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Every fandom has a group of authors it wishes would write more often, and many readers consider Iris Wilde an elite among The Sentinel authors. An expert writer of engrossing drama, touching friendship, and clever humor, Iris became an instant favorite when she posted her first story, The Center Cannot Hold, in 1998. She has fearlessly taken subjects full of psychological ramifications for Jim and Blair and handled them with an emotional heart which her readers thoroughly enjoy. She continues to write in her limited free time, thus far producing eight delectable stories (see Iris's Cascade Library listing). Her stories are located at her website, Iris Wilde's Sentinel Fanfic.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Iris!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a 38-year-old, happily single (though family and friends continue with their efforts to "fix" this...well, you never know) English teacher. I'd much rather be a lottery winner, though. I live in Indiana but probably shouldn't, since both basketball and the Indy 500 bore me.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
I love traveling! Jingle the car keys and I'll be in the front seat (preferably behind the wheel) before you can say "Pavlovian response." I do, however, limit my travels to land and water transportation (several airplane incidents, the last of which was a near-miss at O'Hare, left me feeling quite phobic about flight...it's a control thing).
Other things which bring me joy include writing poetry, my family and friends, and collecting porcelain dolls (I tell myself it's an investment, like buying works of art...yeah, right). I'm also fond of physical activities: walking, cycling, working out at the gym, playing volleyball, and shopping. <g>
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
Oh, I was a fan from the beginning! I saw the previews and my "Buddy Show" antennae prickled (and such *handsome* buddies at that). I watched the pilot and was immediately hooked. There was drama, buddy stuff, humor, buddy stuff, gorgeous men, buddy stuff, action, buddy stuff, beautiful scenery...did I mention buddy stuff?
What is your favorite episode and why?
Oy! I don't believe I can narrow it down to one specific episode. I loved bits and pieces of many eps. The dawn of the friendship in Switchman and Siege, Jim's faith in Blair as witnessed in Cypher, Blair's support when Jim is at his most vulnerable in The Rig, etc. There were protective moments, familial moments, humorous moments, and moments when you just wanted to grab one or both and shake them until their teeth rattled. To be honest, I can't think of a single episode in which I didn't find something to like.
If I *had* to narrow it down, though, I'd probably pick The Rig or Cypher, a couple of eps with tense, exciting plots and some excellent character development. And the boys looked mighty fine, too. <g>
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
I sent an LoC to Agnes Mage, an author whose prose I'd admired (love those "Aggieisms"). She replied, and thus began a series of lengthy letters...and a friendship. I told her of an idea I had for a fic and she encouraged me to write. I finally completed it (I take forever to write fic), posted it, and thus began my life as a TS fanfic writer.
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 The Center Cannot Hold, which I posted in late November of 1998. What was it like? Terrifying! Though I had been reading TS fanfic since the fall of 1997 (when our school hooked up to the Internet), I didn't get involved in the fandom (i.e., join a list) until August 1998, shortly after I bought a computer.
I would have to liken the experience to being the new kid at school, confronted by a multitude of unfamiliar faces, unwritten "rules" of social behavior, and long established cliques. Luckily, Center was well-received and no one tried to beat me up on the playground. ;-)
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
I would have to choose Closet Monsters, if for no other reason than it would be nice to see some continuity in TS for once. <g>
I'd love to see how CM would play out. I realize that *some* of it couldn't be aired (then again, considering what they permit on television these days...<g>), but I'd love to see what the actors would do with the emotional aspects of it.
Which story are you most proud of?
Closet Monsters again, probably because it's the one that took so much out of me, mentally and spiritually. I decided to risk public humiliation by beginning the story with an original poem. <g> Seriously, my goal was to humanize David Lash and, in turn, his mother. I even went as far as to have Blair empathize with Lash. I had several people write me to comment on the horrors Lash must have suffered as a child, so the story did what I hoped it would do.
Which character do you most enjoy writing?
I don't have a favorite, really. I put myself into a different frame of mind for each character, and while I'm there I'm quite content. When writing for Blair I slip inside his skin and put myself in academic/observer/empath mode. For Jim it's more of a militaristic/protective/reactionary thing. Simon requires a fatherly/boss/the-buck-stops-here mindset.
Of the three main characters, I tend to volley back and forth between Jim and Blair as for whom it's easiest to write. I have an inquisitive side similar to Blair's, but I can also be quick to react and tend to be protective of my friends in much the same way Jim is. I write as the mood strikes me. :-)
My least favorite characters to write for are the secondary characters. Megan can be fun, but I'm never sure what to do with Joel, Henri, and Rafe. I wish their lives had been explored just a bit more. OTOH, it does give writers a great deal of creative license.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
I enjoy writing almost all of them! Drama and humor are the two which come easiest for me, and both of those can be effortlessly tied in with case stories. I've never posted a missing scene, though I do have one in the works, so we'll see how that goes. I have no plans for doing a crossover--writing them just doesn't interest me (though I have enjoyed reading a few). As for smarm...well, I prefer to call my own touchy-feely moments "warm fuzzies." <g> To me, smarm is the heavy duty stuff. WF's are the moments that offer a delicious dose of friendship and make you say, "Awww!" Not that there's anything *wrong* with smarm, mind you. It's a perfectly acceptable form of written expression, and I certainly didn't mean to imply otherwise. This is the US, after all, and the Constitution guarantees our freedom of speech, so smarmaholics of the world, unite!
