish' here and there. I'm surprised she puts up with me.
Is there a genre you would like to write as a way of stretching your wings as a fanfic author? Is there a type of story or specific plot that you wish you could write, but feel is beyond you? Do you think more time and/or practice in writing would allow you to tackle your dream project?
I wish I could write humour, but I just don't have that skill or talent. I'm not that funny and I don't think any amount of practice or experience would make me funnier. Either a person has it or they don't. As I noted above, I don't read or write horror because it scares me, it really does. I can't take the suspense, and I can't take the grim nature of horror, whether that be in terms of truly sick characters who do awful things to other human beings, or the reality of pure and malicious evil in the world. I write for fun, for myself and my readers, to have people feel good when they finish a story and hopefully to have enjoyed the ride. I don't enjoy horror, so I doubt I could ever write a good horror story.
I'd like to be better at writing drama without slipping into melodrama, and stories that have warmth, that make the reader feel good, without having to get into heavy angst and h/c. I think this is what the 'slice of life' stories are about and yes, I think with more practice, I could write better stories in that genre.
I don't have a dream project in fanfic. Someday, maybe, I'll be good enough to write a powerful original story a book or screenplay but I fear I lack the imagination and the capacity to create original characters the reader would really care about. I rely on friends like Janet and Suzanne for a lot of my story ideas.
Do you create OCs and how do you use them? Do you find creating an OC challenging?
I create OCs to further the story, but none of those I've created in TS would ever be strong enough to carry a story. I have to work on making OCs more than two dimensional creatures. I doubt whether any of my OCs are particularly memorable by the readers, at least in the TS fandom.
I did create a young character once, a homeless street kid, in the HTLJ fandom, in a story that was a writing exercise set by Pythia to write only about Hercules, to get inside his head and heart to make him three dimensional (I'm more of an Iolaus fan). To my everlasting surprise, readers loved the kid I created and wanted to know a whole lot more about him, so he did end up featuring in a series of stories. Oddly enough, when I was trying to decide what to call him (in the original story, we never knew his real name), I was sitting on the steps at Delphi, puzzling over Greek names when, in my mind, I heard, 'My name is Nico.' When I'd consider other names, the 'voice' insisted, 'My name is Nico!' So, that's what I named him, but I still didn't really know who he was he was a plot construct, a writer's convenience, he didn't exist! LOL, Pythia then pointed me to the legend of Hercules sleeping with fifty princesses in one night, including Nice, who became the mother of his son, Nicodromus. Nicodromus. Son of Hercules. 'My name is Nico.' You see what I mean about the muses telling the stories, and me just being a conduit?
How do you feel about feedback and concrit from your readers?
Oh, I love it. It's the fuel that feeds my muses. The more feedback I get, the more energized I feel, and the more stories I write. I know readers don't owe feedback, that it's a gift, but it's one I personally find essential or my energy wanes over time. I love to know what touched a reader, made them angry or made them laugh or cry, but I'm happy just to hear they liked it. Some readers have given me great 'concrit' IE 'good story but could have been better if ...' That's what Pythia did with my first story, and she helped me enormously, so much so that I kept going back for more. But I don't have any patience or respect for people who simply want to critique or tear apart an author or their story in the name of 'concrit'. I've seen excellent writers so badly trashed that it has shaken their confidence to the point of considering giving up writing and/or leaving the fandom. Nor do I have respect for people who negatively nitpick another person's work or even make fun of it either by name or not, especially publicly, just to make themselves look or sound or feel superior, because the author usually knows who is being discussed and can be badly hurt. First and foremost, we need to remember that this is volunteer work people contribute for fun nobody should be made to feel miserable over it.
In the TS fandom, feedback of any kind has pretty much dried up, at least it has in my experience, and I wonder if people are still reading my stories or if I'm sending stories into the ether. Last year, I only wrote two stories in the whole year, when I used to write a story a week, at least. I fear my muse is abandoning me and I don't really know what I'll do if she goes and doesn't come back, because writing has been my principal joy for six years now. I think readers may grow weary of writers over time, of our style or the kind of stories we tell, and perhaps our stories become repetitive, not sufficiently original, and no longer hold their attention. It may be a sign that the time has come to move on to another fandom, to a fresh set of characters and a new scenario because I've maybe told all the stories I can think of in this fandom, as happened in the HTLJ fandom when I came to TS.
You have tutored many new authors in the fandom, inducting them into the club so to speak. Shyness and insecurity prevent many from taking the leap from being furtive readers to enthusiastic authors. Where did this begin and and how would you advise others to begin enhancing other lives through such outreach?
It begins with an exchange of email, an expression of interest, and the start of a conversation, maybe about a story, or about canon, or about how we respectively see a character. As for encouraging new writers, and doing what I can to support their development, it's really only 'paying forward' the gift of time, encouragement and knowledge that Pythia gave to me. I worry, though, that I may overwhelm new writers, be too handy with the red font, in my rush to share everything I can with them. It's all a balance, to encourage and not discourage, to support and enable because it's in all of our interests to have new writers and new stories to enjoy. I guess, too, it's in my nature to 'coach' ... in RL, I'm a leadership coach and consultant for managers and executives in the public and not for profit sectors. I get a real kick out of helping people achieve their goals.
What advice would you offer a new writer?
Have fun and tell the stories you want to tell. Work with a beta, both to learn and to clean up your work so your readers can have fun with your stories, too, and not be thrown out of them by things that are so easily fixed. Remember, this is 'volunteer work' wherein you are freely giving the gift of stories for the amusement and entertainment of others, and it's a hobby, not your day job, so have fun with it, enjoy it, don't agonize over it. If you want to write, try to write a little every day because if you don't, the muse gets bored and wanders off. Thank the people who send feedback, because that is their gift to you. Have fun. When writing fanfic, do your best to capture the voices of the characters; don't just put their names on your own creations. If you get stuck, share your story with a beta, a friend, another writer, to see if they can help you out the corner you've written yourself into, or can brainstorm ideas with you about where the story could go next. But, mostly, have fun because this is a hobby and if you're not having fun then you should be doing something else with your precious time.
Your advice on how to enjoy both the creation of fan fiction as well as interactions within our community is a useful prescription for how to get the most out of this wonderful hobby. Thank you, Arianna!
Last updated 6/28/09 igr