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D. L. Witherspoon
D. L. Witherspoon, or "D. L." as she's affectionately known, is an author readers can depend on to deliver an excellent story with every outing. With her multiple universes -- the popular Family Series, her many crossovers, and the newest Alternate Reality Series -- she keeps TS fanfic readers very entertained. In her Family Series, she has created several original characters who are as real as Jim, Blair, and Simon (Adam Black is an example) and who add a great deal of depth to her stories. A particularly notable feature of D. L.'s stories is just how well she intertwines the fates of all three men -- Sentinel, Guide, and Watcher.
In the roughly one and one-half years since this talented author penned her first fan fiction piece for The Sentinel, she has written over 50 stories in The Sentinel universe, including several stand-alone series and crossover stories with six other TV shows so far -- Homicide: Life on the Streets, La Femme Nikita, Early Edition, The X-Files, Highlander, and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. Her stories are located at her own web page, TVLit 101, which also contains her fan fiction stories for La Femme Nikita. D. L.'s Cascade Library story listing is one of the longer ones at this site -- evidence of her prolific fan fiction writing career thus far.
D. L. writes with passion, knowledge, and a great deal of caring for the characters and stories and the readers themselves. We think she's a great way to start off the Cascade Library's Featured Author Exhibits! Thanks, D. L., for sitting down with us and letting us get to know you better!
D. L., tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a Southerner, born, raised, and living in North Carolina. I'm a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (no, it isn't a law that we have to brag about that; merely a blood oath <g>). I have no children and no current S.O. (for those of you who have wondered how I have time to write so much, there's a hint). I run a desktop publishing business, my main clients being churches and civic organizations. That's basically me in a nutshell.
When did you start writing fanfic, and when did you start writing TS fanfic?
I've written fanfic for as long as I can remember, sometimes on paper, but mostly in my head. Then I discovered the internet and its ample supply of fanfic, and it was love at first reading. Being somewhat arrogant, and loving the anonymity of the 'net, I dashed off a La Femme Nikita story which was posted on the LFN archive in September '97. I received my first LoC and I was hooked. Another fanfic followed. Then I found the Fanfiction Archive and saw The Sentinel listed. Since I liked the show, I thought I would try some of the sites that were listed. I devoured all of Kristine Williams work in two days, and a couple of ideas popped into my head. So it was that I wrote Obstacle Course and Obsessed almost back-to-back. They were posted to the Guide Posts in October of 1997.
I guess I should note here that I have a character flaw, well, not exactly a flaw in my opinion-- I'm a control freak. A friend of mine, who is a lot like me, went to see a therapist-- mainly because her job was paying for it. He told her she had "control issues." So I said, "Oh, so you don't have any problems." That's a long way of saying I had to get my own website. The archivists are wonderful, but I like to post my stories the way I want them posted, and I want to be able to update and revise them when I want to. Anyway. That's the way TVLIT 101 came into being.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fanfic?
Ah, that's assuming I have time to do something else. <g> Actually, I'm an avid reader. I have one of those Waldenbooks Preferred Reader cards. With every $100 spent, you receive a $5 coupon. I refuse to admit how many coupons I receive a year. I'm on a mystery/psychological thriller kick right now.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
I have always been a fan of cop shows. Hawaii 5-O, Starsky and Hutch, S.W.A.T.... I've watched them all, except NYPD Blue. Every season, I try an episode. Just can't watch it. The Sentinel, on the other hand, I watched the first ep, and have been hooked ever since.
What is your favorite TS episode and why?
Okay. If I want to be trite, I would have to say Blind Man's Bluff. Jim angst, Blair angst, Simon angst (his poor car).... The episode has everything. The recent episode, The Waiting Room, was also a good one (me liking a ghost story...go fig <g>).
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
Kristine Williams, Kristine Williams, Kristine Williams. I loved her stories.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
Murder In Baltimore, my first Homicide crossover, is the most TV-like story, I think. The Haunting would also make a good episode.
Which story are you the most proud of?
Bayou. I think I took a difficult subject that couldn't possibly have a happy ending, and told a credible, moving story. To that date, I had never written a story that long, or that involved. I was proud of myself when I finished it.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
Shades of Black because it started the Family saga.
Which character do you most enjoy writing? Which character is the easiest for you to write?
I find Jim to be the easiest to write, then Simon, and finally Blair. However, I think some of my best writing has come from Blair's point of view. I think that's because I understand how Jim thinks, and by looking at him through Blair's eyes, I get a greater appreciation of both guys. Does that make any sense? Forgive me. Sometimes I ramble.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
Drama...which can include case stories, crossovers, etc. Humor is always unintentional (except for that horrid little Christmas story).
