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Although Brook Henson didn't discover The Sentinel until the series was already over, that didn't stop her from becoming a wonderful author for our fandom. She is known for her well-written angst/comfort stories and has two intriguing on-going AU's, They Also Serve and the Inverse series. Brook's Cascade Library listing currently lists 13 stories which are located at her website, Brook's Nook.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Brook!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
All right, well, Iím 25 years old, I grew up in a midwestern college town with parents who like to grow things organically, protest social injustices and teach. My mother teaches reading to kids with learning disabilities, and my dad is a sociology professor at the nearby university.
Just this year I completed an interdisciplinary degree with focus areas in English, History and Anthropology. And last year I finished a four-year training program to become a sign language interpreter.
Iím rather musically inclined, I play both piano and cello. I love to read. Right now Iím on a C.S. Lewis kick and I think Surprised by Joy is turning out to be a work of staggering genius.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
Thatís an old story I guess. The fandom I was involved in previously was losing momentum, fading out like a dying star, and I started to get a wondering eye. I began reading TS fic before I ever saw the show (and to tell you the truth I was rather confused at first. For a short while I thought Simon and Brown were the same person ~grin~)-- but I was intrigued by Jimís zone outs and Blairís empathy so I e-mailed a friend of mine who I knew was a TS fan, bombarded her with questions, and eventually, (like a good recruiter) she sent me the entire series in one huge box with each episode neatly labeled. It was beautiful. It was Christmas at my house for a while.
What is your favorite episode and why?
Thatís a loaded question. My favorite episode (Blind Manís Bluff) is also the one that irks me the most. Jim loses his sight, Blair ODs. Thereís so much angst and intimacy between our two boys. Blair is gentle and supportive, oh, and the way Jim holds Blair on the floor of that parking garage ... <sigh> Iím undone! But there is also so much character development and relationship depth that is left untapped in this episode. But I guess that leaves fanfic writers with a lot to work with. I think itís safe to say that the seriesí shortcomings have, along with a great wealth of talent, contributed to the wonderful quality of work that this fandomís writers have achieved.
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction? Specifically, what was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?
I started writing TS fiction after watching the entire series all in one go. I was filled to the brim with a desire to keep the story going. I wanted to keep the characters together and developing. So I sat down at the computer and started to write. But I wrote a lot and read a lot of TS fic before I ever posted anything. I went on a search for good stories in order to familiarize myself with what was out there, what had already been done before-- that kind of thing. I wanted to try to get a feel for how *I* wanted to portray the boys.
My first TS story was called A Guideís Guide... [archivist's note: this is a slash story] and was/is (itís still ongoing) an everyday life series in which Jim is blind. I started it. . . gosh, I think it must be at least three years ago. Itís up to 44 parts now.
Posting for the first time was scary but, for me, itís always a little nerve-wracking. People have continually responded to my writing with amazing kindness and generosity though. I truly cherish the feedback and letters of comment Iíve gotten. That really has, and continues to, just blow me away. I appreciate it so very much.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
Well, gosh, Iíd have to say either A Guideís Guide... or perhaps They Also Serve. Iím an angst junky and there is plenty of angst in both of those stories.
Which story are you most proud of?
Definitely A Guideís Guide.... This story is my baby <g>. And seriously, from what readers have told me, I think people have really enjoyed it and maybe even learned a little bit about blindness along the way.
Which character do you most enjoy writing?
Well, I guess Iíd have to say Jim. I really enjoy writing stories that focus on him, his character, his struggles. But I also enjoy writing from Blairís point of view. He just has such a wonderful, vibrant voice that is hard to resist. Blairís character is also very compelling to me-- his empathy, his generosity and his strength are. . .well, thereís a lot of beauty there.
Which character is the easiest for you to write?
Oh. . .well, gosh, I think that that particular ease is something that fluctuates for me. Sometimes Blairís voice comes through very clearly and sometimes it's Jimís. I think I write from Jimís POV more, not because I understand him better, but rather because Iím trying to explore his character in greater depth. I see writing from Jimís POV as a way for me to unlock his secrets, his fears, his inner desires. I actually feel as though I connect with Blair more. I ďgetĒ him, so to speak. I resonate with his empathy, I understand the Anthropology/grad student thing.
Who is your least favorite?
My least favorite character to write is Simon. Iíve never really allowed him to have much of a role in my stories. Heís the support guy, the boss, and the friend but that has all been pretty superficial in my stories. I think giving him more depth would help lend more texture to my stories overall-- I guess that's something to work on in the future.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
I enjoy writing drama. Some of my stories tend to be rather dark and full of angst, even hard-edged, but Iíve always tried to emphasize how deeply Jim and Blair care for each other and how they try to protect each other. I believe in showing a prevailing gentleness, a kind of redeeming love between the two of them. I have used the word ďsmarmĒ to describe this level of intimacy before, but I think that term is a bit misleading. I think ďsmarmĒ implies a degree of melodrama that Iíve always tried to avoid. As Mark Twain said: ďThe difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.Ē The term ďsmarmĒ, to me, is the almost right word... but I havenít thought of a better one yet either.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
Oh Lord, I canít even begin to express how much I appreciate my beta readers but Iíll try. I have had quite a few beta readers over the years. There is Kate who is currently working with me on They Also Serve. She is wonderfully supportive and clear headed. She keeps me on track (which is a very difficult job because I tend to just go off and start another story when I get stumped, or frustrated or otherwise stuck), sheís full of ideas, she shares my dedication to the characters, she doesnít let me take short cuts. . . gosh, I could keep on gushing about Kate for pages so Iíd better stop now. Letís see who else? Thereís Laura who has helped me tremendously, sheís so full of ideas and enthusiasm. Bonnie has always been willing to beta something for me, and share ideas and be encouraging. Sheís so great about being willing read whatever scrap or scribble I send her. Barb has been my confidant and inspiration for years, always there for me when I need her. Pam is a great friend who kept me going on A Guideís Guide... when I most needed to be motivated. Bast has been doing her amazing lightning-quick final polish beta for me for *ages*. All my beta readers have been Godsends, wonderful, beautiful people who I couldnít possibly thank enough.
