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When it comes to combining drama, case stories, humor, smarm, and even alternate universes, Fidus Amicus is a true all-around author in the Sentinel fandom. Her stories expertly entertain while always showcasing the deep friendship between Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg. The friendship, of course, is what keeps Fidus and her readers coming back for more. Fidus Amicus's Cascade Library listing currently includes nine stories. Her stories are located at Wolfpup's Den.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Fidus!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm 42 years old, have been married 17 years, have 2 four-legged children--a dog and a cat, and am self-employed.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
Reading TS fan fiction! <G> I'm also a hiker (lived in Colorado for a few years so got to hike a lot of the Front Range), golfer (I'm terrible but love getting outside), hunter (husband and I and the dog and a beautiful fall day in the middle of nowhere -- heaven!), and wannabe wildlife photographer (carry the camera when I hunt, too). I also love to travel and go camping.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
The area I lived in during the first run of The Sentinel didn't have a UPN network, though I caught it once in a while on an independent channel during the third season. It was okay, but didn't grab me until I saw S2P1. The expression on Jim's face when Blair was pronounced dead just did it for me. What can I say -- I always fall for the tough strong guy who gets emotionally sucker-punched. But even then, I wasn't sure if I'd ever see the second part, and I kind of forgot about it since I was actively involved in another fandom at the time. Then I was talking to a friend and she told me how a fourth season was made due in large part to fan support. Another friend made copies of some TS eps for me and I was caught -- hook, line, and friendship.
What is your favorite episode and why?
Gosh, that's a toughie. Most every episode has at least a scene or two that I absolutely adore. Blind Man's Bluff is an obvious choice, but I enjoyed Switchman, Hear No Evil and Love Kills -- episodes that portrayed a more vulnerablle Jim. The Waiting Room was also interesting, giving us a much different view of Jim -- the Jim Ellison of the first season would never have believed in ghosts, but by this episode, he's shown definite character growth. If only the writers wouldn't have thrown away those three years of growth in TSbyBS. :::sigh:::
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
Since I have always been an angst fan (even when I didn't know there was actually a name for it), I joined the Sentinel Angst list and posted my first story there.
Specifically, what was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?
My first story was Between Friends, which turned out to be the first of my Trans-Siberian Holiday trilogy. I had no intention at the time of turning it into a trilogy, but it happened. I had been reading quite a bit of TS fic but most of it took place after Jim and Blair had been with each other for some time and their relationship was pretty well established. Since I was fairly new to the fandom at this time (October 99), I wanted a story that dealt with Jim and Blair earlier in their acquaintance, so that's what I wrote. I also had read many many stories that cast Jim in the protector/savior role and Blair as the one who needed saving. I'm probably in a minority, but I see those roles reversed. In my story The Sounds of Silence, I made mention that Blair was the original Blessed Protector when he saved Jim from the garbage truck. To me, that was the defining moment in their relationship--Blair is the protector/savior and Jim the wounded hero who needs saving. Blair is the stronger emotionally, while Jim is the stronger physically.
I have written other fanfic, but I was nervous about posting a story in an obviously well-established fandom that already had many wonderful fic writers. I was also uncertain how a story set early in their relationship would go over since so many readers seemed to want stories where the friendship was a given. But I was pleasantly surprised and had many wonderful LOCs.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
I'm working on a case story right now that would be fun to see on screen. Since I'm a golfer, I wanted to do a story that had some golfing in it and since we know that Jim golfs from the ep Vow of Silence... I've got more than the usual amount of humorous banter at the beginning of this story, which I love to do. For me, bantering dialogue often defines the friendship between Jim and Blair (and Simon) more than a lot of angst-ridden narrative -- it shows rather than tells the friendship. Of course, I write my share of the angst-ridden narrative, too! <G>
Which story are you most proud of?
Oh gosh, that's a toughie. I'm truly proud of all of them, but I did the most research for The Thirteenth Victim. Plotting has never been my forte -- I prefer character-driven stories, but with this one I had to research a few things for the mystery and I think I pulled it together pretty well.
Which character do you most enjoy writing?