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
K (she prefers that I use her initial) is my most faithful beta. Then there's Laura, who helps me with my crossovers. And finally, there are all my readers who know they can write and tell me if there's a problem. By the way, those British readers who graciously informed me that London doesn't have an F.A.O. Schwartz, as soon as I have time, I promise to revise those stories. Thanks for your help.
I appreciate everyone's patience and the fact that they actually read the stories so closely. I appreciate Laura because we usually end up arguing over something, and that something ends up as a story idea. I appreciate K because she's always communicating with me. But, to be honest, I have "control issues", so I don't always use a beta. The mistakes, dear friends, are mine alone.
You write several TS fanfic series. Which of your series do you enjoy most, or what aspects of each series do you enjoy the most?
Tough question because I enjoy them all. The Gates of Hell Series is the most satisfying. These novel(la)s always require research, and I discover the most interesting things. Then I get to manipulate those facts into fiction. It's fun. And writing Simon as the Watcher is just so...natural. In my mind, his role is just as pivotal as Sentinel and Guide. The Music Series.... Sometimes you hear a song and the images come, and you say, yes, I have to write this down. Did I miss anything? I think the others are going to be discussed later. Oh, the supernatural stuff that isn't exactly on the Gates of Hell road.... What can I say? I grew up watching Twilight Zone and Outer Limits (the originals). Oh, yeah. Can't forget Dark Shadows. Ah, the good ol' days.
Many readers especially enjoy your Family Series. What inspired you to come up with that concept?
In An Essential Friend, I sort of had Jim making a telephone call, and voila, all this great spy stuff showed up. Well, a reader wanted to know just what kind of background Jim had that he could make this call. Don't put questions like that to me, because my mind decided it needed answering, and thus, the Family was created. It was truly supposed to be a one-shot deal. Actually, the way I first imagined the story was going to go, everyone would have been thankful not to hear from the Family again. But these original characters of mine took over, and basically built themselves personalities and practical places in Jim's life. By the time I reached page 3, I had no control over them. It was their story; I just wrote it.
You have written quite a few crossovers. What attracts you to this genre, and do you have any particular favorites?
Okay, how honest can I be here? The reason why I wrote my first crossover is that I had read several crossovers, and didn't like them. The writers had a tendency to bend one show or the other to the mold of the other show. I wanted a crossover that kept the individuals as individuals. This is what I had in mind when I wrote Murder In Baltimore. I wanted Jim and Blair to be Jim and Blair. I didn't want Frank and Tim to be a second Jim and Blair. Neither Frank nor Tim had to be a secret Sentinel, and their partnership didn't have to be as close as the pair from Cascade just because they were all working together. I hope I succeeded.
The Homicide crosses were easy compared to the La Femme Nikita ones. The whole LFN premise is to absorb others into Section One. Keeping Jim and Blair separate from the darkness, yet involving them at the same time, was tricky. So basically, we're left with this power struggle...which is about to end (hint!).
The others are still one-shot deals, but ideas keep popping up, and it's conceivable that they will eventually have sequels.
You've recently started an intriguing Alternate Reality Series with Blair as a lawyer and Jim wrongly accused of a crime. How did you thing of this great idea? What does this series allow you to do that a story in the canon TS universe would not?
This was an idea that came out of nowhere and hit me like a ton of bricks. It gave me this terribly vulnerable Jim and a Blair who, up to the point he meets Jim, thinks he has a pretty good handle on the ways of life. This puts me in the position to rock both their worlds. Jim has to learn that he can hold his head up, and circumstance won't automatically beat him back down. Blair has to learn...to share. Financially, he can give Jim the world, but the world isn't what Jim needs. I think I'll leave you hanging with that.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths and weaknesses as a series?
I'd better start this one with an IMHO. The weaknesses all stem from UPN's control of the show. I'll explain that in a minute. What bothers me about the show is the obligatory chase scenes. Most are stupid and unnecessary. In fact, poor Jim usually has to lose his weapon, just so the scene can be integrated into the storyline. Then there's the BOTW (Babes of the Week). These "hot" women are mainly used for publicity purposes, and can be used so heavily in previews that often the real story is barely mentioned. Although technically Megan isn't a BOTW, I think we can all remember the preview to Neighborhood Watch. Totally misleading.
Why I say this is UPN's fault is because in this limited season when Pet Fly and its writers pretty much know the chances of a fifth season are iffy, they've done away with a lot of this. I think we had a chase scene in Murder 101, but Blair participated just as much as Jim. And Four-Point Shot probably could have benefitted from a chase scene, instead of the arming of basketball players [shudder]. The women? There was Alex left over from last season-- she went insane at the end. The femme fatale in Dead End On Blank Street? She was married, Jim respected that, then kindly stepped out of the way so she and her partner could shoot each other (I truly liked that one). In The Waiting Room, the woman had been dead for decades, and she merely pecked Jim on the cheek. It's obvious that without the pressure to please the network, Pet Fly writers can satisfy the fans. I've read the reviews and comments about this season's shows in the discussion groups, and except for a few negative comments, we're really enjoyed the majority of the five new episodes this year. Several have mentioned the fact that the supporting cast has played too big of a role in these eps, separating Jim and Blair, but I think that's Pet Fly's way of giving the cast exposure, and clips to show when UPN pulls the plug.
