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Although Aubrey Robin had been watching The Sentinel from its early episodes, the series finale The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg was the episode that really inspired her to begin writing fan fiction. In a series of stories which continues Jim and Blair's lives after TSbyBS, Aubrey continues to explore how Ellison and Sandburg's future changes. In doing so, she has also focused on how Jim and Blair's relationship grows closer and more beautiful with time. Aubrey Robin's Cascade Library listing currently includes nine stories. Her stories are located at The Feral Sentinel.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Aubrey!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Okeydokey. Single, no kids, one dog, a labrador/dachshund mix (yes, really!). To pay the bills I work in the securities industry, managing the local office of a brokerage firm. I live near Seattle but I'm originally from California.
What do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
I'm a huge (my friends seem to prefer the term "rabid") Seattle Mariners fan so in the summer I go to a lot of games. (I also try to sneak a reference to them in most every story - Jim mentioned them once in an episode and I was in heaven!) Beyond that, I love to power shop, do lunch, go antiqueing and read. Love the theatre, too.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
When the show first started, my roommate at the time asked me to tape eps to send to her brother overseas. Sometimes I would watch as I taped and eventually I became caught up in it. I've always enjoyed buddy shows so it wasn't much of a hardship <g>.
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
I had read a lot but never considered writing any until The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg. By the time that episode aired I was so annoyed with what the creators had done with Jim and Blair's relationship that I had pretty much stopped watching devotedly. I think I watched most of that ep with my eyes covered <g> -- until the hospital conversation, anyway. By the time they rolled the credits I think my first story had sprouted full blown in my imagination.
Specifically, what was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?
First was To Do List. I think I actually started writing it within a few days of seing TSbyBS, but for me it was totally cathartic. I had to *fix* things and had absolutely no intention of writing beyond that. Heck, I had no intention of it seeing the light of day but then I asked someone - a perfect stranger and don't think *that* wasn't intimidating - to beta it and that made all the differennce. I remember the very first LoC I received - the writer said I made her cry! Yikes! It was *great*!
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
My initial response to this question was The Commitment, but then I realized it had the one element that always annoys me about my favorite TV shows -- when they split the leads apart! It's just not as fun when they can't play off one another. So I'd have to go with The Undiscovered Country, a story that was very difficult to write, believe me. Having Blair get shot wasn't an easy decision. But with the idea of it being made into an episode, I think it works. Car chases, explosions (in a flashback, anyway), Beautiful Bad Girl - yeah, guess it meets the criteria!
Which story are you most proud of?
To Do List -- I don't think it's my *best* story, but it's the one that got me started in fanfic and helped me begin to trust myself when it came to writing. I had forgotten what it was like to craft a story, to make it into something better than you originally anticipated. By writing it I opened up a whole new world for myself.
Which character do you most enjoy writing?
Well, I write mostly in first person and I've found that I like writing both Jim and Blair both. I hear them very clearly in my head (boy, that's a scary phrase, isn't it?) and the scenes flow quite naturally from whoever's POV I'm using at the time. Sometimes I'm more in a mood to write one or the other but I enjoy them equally. In fact, as I write in one character's voice I'm usually hearing the other one reacting in my head at the same time. Oh, man, that really sounds like the guys in the white coats need to pay me a visit -- but it's true. I've never tried to use first person with Simon; I like him as a character and I think he's needed in the plots but I don't care to write him.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
I prefer working post-series, so missing scenes (well, except for To Do List <g>) are out; humor was hard so unless I get whapped upside the head by the Humor Muse, I'll leave that to those more gifted in that area. Hmmm, guess I'd have to say drama/case stories that incorporate smarm into them. The reason I prefer working after the events of TSbyBS is that I find it less constricting; not working within the confines of an episode or timeline allows me to use the episodes but to be subject to them.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
Well, thereby hangs a tale <g>. I timidly sent an email to Movie Lady and asked her to read To Do List -- at that point I was thinking I *may* post it to Guide Posts and maybe it would be a good idea to have someone read it first. Well, she agreed to look it over - and now, over a year later, she's become one of my closest friends. What do I appreciate about her? Man, where do I start? I guess when it comes to my writing, it's her honesty and her desire to help make my stories the best they can be. Sure, she corrals my runaway punctuation but more importantly she reads with a loving, educated eye. She's not afraid to challenge me and it doesn't bother her if we don't agree. She created a wonderful home for my stories and takes great pride in presenting them beautifully online. Love her to pieces -- could ya tell <g>?
