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Kim joined the Sentinel fandom via internet fan fiction where a Starsky and Hutch fan introduced her to TS. Since then, Kim has written a number of enjoyable stories for The Sentinel, including several popular dramas which she has posted in parts (her most recent work in progress is Space of a Single Breath). She has also been a part of the Faux Paws Productions team and wrote or co-wrote three episodes during their virtual season five. Kim's Cascade Library listing currently includes 10 stories. Her stories are located at Kim's Fanfiction.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kim!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
You know, this is the hardest question on the list, because it forces me to define myself! Well, here's the basics. I'm thirty-three years old, married, no kids, and I'm a full-time pediatrician. I live in a many-times-remodeled 30's bungalow in the beautiful (and wet) Pacific Northwest with the aforementioned husband and three cats (one skinny, one obese and one who's just right).
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
Work sucks up a lot of my time... but when I escape, I try to get outside. I've been designing and fussing with a garden of roses and perennials for the last several years. I love to walk and I ramble all over town on foot when I get the chance. When the weather's too nasty to get outside, I read anything I can get my hands on. Right now I'm on an American History kick, especially Civil War eyewitness accounts and novels based on the war. And I'm always on a science kick; right now it's oceanography and ecology.
I'm a terrible tomboy, and I like to help my husband when he works on the house. I've learned a surprising amount about roofing, wiring, concrete and other previously esoteric subjects. I have absolutely no taste for interior decoration and I refuse to sew anything more complicated than a loose button. But I can cook!
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
I don't watch much TV these days, usually just The X-Files. I'd jumped on the Internet in the fall of 1998 looking for XF fanfic. One day while poking around I ran into some well-written Starsky and Hutch fanfic, a show that I had adored when I was a teenager. Several of the S&H fans were into TS, so I kept wondering about this show that they kept telling me about.
Finally, I got together with a S&H fan who had some old fanzines for sale and happens to live here in the same town (Gloria, see what you started!). We started talking about h/c, and shows new and old, and she kept telling me I had to watch TS! Now, this was February 1999, right before UPN aired the fourth season, and she kept telling me, "They killed Blair! They killed Blair!" I had no idea what she was talking about... but I was curious, and soon started checking out the fanfic.
I didn't actually watch an ep until, oh, April 1999 or something like that. I was too embarrassed and thought my husband would make fun of the show. Actually, he loves it, and has sat and faithfully watched through all of the tapes with me.
What is your favorite episode and why?
Depends on what sort of mood I'm in. For humor and good Jim/Blair interactions, I adore Spare Parts. The scenes with Naomi always calling Blair on someone else's phone, Jim's reaction to Naomi in the loft... it just cracks me up. And that "esophagus" tag-line!
I also love The Sentinel By Blair Sandburg. I realize that it's an extremely controversial episode, but I think that its drama is unparalleled. You have to remember that I was still a very new fan when it aired; I hadn't invested three years watching Blair be a grad student. To me, it made sense that Blair would eventually become a cop.
Most of the reviews and comments on TSbyBS raged around the "Blair-as-a-cop" debate, but there was so much more to that episode. It's a wonderful demonstration of how characters' actions must have some balance to them, and how even the most seemingly innocuous action may have a terrible effect on someone's life. First, there's Blair, who in his naivete leaves his dissertation unprotected on the laptop. Then, along comes Naomi, who plays the trickster, the random element, the Puck. We would never believe in a Blair who would go so far as to willingly betray Jim's secret to a sleazeball like Sid, so Naomi has to play that role.
Then, of course, we have Jim's painful, confused reaction, his barely suppressed anger... I love it when Jim gets all tight-lipped. And, of course, we have Blair making the archetypal Difficult Choice, which proves to be both sad and somehow victorious. Very bittersweet. Anything that you'd find in a proper Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, it's right there in that episode.
Not to mention that there's no BOTW, no obligatory car/boat/motorcycle/horseback chase, and a truly creepy bad guy.
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've always written bits of this and that. When my best friend and I were little, we used to play-act all sorts of things from books we'd read: C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series, things like that. When Star Wars came out we went absolutely nuts over that and Shari started writing one long continuous volume of Star Wars fanfic, with occasional input from me. Later I started fanfic for Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, although I never finished anything. In high school I wrote stories, both original and fanfic, though I never showed most of it to anyone. My friend actually went on to become a professional writer.
I think that I began thinking about possible story lines as soon as I started reading TS fanfic. The first story that I outlined, I never actually wrote, and it's a good thing. It was truly awful and would have been rightfully flamed down... although it was a bit prophetic, as it deals with Blair cheating on a college project and getting caught. First-season sort of setting, I recall. Maybe someday I'll whip it into shape and write it anyway.