The character I most enjoy writing is undoubtedly Jim Ellison. As I said earlier, I'm a sucker for the dark hero with a ton of emotional baggage. However, I don't find it difficult to write in Blair's point-of-view either. My AU The Road Not Traveled opens with Blair and what has brought him to this certain point in his life. He's abandoned his sentinel studies since he couldn't find a subject and has focused on a closed society study of an island fishing village. I love the exploration of what makes both Jim and Blair tick, and in an AU venue it's doubly challenging. I don't think I have a least favorite character to write, though I'm the first to admit I don't write Rafe, H, Joel, Megan or even Simon as much as I should. I just don't have a good handle on their characters and can't do them justice. I am working on that, but still it's difficult since I prefer to keep a tight focus on Jim and Blair.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
If I had my druthers, I'd go with a dramatic case story with a good smattering of humor and smarm that might be a crossover or missing scene. <G> Seriously, I like to write all elements. In my opinion, a good Sentinel story will cover drama, humor, a bit of smarm and angst, and it doesn't matter if it's a case story, crossover, missing scene or alternate universe, as long as the characters remain true to their core personality.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
In my earlier stories it was Annie and Debra, who kept me from getting to maudlin and helped streamline my stories, since I tend to be a bit verbose. The last few have been beta'ed by Kathleen, who is a wonder at turning my wandering paragraphs into tight concise sentences. She is so enthusiastic about my stories, too, that I feel recharged every time I hear back from her.
How did you choose your pseudonym, "Fidus Amicus"?
I wanted something that reflected what I saw as the most important element in The Sentinel and for me that was obviously the friendship and loyalty Jim and Blair possess. The latin "fidus amicus" literally translates to "loyal friend". My website, Amicus Adytum, literally means "friend sanctuary". However, I don't know Latin and I have probably butchered these phrases grammatically, so those of you conversant in Latin, please forgive me! <g>
Several of your stories are inspired by music from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Does music play an important role in your writing?
To a certain degree. Occasionally I'll hear a song or an instrumental piece that will put a picture in my head. Once that picture is there, I run with it and create a story from it. I listen to off-beat stuff -- New Age (David Arkenstone is my fave), Celtic, soundtracks (anything from Terminator to Oklahoma), John Williams, Erich Kunzel, etc. This kind of music tends to put me into a storyteller mode.
In A Soldier in the Rain, Jim gets amnesia and is separated from Blair. What prompted you to choose Jim as the character who forgets?
I wanted to do a story where Jim couldn't remember his guide or anything of his past life. I wanted to explore Blair's reaction to Jim's "death" and how he copes (or doesn't cope) with it. Then this story came to me in its totality in one of those thunderclap moments that our muses rarely gift us with. I took the idea and gave free rein to the little angst devil sitting on my shoulder. :)
The Thirteenth Victim is a drama piece involving a mysterious FBI agent with connections to Jim's past. What made you choose this explanation for Jim's family?
The mystery of Jim's mother has been one many TS fic writers have attempted to explain. I decided to give it my own unique twist. It's pretty much given that Jim's sentinel abilities didn't come from his father, which left his mother. What if she remarried and had a child or two? Would any of them possess enhanced senses? And if so, which ones? This is the only story I've written with an OFC -- I prefer to keep the plot revolving around the main characters, but this one wouldn't leave me alone. However, I did scale her role way back, kept out of her point-of-view, and kept the focus on Jim and Blair, though Simon got a bit of the spotlight, too. The sub-plot of this story became a little more tangled than I had planned and I left some questions at the end but then that gives the reader something to ponder (or not <g>).
The Sounds of Silence explores Jim losing his hearing. What inspired this ingenious story?
Every month on the Sentinel Angst list, there is a themefic which someone has requested. One of those themefics (suggested by Toni), was a request for stories where Jim loses one of his senses, along the lines of a BMB. I had this orphan banter scene with Jim and Blair in a drugstore commenting about condoms which became my opening scene in The Sounds of Silence. This was one of those stories where I knew the basic premise of the plot (that Jim would be deafened by a gunshot), but I had no idea what the resolution would be. Fortunately, the solution to Jim's problem came with my own "eureka" while I was writing it and it seemed to work out well.
Jim and Blair seem to have a subtle empathic connection in your stories. Do you think viewers often saw this kind of connection on the show?
I believe that connection is far more fanon than canon. There were a few scenes in the show -- the most obvious when Jim brings Blair back by the fountain -- but by and large, I don't believe the connection was explored in the series like it could/should have been. As a fanfic writer, I like the idea of them having this sentinel/guide bond because it brings the two men closer than merely friends, more like brothers.
How do you deal with writer's block?