What did you think of the episode, The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg? Would you have done anything differently to end the show?
I hated it -- up until their second conversation in the hospital. But then I had felt betrayed by the writers so much already that I wasn't surprised that they had totally let me down on how Jim was going to handle this. Forty minutes of Jim looking angry and Blair looking miserable was excruciating. There's so many things I disliked about that ep that to this day I still fast forward through most of it. And I'm still ticked at Naomi. That's another thing I need to fix someday.
As far as ending the show, I would have wanted the best of all worlds - Blair receiving his doctorate and still wworking with Jim. How? Beats the heck outta me...
In your first story, To Do List, Jim and Blair deal with the events of TSbyBS and decide how to move on. Your other stories build on the foundation of this story. Was it always clear to you that Blair should become a cop?
Should become a cop? I wouldn't phrase it quite that way; my problem was that to me the character of Blair had been made almost superfluous by the end of the series. I mean, I loved having him with Jim on a case as much as anyone (*he* got to ride in the truck during the car chase in Real Deal and they left Megan behind? I don't think so...I loved it but I didn't buy it). Having him become a detective seemed like a way to keep him equal with Jim, for one thing. But beyond that, since I decided to go forth with TS writing, I found a lot of stories running around in my head with this premise. So it wasn't a conscious decision I made until I decided to go with the story that turned into The Commitment. After that I was comfortable with it.
The story You Are My Home takes place when school is beginning and Blair is not going to attend. What inspired this story?
It was that small a thing, just school starting. Blair would struggle with all the momentous changes in his life but he could deal; I just figured that like so many times in life, it would be a little thing that would hurt. I believe Blair enjoyed teaching and learning and not being a part of that after so many years would be tough. Plus, I was saturating myself day and night in the soundtrack from "The Scarlet Pimpernel" -- it just came together.
The Undiscovered Country is a case story that tests Blair's abilities as a cop. At the end, there is a scene of Jim whispering into Blair's ear, very affecting though the reader does not hear what Jim says. What prompted you to use this approach to the scene?
I actually wrote that scene before I finished the story. Another one of those things that just appeared complete in my head and I think I wrote it in one sitting. I saw it clearly, all of it, but since I was using Jim's POV I let him dictate how it would be presented. I did feel I was taking a risk when I wrote it but then that seems to be true with a lot of the more tender aspects in my writing. There just comes a time when I feel the moment is right for a little bit of an emotional stretch and I go for it. This scene has certainly been one of the most rewarding things I've ever written in Sentinel fan fiction.
The Longest Journey describes Dr. Stoddard's reaction to TSbyBS. Do you think Blair was snubbed by many of his former colleagues and professors after the episode, and what would it have taken to repair his reputation?
Boy, I've wrestled with that for some time. Actually, I'd like to think that Blair wouldn't be overwhelmingly shunned -- but then, I also don't think the Sentinel Secret was much of a Secret anymore. Blair was presented to us as a flawed character but one with such integrity and caring that I would hope he would have people in his life that would hesitate to just dump him. That story was written more with an eye towards Jim starting to give a bit of himself to try and make things better -- and also with the thought that Blair, knowing Jim, would realize the significance of the gesture. Once I decided to go forward with Blair being a cop I left myself open to a little bit of criticism by those who felt quite strongly that with Blair's reputation in ruins there was no way he could be accepted as a police officer. While this may be entirely true in real life, it didn't fit with where I wanted to go with my stories. However, I never ignored the damage that was done; aside from The Longest Journey I tried to weave little snapshots into my stories of how people interacted with Blair regarding his situation. They're subtle, but they're there.