Justifiable Means was my first TS fanfic. I'd been writing some shorter pieces for the Starsky and Hutch fans, so I wasn't new to writing fanfic. I started Justifiable Means... um, when? Sometime in the spring of '99. I think I finished it at the end of May, and it was posted in installments on Senfic. I was a bit sneaky... I tried to just casually step up with that story as if I'd been there a long time. I was worried that if I mentioned that it was my first TS fanfic that everyone would have just snorted and hit the "delete" button... especially if they knew how few episodes I'd actually seen when I started it (about four, I think. Gulp).
Posting Justifiable Means was a rush. I received some truly heart-lifting feedback while writing that story. It was an amazing, heady experience for me.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
Bad Desire would be my choice for that. I tried hard to make it feel like a real episode, within the limitations of the written medium. I also tried hard to make it be as Jim-centric as possible, as I felt we hadn't been giving him enough attention.
And while it does have a bona fide bad guy, I had fun creating a bit of a surprise ending for the story. Although some of the e-mail I got on that one suggested that it wasn't as much of a surprise as I had hoped. There's a fine line between laying the groundwork and proper foreshadowing, and giving away the game entirely. I think that's one of my biggest struggles as a writer: should I drop broad hints, or just sneak up on the readers?
Which story are you most proud of?
I'd have to say Justifiable Means. Not so much for the story line, which still doesn't seem all that original to me, but for the writing itself. Never have I had so much fun with words! It's still the story I get the most comments on from readers, so I think it struck a note with people. I particularly loved writing the little scene where Blair wakes up with a hangover and wonders what it would be like for a Sentinel to have a hangover. And, when I wrote the ending I had just done a police ride-along a couple of weeks before, and I learned some things that night that helped add some authenticity.
By the same token, I almost feel as if I can't take a lot of credit for that story. It was an amazingly effortless writing experience; the words just bubbled forth from somewhere and all I had to do was supply direction. When I re-read it, I just sit back and shake my head and say, "I wrote this? I wasn't just channeling for Hunk-Ra or something?"
Which character do you most enjoy writing?
Ooh, this is a toughie. Blair, in the first person, when he's making observations about Jim.
Which character is the easiest for you to write?
I'm much more Jim-like than Blair-like, but I definitely find that Blair is easier to write. He's very mercurial and flexible, and can really be a thousand different people rolled up into one. With that sort of personality to work with, a writer can have a character do or say almost anything and it will still feel in character.
I think Jim is more difficult to write. His personality runs between narrower boundaries, and it's much easier to get into trouble with him. And everyone has a different perception of Jim. I'd send off an installment of one of my serials and get back feedback saying, "You made him too mean!" at the same time I'd get feedback saying, "You made him too nice!" I just grin and write him the way it feels right to me.
Who is your least favorite?
I don't really have a least favorite. I haven't tended to do very much with the supporting characters yet, although I enjoyed giving Megan a feature role in Bad Desire. I'm also not big on truly amoral villains; I prefer someone who has some grey areas and made some wrong decisions when I need an antagonist.
What genre do you enjoy writing the most?
Drama, definitely. And case stories. While I enjoy humor and smarm, I don't think I write those two genres particularly well in their pure form. I can write a drama with scenes that contain humor and smarm and make it work, though. Writing Sentinel Cordon Bleu, which was very tongue-in-cheek, was really tough for me.
Periodically, on Senfic and elsewhere, I like to harp on the differences between drama and melodrama. In a drama (read: tragedy, in the Greek or Elizabethan sense) the protagonist gets into trouble because of some fault or decision of his or her own, whether conscious or subconscious. At the same time, the protagonist must remind us enough of ourselves that we can relate to the character. In a melodrama (and a good melodrama can be spellbinding, don't get me wrong) things just go wrong even though the protagonist hasn't screwed up. You pretty much have to have a nasty villain or an accident or a force or nature for melodrama, but drama can ensue as long as you have one or more strong and complex characters. So, for TS I think you can have drama even without a criminal or a case if you can come up with a good conflict for Jim and Blair.
I doubt I'll ever do crossovers, simply because I'm not familiar with a lot of different fandoms. And I personally don't think TS lends itself easily to crossovers; the guys don't have a lot of reason to go haring about the country meeting up with other characters. I've read a few that I have enjoyed, though, especially Lois Balzer's No Center Line. She crosses the boys with Nash Bridges and Millenium in that one, and I enjoyed it so much I even watched a few eps of Nash Bridges.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
I don't really use a true beta reader for my own pieces. Since I usually post in serial, I just proofread each section as it goes off, and Shycat takes a look at it for typos before she posts it. I'm too much of a control freak to let anyone in on the plot outline! I do get a lot of helpful feedback on my serials, and have often taken reader comments into consideration for future installments.