Many of your stories deal with Jim angst. Is there a particular aspect of his character that makes those stories fun for you to explore?
Jim. Heís just so complicated. I think Jimís character presents such a fascinating dichotomy. He seems always to be engaged in a struggle to reconcile his strength with his vulnerability, his competence with his dependence. Heís a hero who can perform great, seemingly supernatural feats but who can also be brought to his knees by something as tiny and harmless as a dog whistle. This dilemma intrigues me.
Tell us about your Inverse series and what inspired it.
The Inverse series was supposed to just consist of one story that explored the notion of: what if Jim returned three years after having been presumed dead? (I know, not the most original plotline but. . .) As soon as I started writing, however, I realized that one story was only going to scratch the surface, so I kept writing (and am still working on the series).
What is your favorite part about the series?
So far, Iíve enjoyed expanding on the tension that time and circumstance has created between Jim and Blair. The two of them long so desperately to find each other again, to find peace and connection together, the kind of companionship they so deeply crave. But fear and pain and unanswered questions keep them engaged in a tentative, almost skittish dance that brings them close only to drive them apart again. Jim is deeply wounded and Blair has been bearing the weight of too much grief for far too long. Something needs to give-- and soon.
Do you find it difficult to write?
Oh yes. The Inverse series goes sentence by sentence and feels like walking across a tight-rope. But writing in general tends to feel like that for me. Itís a very difficult, painstakingly slow process-- but, strangely itís also always tons of fun and all the hard work only serves to make it more rewarding when I finally do finish something.
In Point Blank, an intense plot for Jim and Blair ends with a comfort scene. What inspired this story, and how important is it for you to have comfort at the end of an angsty plot?
Well, perhaps itís simplistic or formulaic but I see angst as the catalyst for comfort. The more intense the angst the more profound the comfort can be. I see the comfort scene at the end of a story, not as the happy ending, but as the triumph of humanity. Point Blank was inspired by a desire to see Jim and Blair survive and connect while still allowing them to continue to tread water in a sea of uncertainty. As much as possible I try to make my stories come across as realistic or at least honest and balanced.
How do you deal with writer's block?
To tell you the truth I donít deal well with writerís block. I tend to go off and start another story rather than persevere through the difficult parts of the story on which Iíve already made progress. This shows lack of discipline on my part but it is something that Iím working on and I think Iím getting better in this area. Sometimes when I feel stuck, I just take a break from writing and pick up a good book. I find that reading quality writing inspires me to strive for more quality in my own work-- it gives me something to aspire to.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Finishing. Seeing the story through to the end. Iíve never been good at coming up with really clever plotlines and outlining a story is something that Iíve only recently attempted. I donít think anyone will ever extol my stories as being beautifully crafted. Iím working on it, though, with the help of patient and talented beta-readers.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Well, if I had to pinpoint just one thing, I would say sharing my writing with others is the most satisfying part. I see writing and storytelling as an intrinsically interactive process. I write for myself, yes, but I think there is a certain tragedy in hiding one's work, locking it away in a trunk and never sharing it. I want my writing to mean something. I want people to connect with it, relate to it and most of all enjoy it. Thatís part of why I cherish feedback so much-- itís a way for me to know that people are having a response to what I write.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
Well as I said before, Iím very moved by feedback-- that someone would take the time to tell me what they thought of my story, or offer suggestions, whatever. . . I am grateful and humbled by feedback. It almost always makes me smile and sometimes I even cry big fat happy tears.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
I think new writers should try to hook up with more established writers from whom they can learn, and I think that more established writers should take new writers under their wing to help them learn. I also think there is nothing more beneficial than finding a good beta reader.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
The first piece of fan fiction I ever read was a story called Tough Guy by Sandra McDonald, a wonderfully well written Highlander story.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
<Chuckle> That would be Hardcore written for the Kung Fu TLC fandom. I wrote it when I was 19 and I think itís still posted on a Fu site somewhere-- or maybe not. That was 6 years ago.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
In the Midst of Winter by Sandra McDonald.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
I especially enjoy stories that are well written with well developed characterizations. Iím a sucker for hurt/comfort stories and I suppose it comes as no surprise that I enjoy Jim-centric stories.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
Probably A Guideís Guide... Thatís the story that Iíve been working on the longest and have invested the most in with regard to time, effort, research and just plain heart <smile>.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Yes, Iím working pretty hard on They Also Serve right now and part 45 of A Guideís Guide... is about half written. Iím also working on the fourth story of the Inverse series and should be able to post it fairly soon. I have several stories waiting on the back burner that I plan to work on at some point in the near future, one of which is an AU in which Jim is deaf.
Last updated 10/20/02 clc