You write often in the first person point of view. Do you feel using this POV helps you in your writing?
It's where I feel most comfortable. The few stories I wrote outside of that genre were much harder for me - and thus less fun. I really like getting into their thought processes. Plus, for all the faults of the series, the two characters were very well realized by the actors so they made it easy. Backing away and writing third person takes away the immediacy of the characters for me and I can't express them the way I'd like. There's an awful lot of power that comes with first person POV but a lot of responsibility, too. Sometimes you have to have the characters do and think things you may not want them to just to keep the story honest.
Your stories contain many touching scenes between Jim and Blair. Do these scenes come easily to you?
Yes. To be honest, the scenes where they interact are the reason I write the stories in the first place. But I usually come up with a plot first and then work in the gentler stuff as I go. My greatest pleasure is constructing a scene where the guys connect on a deeper level and make it work believably. Sometimes it's in the context of a plot and sometimes it's story in and of itself where there is a particular part of their relationship that I want to explore.
How do you deal with writer's block?
Sit and stare at a blank screen, get annoyed, and just start typing any old thing. There's always plenty of ideas floating around in my head; most of them aren't usable at the time but if I'm stuck I'll haul one out and fiddle with it until I work through whatever problem I'm having with the story I'm stuck on. Another thing I'll do is whine to my beta -- she'll slap me upside the head -- er, metaphorically -- and get me going back in the right direction by asking discerning questions and assessing what I've done so far. It usually doesn't last very long and is usually followed by some of my most productive writing.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Well, like everyone, that has to be not having enough time to truly indulge myself in all the stories I want to write. That, and having a story just begging to get out and not being able to express it the way I want to. It's not exactly writer's block; this is when I have a scene written but I just can't get it to sound the way I want, or reach the emotion I'm trying to capture.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
When I can read a scene I've written and know it's *exactly* how I wanted it to sound. There's *such* satisfaction in that. Also, having the ability through net fiction to write my version of Jim and Blair and have it accepted so graciously. Oh, and the omnipotence thing <g>. I love having Jim and Blair and Simon react the way I want them to, to grow into what I want them to be. That's what's been so great about writing almost serially; I've been able to mold them into what I always hoped they'd be.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
Of course I love it, even when someone disagrees with my vision. What I have found, like so many others, is that the feedback fades away the more stories you write. Everyone always loves to love on a new writer and encourage them -- which is wonderful. But once you've got a few stories done the feedback diminishes. Believe me, I am totally guilty of this. If I discover a writer new to me whose story I like, I'll send a note. If a story is posted by a writer whose work I love I'll usually race to read it but skip the feedback part, especially if I've already sent an LoC about her previous work. Shoot, now I feel bad. *Sigh*. I gotta get busy! But realizing that made me grow up a little bit as a writer; as wonderful as feedback is, it can't be the *reason* I write.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
First, go for it. Don't get into the trap of thinking that just because "it's been done before" that your story isn't just as important to tell. There *are* no new stories but only *you* can give us your version. Second, Get A Beta. Take pride in your work and make it the best you can.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
That's a funny question because when I originally started looking for fan fic the first genre I tried to find was X-Files, I believe. I think I went cruising a fan fiction list alphabetically - and never got past the "S"s. Talk about fate, hunh <g>?
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
Ew. Something only a thirteen year old could write about a favorite tv show ::shudder::.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
I'm not sure which story it was but the big ol' hook for me was Wolfpup's Den. I literally immersed myself in the stories there for weeks; I was insatiable! But the real eye-opening stories for me were by Iris Wilde and Kim Heggen. When I grow up I wanna write like them.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
Nope, I consider myself pretty nondenominational when it comes to the types of stories. That is to say, I like all types but not all styles, right? But, to be honest, if I had my druthers I'd have to say I prefer relationship-based stories because I can't get enough of the Jim/Blair dynamic. Add a little plot, a pinch of humor and a judicious amount of h/c and I'm in heaven. But then again, sometimes I'm in the mood for a big ol' angstfest, too. As long as it has a happy ending. Sorry, but that's the truth. I Like Happy Endings. Period.