For FPP Virtual Eps, Mackie has generally performed as my beta 'cause no one else can put up with me. ~grin~ I think that for next year's virtual season, I will recruit a regular beta.
I do have a couple of undercover critics out there who send me pure, unfiltered, no-holds-barred evaluations of my stories who would make spectacular beta readers if I ever got around to asking them.
Justifiable Means explores some issues from Blair's childhood and how he and Jim deal with Blair's history of being abused as a child. Was this story difficult to write?
Yes, at times. As a pediatrician I'm occasionally called on to evaluate and examine children who are possible victims of sexual abuse. Most of the time I can be objective and keep my feelings distant; sometimes it's pretty tough. A couple of years ago I saw a teenager who just about broke my heart: she had been a victim for about two years before finally coming forward. Why did she wait so long? She knew her life would never be the same, that she'd end up leaving her home, changing schools... it was easier to just pretend everything was okay.
What I really wanted to show with Justifiable Means was the incredible resiliency of some of these kids. No, Blair doesn't come off like an adult who was an abused child... but neither do some of the kids I've met, or for that matter some of the adults that I've met who have told me their own stories. There are factors in a child's life which can cause him or her to be more or less damaged by stressors, and Blair would have had a lot going for him.
I think that one of the controversial aspects to this story has to do with Naomi: the fans that really like Naomi have a hard time seeing her as a mom that could have allowed anything that dreadful to happen to Blair. To that, I can only answer that a woman can be a wonderful mother yet still be unaware of everything that's happening to her child. And in our society, women are sometimes forced into less than optimal choices to avoid poverty.
Strong Enough to Be Your Friend and its sequel, And Time Will Wash Me Clean, deal with Jim having trouble with his senses. How do you think these stories explored Jim and Blair's friendship and their relationship as sentinel and guide?
I was just starting my tragic-drama kick when I came up with Strong Enough. This was a very calculated story, in a number of ways. I wanted to make Jim screw up big time, and I wanted the story to explore the scientific nature of his enhanced senses.
For the screw-up portion, I borrowed heavily from an excellent science fiction author by the name of Lois McMaster Bujold. She has this great manic-genius character who tends to think he's invincible and that he can justify his actions by the greater good he's able to accomplish. In one of her novels, he ignores a serious medical condition that he should have reported, and his negligence results in the serious injury of one of his compatriots. He attempts to cover the whole thing up and it just gets worse. So, I tried to throw Jim into a parallel situation.
While Jim is the one who screws up, Blair has to make some difficult choices concerning his own loyalties. I see him as someone who feels himself to be primarily loyal to a person (i.e. Jim) rather than a cause or an institution... but he's matured a lot during his time with the Cascade PD and picked up some of Jim's and Simon's ideas concerning service to the community. So he's got a major conflict.
I didn't do a whole lot with the Sentinel-guide thing. I'm more comfortable with the idea that Jim's senses are a genetic, scientifically explainable phenomenon (can you tell that Scully is my favorite on The X-Files?), and I tend to write Blair as a social scientist rather than a shaman. In Time, Blair operates a little more on instinct than he does in Strong Enough, but I didn't really explore that as much as I could have.
In Stormy Skies, Jim and Blair have trouble with miscommunication. What inspired this story?
Last summer, my husband and his business partner took a construction job in the Los Angeles area for about eight weeks. Since Mike and I live in Oregon, this was hard for us. I flew down twice to see him (the first time, I got to go meet Becky, too!) and the second time I took along my husband's partner's wife as well. She'd never flown before, and the idea was that I would escort her down and back on the plane so she wouldn't be too nervous.
Well, she and I had fun on the way down, and we both had nice weekends with our husbands (and Mike and I ate way too much good Italian food). Just before the guys were supposed to go take us to the airport for the return flight, they (the men) got into an argument over some financial thing. They were both rather tight-lipped and angry about the whole thing, and as a result we were all late getting to the airport. The thunderstorm, and Teresa and I not getting to sit together, happened as it did in the story. Even though it was our husbands that were ticked off at each other, I kept staring at the back of her head on the plane and wondering whether she was going to speak to me on the ride home from the airport.
I'd say that Jim and Blair's behavior in Stormy Skies is meant to be representative of the communication problems that we can all have at times. Oh, and the lady on the plane was inspired by my own chemistry professor.
You wrote three entertaining stories for the FPP virtual fifth season. Do you have a favorite?