But I digress...
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
Kathleen (Dolimir) is my primary beta, and she's a doll! She's used to my style of writing yet is quite comfortable making suggestions of her own. Her comments vary from supportive to hilarious, and I always look forward to opening a K-ified story. She's also not above poking and prodding (yes, K, I'll have something for you soon...really).
Patl has also beta'ed for me, although she may have forgotten I exist since I haven't posted anything lengthy in ages. She also does a marvelous job and I hope to utilize her talents again in the future.
And while they're not "official" betas, my friends Angie Harrison and Kim ("Impie") are always willing to lend a helping hand. Neither is surprised to receive little e-mail messages with the subject line, "Read this and tell me what you think, okay?" I love them both and couldn't do it without them!
Your first story, The Center Cannot Hold, deals with Blair shooting another person. What is it about his character that made this situation difficult for him? What is it about Jim's character that enabled him to be supportive of Blair as he dealt with this?
It became obvious early on in the series that Blair is uncomfortable with guns, or at least uncomfortable with the idea of using one against a fellow human being, so of course a story had to be written dealing with that very topic.
At one point, I almost discarded Center entirely. I was just a few scenes shy of finishing it when Just Jen posted her magnificent Falls the Shadow, which is also a Blair-shoots-someone story. I was afraid that posting my own so soon after hers would be insulting, but she encouraged me to go ahead with it, rightly pointing out that our stories would reflect our individual approaches to such a situation (thanks, Jen...I'm glad I took your advice). And while I'm on the subject, I know for a fact that Mackie has a wonderful *unfinished* fic, "Conversations," that deals with this same topic. Let's all band together and insist that she dust it off and get reacquainted with it. It's much too good to be left on the shelf!
Um, what was the question again? Oh, yeah...Jim and support. Much has been made of Jim's lack of support for Blair in the series, but in truth, whenever things got *really* bad for Blair, Jim was there. Blind Man's Bluff and Dead Drop immediately spring to mind as a couple of prime examples. Jim has his tender, protective side, but it takes just the right set of circumstances to bring it to the fore. IMO, the Blair-shoots-someone scenario would *definitely* do it.
The villain in Closet Monsters is Lash's mother, a complex character with disturbing psychological issues. What prompted you to choose her as the villain and paint her as you did? How did her character provide insight into the character of Lash?
Those college psychology courses ruined me. <g> While watching Cypher, the question which kept running through my head was not "Who is the next victim?" but "What created this monster?" The answer came during Jim's interrogation of Lash's father. At the mention of the mother and her treatment of their son, it all clicked for me. Take a child with a psychopathic personality, expose him to abuse, and you just may create a serial killer. David Lash never stood a chance.
In making Ellen Lash an abuser, however, I also had to consider her own past. Such a person would have been on the receiving end of the abuse at some point, and the history I devised was the one most likely to have occurred. Female abuse victims tend to internalize their feelings, often pairing off with husbands/lovers who are abusive, but some also find a way to *externalize* their pain. When this happens, they usually focus their attentions on the most vulnerable and defenseless people within their reach--their own children.
Duck Takes a Holiday was an hilarious answer to a CT Thanksgiving challenge. What inspired this story, and what did you enjoy most about it? >>
LOL! It was Angie Harrison's fault! She issued the challenge, so she bears the responsibility.
To be honest, I have no clue what "inspired" it beyond wanting to write a funny little story for my friends. I think the part I enjoyed most was seeing things from Snow's ("that's a duck") point of view and describing everything as it would appear in her fowlish mind (a Fargo hat-clad Blair is "the furry one with the fuzzy offspring"). And of course, I just *had* to include a warm fuzzy or two. I suppose someday I should force myself to write a story that's completely fuzziless.
Lullaby was this season's Faux Paws Productions' 2nd episode, in which Jim and Blair investigate a case of someone preying on prostitutes in the bad part of Cascade. What inspired the story?
The story was inspired by a real-life lesson in my senior class. The second unit in their literature book mentions the Black Death, and I related to them the history behind the children's rhyme "Ring-Around-the-Rosy." Many were a bit unnerved to discover that the same game they'd played in elementary school was associated with this horrific disease, and this led to a discussion about the true nature of nursery rhymes and fairy tales (the original versions). The idea of a sweet child's rhyme being linked to something dark and deadly stayed with me, and thus Lullaby was born.