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
Originally, it was the need to "fix stuff". After that, it was the pure enjoyment I get out of the characters. I mean, I'm the antithesis of all three of them but I love to be their voices. Go figure <g>. There's a lot of freedom in writing characters that are so far removed from daily life (because, frankly, I have no cops, anthropologists or Sentinels amongst my acquaintance.) But you know what? The truth is that I really just love them. That's all the inspiration I need.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
Easy question. A lay-up. Greatest strengths were the characterizations of the three guys. For a syndicated cop show with kind of a dopey premise they brought it off. Not the boom/crash/"do you see/hear/smell/feel/taste that" stuff -- the little character things that were kinda scarce but endearing all the same. One of my favorite scenes is when they're fishing (the famous guppy scene) -- Blair catches a fish and Jim is so proud and Simon goes trompin' through the stream to take a picture, looking like everybody's dad or brother or buddy. Priceless.
Greatest weaknesses? Total inconsistency in the writing. Taking all that great chemistry and wasting it. Not following through on so many levels. My biggest disappointment was Sentinel Too, Part Two. Here they have this harrowing scene at the end of S2, full of sybolism and angst and ripe for some major relationship growth -- and then they just blew it.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
There's always been a certain allure about Blair's father; I would love to write an episode that introduced someone that could have such a far-reaching impact on Blair and by extension, Jim. It's certainly been well-covered in fan fiction but I think it would make an incredible episode for TV. Anything that gives more insight into the guys is incredibly beguiling to me.
What three specific things would you have liked to see on The Sentinel that we didn't see? How about general changes?
1. More intelligently written female characters - I like Megan but considered her the exception, not the rule, with this series. Okay, I liked the bad girl on The Rig, too. She was cool.
2. Less emphasis on car chases and things that go boom.
3. Follow through on the vision shared by Jim and Blair at the fountain. Spiritualism in The Sentinel is not my favorite aspect of the show but -- come on! This was the biggest, most defining moment of the entire series and to just leave it where they did, with all that potential - man, that just breaks my heart.
General changes would have included more character driven stories. The fourth season had two memorable characters -- Harry Conkle and Vince Deal. They didn't interfere with the Jim/Blair relationship and they were just different. Conkle had more depth than most Bad Guys of the Week and Vince Deal was just adorable. The pancake scene with Jim looking befuddled at the mention of pork chops and Blair laughing and going on about whale meat - what a gem.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
Probably To Do List and I have mixed feelings about that. Don't get me wrong -- I love the story and am thrilled it was so well-received. But it was my first story and I'd like to think that as Jim and Blair have matured, so has my ability as a writer. On the other hand, it's probably the story that I'm fondest of; it's brought me so much joy -- all the people I've met through it, those that have been kind enough to tell me they've enjoyed it. If that's the one story I'd be judged on I'd say I'm very blessed.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Sure! Well, I'd like to get back to the Redemption Series but right now I am deep into a *very* long story. Now that I feel I have Blair and Jim pretty much where I want them - Blair has made it as a cop, their relationship has matured -- I decided to shake things up a bit and introduce the one thing that could change everything: someone else with heightened senses (who in no way resembles any psychotic blond of our acquaintance). Jim has always fought so hard against his abilities; sure, he uses them but he's made no secret over the fact that he struggles with them every day. What if Blair met someone who welcomed them? Uh, 'nuff said.
Hey, thanks so much for this opportunity to ramble on about something so dear to me. The wonderful contributions that the Sentinel fan fiction community has made to my life are too many to count; this has been a pleasure.
Last updated 11/6/00 clc