Writer's block, what's that? Seriously, yes my muse has been known to abandon me at very inopportune times. To get past that, I give up on technique and style and just get something written. It's usually crap, but then I can go clean up crap. I can't clean up a blank screen. <G>
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Not nearly enough time. Sometimes when the muse is being especially generous, I would like nothing better than to follow where it leads, but often times that's not possible with RL.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
I love the process of writing -- putting words together to create images and emotions in the reader. I love placing myself in my characters' heads -- seeing through their eyes and feeling thhrough their reactions. Writing has always been a part of me, ever since I was in junior high school. It's a way to explore the world from somebody's else's point-of-view and to experience things that I wouldn't otherwise experience. A long time ago, I had this weird epiphany -- we are stuck in our own skin and our own minds; everything we perceive we process in a way unique to our own life experiences; never can I see the world exactly as Jane or John Doe would see it. The closest a person can get to that is by acting or writing, and I chose writing.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
I love to get it, but I'm the first to admit I don't send feedback as often as I should. It definitely encourages me as a writer -- to know there are people out there who are reading and enjoying what I've written.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Write what you want to write! Your story choice may not be everyone's cup of tea, but you're not there to please everyone (and you couldn't if you tried). Don't let negative comments get you down -- but, on the other hand, don't mistake constructive criticism for negative feedback either. And most importantly, writing TS fanfic should be fun!!
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
I've been writing it for years before I even knew what it was called. I have to admit that my first ones were Mary Sues -- I was in junior high school at the time. My first published fanfic was in the late 80's -- it was either an Alias Smith and Jones or a Rat Patrol story.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
Gosh, I can't remember, but it had to be one of Martha's or LRH Balzer's since they were some of the first TS authors I read.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
I have to admit I'm partial to the AU's, though drama and angst stories are high on my "like list", too. I also enjoy a good case story where Jim and Blair are working together pretty much through the whole fic. A hurt Jim is always kinda nice, too. <bg>
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
I've tried to analyze this and I think it basically comes down to the friendship between them. The dynamics between the diametric men and how they became friends. Friendships are much like marriages -- both have to be worked at and there will always be ups and downs within the relationship. I like to write those ups and downs, and show that yes, in the end, despite everything, friendship does prevail (at least in the world of fanfic).
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
Hmmm... I believe the greatest strength was the banter that underwrote the growing friendship between Jim, Blair and Simon in the first and second seasons. I think we as the fans could actually see the three men becoming more comfortable around each other. I also thought the chemistry of the actors added a deeper dimension to the characters -- it seemed to shine more brightly in the earlier episodes also. It's greatest weaknesses were trying to turn Jim and Blair into the stereotypical macho guys with the BOTW; and the unrealistic chase scenes, especially the horse chase scene in My Brother's Keeper. I still shudder at that one.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
I tend to have a melding of some of each of their characteristics: I tend to ramble and think with my heart (like Blair) but I can also be pretty stubborn and regret it later (like Jim).
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
I'd like to do a story that deals more with emotion than action, maybe an exploration of Jim's earlier career as a cop when he was with Vice. Perhaps evidence comes in that brings doubts as to the guilt of a man Jim was instrumental in convicting while he was in Vice. Blair will get a picture of how arrogant Jim Ellison had been and will have to reconcile that image with the man/sentinel Jim has become. Of course, Jim himself will have to recognize what a jerk he'd been and admit that Blair coming into his life changed him in more ways than even he realized.
What three specific things would you have liked to see on The Sentinel that we didn't see? How about general changes?
1) More sentinel/guide stories where Blair is actually helping Jim control his sense -- those seemed to be lost in later episodes. My favorite episodes are those in which Jim and Blair are working closely together. Also, bring back more of the teasing between Jim, Blair, and Simon as in the earlier episodes.
2) More of Blair's background or what he does at the university -- perhaps as subplots.
3) I wish we could've seen more of the off-hours, like when the Major Crime crew gets together at the local tavern after a long week, or a poker game, or the annual picnic type thing.
In general, I think the producers should have delved more into the spiritual aspect. After Warriors, the way of the shaman was simply forgotten. Jim and Blair's animal spirits could also have been utilized more. It seemed like the story arc was headed that way, then they fell back into the usual cop show with only an occasional use of Jim's senses.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
That's a toughie -- maybe Soldier in the Rain since there was so much emotion written into that one.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
I'm working on the sequel to The Road Not Traveled which is called Paved with Good Intentions; I'm also working on the golf case story which is tentatively titled Fore Play <snerk>; and another AU that takes place in the old west.
Last updated 11/27/00 clc