Oh, almost forgot about the strengths of the series. I'll start with the actors, of course. They are totally believable, and totally cute. In one of my stories, Alone, I think, I had a character say something to the effect, that between Jim, Blair, and Simon, you can find your fantasy man (men?) It's not just their looks (please include the whole cast here) that make them attractive, but also the way they portray their characters.
I also enjoy the premise of the show. The hero is an ordinary man, with mental baggage up the wazoo, who finds himself with extraordinary senses-- not because of some potion, or lab accident, or alien involvement, but merely because of his genes. The cop doesn't like the gifts, can't control them, and has to partner with some long-haired jerk from the university just so he doesn't freak out in the middle of a shoot-out or something. Watching the relationship grow between the two very different men, being there as Jim accepts who he is and what he can do, observing the observer maturing from overeager sidekick to a man who can reel off police code with ease (The Waiting Room), and competently handle a gun (Four-Point Shot).... These are the reasons why I watch, and keep watching.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
According to canon, Jim's ex-wife Carolyn moved to somewhere in California and remarried, right? What if she were murdered? Jim, Blair, and Simon (acting as representative for the Cascade P.D.) attend her funeral...and unofficially investigate her death. Their biggest obstacle will be her husband, who resents Jim because Carolyn still thought of him fondly, and her parents who still consider him their son-in-law. Simon has to cover for Jim with the locals, Blair has to deal with a Jim who is bent on discovering who killed his ex-wife, and Jim has to come to grips with Carolyn being dead. I see nice angst, flashbacks to episodes with Carolyn, and a nice ending scene with our three guys standing at her grave.
You see? It's dangerous asking me questions like that. :-)
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet?
1) What really happened to Jim's mother? Is she dead, just gone, or what? 2) Blair confronting Naomi about his father. We don't have to know who it is, but at least the problem could be mentioned. 3) More use of Jim's senses. His use of them in most episodes is relegated to a single scene.
How about general changes?
Other than getting rid of the truck? <g> Can't think of any at the moment.
Do you have any plans you could share with us about future stories or series? Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Future series? I don't have any plans for any more, but I didn't plan the ones I have at the moment, so anything is possible. Future stories and stories in the works? Okay, there's one I'm working on now that isn't on my "What's New & What's Coming" page. I didn't want to write it, but since I'm up to page twenty on it, I guess you're going to be reading it soon. It's a Sentinel Too, Part Two sequel, of sorts. The idea for it came the night the episode aired, and I fought it. But it kept annoying me, much like one of those pop-up Geocities ads. So I succumbed, and it should be one of my March stories.
Also up in March, my second Alternate Series offering: Human Needs. I've already written the words THE END, and am now reading over it to catch any dangling plot lines. I've also started my next GoH novel(la), Inferno. Yep. It borrows heavily from Dante's work, and it's going to be a crossover with Friday the Thirteenth: The Series. Hopefully, you won't have to know anything about Friday the Thirteenth, but if you do, that's great. But, remember, it takes a long time to write this series, so it will be a while before it's finished. Also, in the back of my mind is the next GoH story, after Inferno, and it may be a cross with the show American Gothic. I would love to do a Buffy: The Vampire Slayer crossover, but inspiration hasn't hit me yet.
How do you deal with writer's block?
I read-- paperbacks, other fanfiction. It also helps that I'm usually working on three or four stories at the same time. Often, if I get stuck on one, I can work on another.
What is the hardest part about writing for you? What is the most satisfying part?
Finding time to transfer the thoughts from my head to the computer is the hardest part. And I'm going to be vain and admit that receiving letters of appreciation from my readers is the most satisfying part. My self-esteem has soared to new heights thanks to the wonderful people who "read" the 'net, and each letter just compels me to write more.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
TS has some of the best writers in the whole fanfic realm (believe me, there are some fanfic universes I'm never visiting again). You can either be intimidated by that, or you can use it as a challenge to go beyond merely putting an idea into words; the idea needs to be placed into a story that supports not only the idea, but the characters as well. Also, learning how to spell, and becoming familiar with the rules of grammar, will help keep the readers coming back.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I'd just like to thank everyone for making me feel at home here in the TS world. From what I can tell, not all fanfic locales are as gracious. That's one of the reasons I've given myself the task of posting three stories a month; it's the only way I could think of to show my appreciation for your support.
Last updated 3/22/99 clc