Was it very different writing as part of a virtual season team instead of as an independent author?
Writing as part of a team is *vastly* different from working independently. You are bound by the constraints of the group's universe and by previously agreed upon behavioral norms for the characters. On the other hand, you have a wealth of established "fancan" (fanon canon) from which you can build your own fic. I think the success of it depends upon each author's ability to work with others. If you can't relinquish some amount of control, you won't be happy.
Was it easy for you to write Blair as a cop?
Blair as a cop? <eg> Okay, this is where I make a tiny confession. I can't write Blair as a cop. Yes, it's a matter of record that Lullaby is a part of the FPP VS, but if you check carefully you'll see that I never once refer to Blair as a policeman. When I first agreed to write a story for FPP, I was under the mistaken impression that Blair would not be a member of Cascade's finest (police officers, that is). It wasn't until later that I realized I'd made a mistake or things had changed or whatever. The information was enough to bring the story's development to a screeching halt (more on that later). I *tried* to ignore my personal feelings, to just press on and write the story, but I felt as if I was betraying my own soul. Instead, I just worked things around so that Blair was never addressed as a police officer. (Mackie, you're not gonna smack me, are you? <g> )
Did you enjoy writing the secondary characters?
Yes, I did indeed enjoy writing the Megan, Rafe, and Brown scenes. I didn't expect to have as much fun with them as I did, but everything just seemed to fall into place, especially with Megan. She's gutsy and funny and quite likable, so writing for her gives me a chance to thumb my nose at all those wimpy, pathetic, faint-at-the-drop-of-a-hat females that infest old films and books.<g>
The story leaves some unanswered questions, such as whether Schirding really did commit the other murders which he had never been convicted of. Are you planning to fill in the blanks?
If Lullaby seems a bit unfinished, it's because it is, in a way. Earlier I stated that I had stalled out when I realized that the VS intended to portray Blair as a cop. Well, just as I'd figured out how I wanted to deal with it in the story, my life began a downhill spiral. I won't go into all the details, but in a short span of time I lost a family member, things at work kicked into overdrive (12-15 hour days), I was in a car accident and my car was totaled, and I had two surgeries within four months (not related to the crash). As a result, I didn't get Lullaby completed by the original date. Mackie graciously moved the story to the second season, and though it was down to the wire, the story was ready to air as the second episode of the season. However, Lullaby still has a few holes that need filling, and that's something I'm currently working on. When I'm truly satisfied with it, I'll put it up at my site (and offer the revised version to FPP, of course).
If you could change anything about the world of Sentinel fan fiction, what would it be?
Find artists to illustrate all the classic fic stories. <g>
You're also involved in the fandom as one of the listmoms at Cascade Times. What is that like, and what made you choose to be a listmom?
Choose? I had a choice? If I recall correctly, Angie sent me a note which said, "Congratulations! You're a (list) Parent." <G>
No, really, it's a lot of fun. Sure, there are times when things happen and you scratch your head and wonder what the heck you're doing and how the devil you got there, but when all is said and done, I'm right where I want to be. The list is made up of caring, supportive people, and they never cease to amaze me with their devotion to the list and their compassion for others.
How do you deal with writer's block?
If I'm working on a story and I hit a wall, first I get away from it for awhile, then I try freewriting. It liberates the brain and allows your imagination to ramble aimlessly around the countryside. <g> A good book is a haven for a fic-weary brain, also. If all else fails, I force myself to write. I may not be satisfied with what I've written, but I can always go back and change it later.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Time constraints and total mental exhaustion. The only time I have to write is in the evenings and on weekends. By the time I get home from school, I can barely string two thoughts together, let alone write a coherent paragraph. And weekends are used for grading and running errands. ~sigh~ I'd really like to win the lottery. <g>
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Finishing a story and posting it. I feel like imitating that child's voice that can be heard after the X-Files credits roll: "I made this!" It's completed, it's out there, and I hope you like it.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
Well, I would never hold a story hostage to get feedback ("Send me some LoC's or the fic gets it!"), but I do think it encourages authors to write more. It's Psychology 101: ring a bell and the dog salivates; praise a child and good behavior is reinforced; send an LoC and an author will work to produce another story (as time permits).
I don't write *for* feedback--if I have a story to tell, I'm going to tell it--but after spending weeks or months to create a little something which will, I hope, provide readers with a moment of pleasant entertainment, it's nice to know that my efforts are appreciated. I've been blessed in that respect. The letters I've received are treasured, and I print them out and keep them in a scrapbook. It thrills me to know I've brought a smile to someone's face.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Write because the words are waltzing around in your head and dancing from your fingertips, not because you're seeking praise or acceptance.
