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Jess Riley has come to the forefront of TS fandom with both canon oriented stories and rich AU themes. Endorsements have come along in the form of two consecutive LMFA awards for best 'Classic Author' in 2007 and 'Outstanding Author' in 2008. The Cascade Library is happy to host a brief conversation with this popular writer to see what happened after that first, tentative application of pen to paper for these purposes.
Thank you for taking the time to share your writing experiences with our readers. Cascade Library has listings for many of your stories at your author page here (archivist's note: author email found at author's page.)
I. Who are you?
Do you use a pen name? If so, why, and how did you decide on the one you use? Do you have more than one pen name?
Jess Riley is the only name I write under; it comes from a mixture of family names.
Would you tell us where you live?
As the saying goes, 'beautiful one day, perfect the next', which in Australia means I live in Queensland.
Would you tell us a little about your life?
I live with my husband, two kids, two dogs, one cat, and numerous fish on an acreage property in the bush. We live close enough to our neighbours to be neighbourly but far enough away to enjoy the peace and quiet of a rural lifestyle. I'd also like to have an alpaca or a donkey, but oddly enough seem to be getting a lot of resistance to the idea. Can't imagine why!
II. When and how did you become a TS fan?
When did you first see or hear about The Sentinel?
I stumbled across The Sentinel reading an SG1/TS crossover. I can't remember the title of the story, but was intrigued enough by the relationship between Jim and Blair to go in search of more.
Why did you decide to write fan fiction about these characters?
I decided to start writing because I couldn't seem to find a story that covered a particular theme I wanted to read about, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and give it a go myself. I'd never really written anything before, so it was a huge step, but one I'm glad I took. I've met some amazing people in this fandom.
What do you think the readership finds most interesting in gen TS fiction?
"You can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends." Perhaps it's as simple as that. Blair and Jim choose to share their dreams, their hopes and even their secrets with each other, and I think being part of such a close friendship is an idea that appeals to a lot of us.
What do you appreciate most when you read TS fiction?
I'm happy reading all kinds of genres, but what I appreciate most are stories that stay true to Jim and Blair's characters, no matter what type of situation they're put in.
III. About being a writer ...?
Why do you write?
Because if I don't get the stories out of my head and onto paper my brain would probably go into meltdown.
What was the first story you wrote, and how did it feel to first place it into the public eye?
My first story was "Home for Christmas", and I was terrified. (Probably still have the bruises from where my knees knocked together!) Luckily for me, I met StarWatcher, who very kindly took me under her wing and has been guiding me through the writing maze ever since.
Do you write in other fandoms besides TS?
I am dabbling in a SPN story but am finding writing in a fandom that is still airing quite a challenge. The boundaries keep changing on me every week, and my writing is not that fast!
What do you think/hope readers most appreciate in your stories?
I can only go by what I've been told, but I have been told that my stories are fairly visual, in that the reader can 'see' the story unfolding and often feel the characters emotions. If that's true, I'd be pretty happy.
How do you decide whether to write in a first person POV or third person as a narrator?
It really depends on the story I'm trying to tell. I have written a couple of first person POV stories, but they tend to be short, introspective pieces. Longer, plot-based stories I find easier to tell from a third person POV.
Have you ever had a writing coach?
No, but when my life starts to slow down, work-wise, I'd really love to take a creative writing class or two.
Do you work with a beta? Why or why not? What is your process for determining when your story is ready for posting?
I work with two beta's and sometimes even three. Since my stories are normally long and involved, I find the input of beta's invaluable. They certainly help me iron out the rough edges and make sure I don't leave too many plot holes. After that the story usually sits on my computer for a week or so. Once I've got it out of my system, I give it a last read through and then send it off to be posted.
What genres of TS fiction are you most comfortable writing, choosing from canon, AU, case and action, drama, humor, horror, slice of life, hurt/comfort? Why?
This really depends on what kind of mood I'm in, but I've dabbled in all of the above except really humour. One day I just might feel funny enough. ::grin::
Which among your own works is your favorite and why?
I don't know if favourite is the right word, but "The Test" was definitely my most challenging. It made me confront issues which deeply disturb me and writing Robert Wilder, who was such a dark character was also a difficult task at times. Many scenes took me way out my comfort zone, but looking back I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing.
Which of your stories are you less positive about, why?
Probably "Forever". It's a story I decided to take off line a while back and I'm now in the process of re-writing it. The story confronts some difficult issues and this time I'm looking at it from a not so obvious, one sided perspective. So far it seems to be going okay and I'm personally more satisfied with the results.
Is there a genre you would like to write as a way of stretching your wings as a fanfic author? Is there a type of story or specific plot that you wish you could write, but feel is beyond you? Do you think more time and/or practice in writing would allow you to tackle your dream project?
I would love to write an historical based piece, but that takes a lot of research and, at this point in my life, time is my main enemy. I have a story pretty much plotted out, but it's on the back burner until life slows down a little.
Do you create OCs and how do you use them? Do you find creating an OC challenging?
I love creating OCs. I get to start with a completely clean slate and develop a character that hasn't been restricted or limited by canon. I get to give them traits and a personality of their own, decide what they look like, as well as create a history for them. I also love to be able to weave my OCs into Jim and Blair's life and make them a real part of the story, not just a bit player.
How do you feel about feedback and concrit from your readers?
I cherish all feedback and have been amazed at times how generous it can be. While I'd still write if I didn't receive any feedback, it's nice when you hear that something you've written has managed to touch someone else, even if only in a small way. I also value concrit and I find it interesting to hear differing opinions, especially when the one story can be interpreted in different ways.
You've been rewriting some of your stories. Why? What was it about the original story that made you decide it had to be significantly revised?
When I first started writing I hadn't actually seen an episode of the series and my only view of the characters came from reading fanfiction. Once I finally got to see the show my perception Jim and Blair changed and became vastly different from how I'd portrayed them in my earlier stories. (And, quite honestly, how I'd written Blair in particular was driving me nuts. Being the serial fixer that I am, I have to fix it.) Blair's character is stronger and more capable than I'd originally given him credit for, and Jim certainly wasn't as one-sided as I'd perceived him to be. Seeing the series opened my eyes up to a new way of looking at them both.
You have a real knack for capturing the warmth of the friendship between these two guys. What's your secret to writing such great TS smarm?
This is a tough one and I'm not sure there is any great secret. I just tend to put myself in their shoes and try and keep their reactions and emotions as true as possible. It also helps immensely that the writers of the show gave us a solid foundation to work with and, even though they threw in a few major hiccups, the friendship was still there at the end of the series. The beauty of writing Jim and Blair is that you can show a very tightly-bonded, cohesive friendship or you can reveal all their warts and flaws and still not stray too far away from canon. I guess if I did have one secret it's to make sure that, no matter what I put them through, their friendship always remains intact.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Two suggestions, for what it's worth. ::grin:: Number one is to write from your heart. It's easy to shy away from story lines and subjects that might evoke controversy, but if it's a story you really want to tell, then you have to tell it, even if it ends up being just for yourself.
Second, never stop learning. Being content with your writing is a nice place to be, but it can also be a bit of a trap. I think it's important to keep pushing yourself, even if it does take you out of your comfort zone. Whether you try your hand at humor, case-driven stories, darker themes or experiment with different POVs, I feel it's important to at least attempt something a little different every once in a while.
With such a fondness for new challenges, I guess we can look forward to more of your stories in the future. Thanks, Jess!
Last updated 3/31/09 igr