Don't let others discourage you, but don't close your ears to advice from those with more experience. When the time comes for you to offer words of wisdom, do it with kindness and gentleness, never forgetting there is a human being at the other end of that e-mail. And always remember: betas are our friends. <g>
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
LOL! Honestly? I was a kid, maybe nine or ten years old, and my sister had borrowed a teen magazine from a friend (the kind with topics like "Do You Have What It Takes To Be the Love of Donny's Life?"). There was a story inside featuring the DeFranco family. At the end of that installment, Tony DeFranco was kidnapped. We moved shortly thereafter, so there were no more teen mags and I never found out if Tony was rescued. Has he been seen in recent years? <g>
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
Well, I don't know if it counts, but my freshman creative writing teacher once had the class write a scene for the television series Little House on the Prairie. I was mortified when he chose mine to read aloud to the class, but he liked it so well he kept a copy. We ran into each other about a year ago and he informed me that he continues to use it in class and reads it to his students. He still adores it. I'm still mortified.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
I haven't a clue. It was something by Kris Williams, I think, but I'm at a loss as to which story it was. I *think* it may have been Victims. Once I discovered TS fanfic, I devoured every story I could find, so after awhile the titles seemed to blur.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
I enjoy long, dramatic pieces with equal amounts of h/c, lots of buddy moments, and solid plots. I love humorous pieces, too, and have frequently had to stop reading so I could clean my monitor (the unfortunate recipient of whatever I happen to be drinking when I laugh). I have learned not to eat or drink anything when reading humor fic by either Robyn or Becky. <g>
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
FRIENDSHIP! I'm a confessed friendship/buddy junkie. I suppose it's because the most important relationships in my life (outside of family) are my friendships. There is something special about the love between friends. It isn't bound by a contractual agreement, nor is it based on physical or sexual attraction, yet it often is the most enduring of loves we ever experience. That is a true inspiration!
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths and weaknesses as a series?
Its greatest strengths were actors who made it all seem so real and an original, ingenious story concept.
RB and GM brought Jim and Blair to life for us. In the hands of lesser actors, the chemistry might not have been present and the characters would have been nothing more than the usual cardboard cutouts that are so prevalent in many other television series. BAY was the ribbon and bow, the element needed to make the package perfect.
The story behind The Sentinel was fascinating and full of promise. A man, simultaneously dealing with demons from his past, a chaotic present, and an uncertain future, discovers stability and self actualization thanks to the efforts and knowledge of another, and along the way these two diverse personalities form a bond of friendship. This classic plot, combined with heightened senses and the existence of sentinels, made for the most unique series premise to come along in years.
The Sentinel's greatest weaknesses? The failure of its creators to see beyond the next episode and the network's failure to support the show. Neither party seemed to recognize The Sentinel for the treasure it was, and both allowed it to slip through their fingers.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
LOL! It depends upon the circumstances and my mood. There are times when I'm very Jim (ooh, I've made him into an adjective). My TS friends say that I'm in BP (Blessed Protector) mode, and to an extent I am. I get riled more on the behalf of others than my own. At other times I'm the quintessential Blair. I'm energized, bouncy, and unashamedly inquisitive. In other words, just this side of annoying.
(Angie would like me to point out that when we met in Charleston last April, she was privy to a different kind of Blair-moment...while I was driving at a high rate of speed across the Cooper River Bridge...a *very* narrow bridge...that goes waaaaay up. She kept telling me to look over the side, but I was too busy screaming to appreciate the view.)
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
You want me to name just *one*? Let's see...how about an ep to explain Cassie's sudden disappearance? ;-)
What three specific things would you have liked to see on The Sentinel that we did not see? How about general changes?
I would have liked more solid information about Blair's background. The ambiguity has been a boon for fanfic, and for that I'm grateful, but it would've been nice to have *seen* some of it. The emotional fallout from the father question alone would have made for a riveting episode.
I wish the facts about Jim's time in Peru had been revealed. The crash, the death of his men, his time with the Chopec--it would easily have resulted in a two-part episode. We could have seen Jim's primary emergence as a sentinel (since his abilities seemed a bit limited, then completely suppressed, as a child) in a completely natural environment, along with the accompanying mysticism.
And finally, I wish Jim and Blair's friendship had been explored in greater detail. Blair said it best, "It's about friendship," but too often TPTB lost sight of that simple truth.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
I believe Closet Monsters will stick in people's minds the longest, probably because it continued an idea introduced in Cypher, one of the best loved TS eps.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Well, I'm bound and determined to complete a story I've been working on for *far* too long, a fic about Lyme disease. I haven't decided upon its final title, but it has come to be affectionately known as "Dolly the Deer Tick" (it's Robyn's fault <g>). Also in the works is a Cypher missing scene (Hand), a story which deals with Blair's missing father, and Dreamer, story which has its roots in something rather personal...and mystical.
Last updated 12/18/00 clc