Bad Desire, because I felt I had the time to massage it into the story I wanted. It was designed as a put-it-anywhere-in-the-season filler to have on hand if we needed an extra, so I had lots of time to work on it. I never got much feedback on that one, though, so maybe it didn't really strike much of a chord with the TS fans.
I did have a ton of fun working on Hallowed Halls with DawnC. We wrote that puppy in about two weeks, working like maniacs, and it was often a hilarious experience. Dawn likes conflict, and she'd get the guys all stirred up and getting snarky with each other, then boom! I'd take over the scene and try to play counselor, get them to behave! I am proud of some of the scenes in that one... but it ended up generating so much controversy that I guess I have mixed feelings about it now. Having Blair go ahead with the academy was daring enough, but we explored some territory involving Jim and his guilt that ruffled some feathers.
The funny thing is, Dawn and I could read the same scene that we'd written and get different reactions. She'd think Blair was justified in doing or saying something, and I'd think he was being a brat... but we both would think it was a good interpretation of the guys, and that it worked. At any rate, no one accused us of being boring, which for me is the Deadliest FanFic Sin.
What was it like writing episodes for the VS5?
Very, very difficult for me, at first... but by the same token, it was very good for me. I'm not as a rule someone who works well in groups; I tend to avoid meeting and committees unless I'm getting to run the show.
Mackie's done an amazing job. She has more patience and tact in her littlest fingernail than I have in my entire body. She's put up with all sorts of BS from me: whining, private rants, opinionated remarks... but she hasn't fired me yet.
While some of the writers doing the virtual season episodes have been veterans, others have been relative newcomers. I can only marvel at the gutsiness required to launch a maiden writing effort in a venue that receives so much attention. My hat is off to all of you!
Continuity is definitely a challenge. I have enough trouble keeping track of my own ideas, let alone everyone else's. And it will only get harder next year. Thankfully, wiser heads than mine are keeping an eye on this.
Your writing style is primarily the first person point of view. Also, in your current work in progress, Space of a Single Breath, you alternate between Jim and Blair first person. What made you choose the first-person POV in your stories and what are its advantages and challenges?
I chose the first person present tense style for two reasons. First of all, that is a style which I myself enjoy reading. When I first began writing fanfic, I had just read a great novel call The Ultimate Rush which is written entirely in FPPT, and it was fresh in my mind.
I had struggled with keeping my point-of-view straight while writing fanfic for the S&H fandom, and writing in first person seemed to be a sneaky way out of having to deal with the whole POV issue. The more I've written in that style, the more addictive it's become. So my first two long serials were written in FPPT, Blair's POV.
For And Time... I switched to Jim's POV. That was definitely harder, but a great exercise for me. As you said, I'm currently alternating between the two of them for Space of a Single Breath. I'm doing this mainly for variety, but I also am making a conscious effort to develop Jim more as a character.
Your longer pieces have been posted in serial. What are the challenges of serial writing and posting?
I love to write in serial. It's a rush, even if it is a bit scary. I suppose the biggest challenge is simply keeping all of the details straight as the story gets longer. I had a near-disaster with Strong Enough: there's a part where I intended to have Jim, Blair and Rafe standing on the stairway in a suspect's house, and the stairway was key to the plot. Then, for some reason, I decided that the suspect lived in a trailer! Hello! I didn't realize this until after I sent out that installment, so I had to make some fast changes in the plot.
Sometimes, the focus of the story changes as I go. That also happened in Strong Enough. I originally conceived of it ending one way, then I decided that what I had been planning to do just wasn't workable and would be no fun to write. So I lightened the ending a little (yes, it would have been much, much darker).
Do you always plan how the story will turn out from the beginning, or do you simply write as you go?
At first, I started with only the vaguest notion: just a two-or-three sentence summary in my mind of where the plot was headed. Each time, I've gotten a little more organized. Working for FPP, I've had to submit detailed outlines for perusal, and that practice has become usual for me now. I don't hesitate to change minor or major details, though, if they just don't seem to work.
Do you think your job as a physician affects the way you write or the story content you choose?
Well, it certainly affects the amount of time I have available for writing! Strong Enough was a fairly blatant medical story, and so is Space of a Single Breath. But I've found my medical knowledge to be a handy thing in some of the other projects as well.
I do see myself as a scientist, and I can't write something that doesn't make scientific sense to me. I'm really unable to write about visions or the supernatural, despite my own fervent religious beliefs. Space of... was supposed to originally be full of shamanic visions, but I just couldn't do it even at the outline stage. I kept cracking up with laughter at the idea of some of the scenes I was proposing.
What do you do when your muse takes a vacation?
I go to the office! Seriously, there is something about being at a place where I am not supposed to be thinking about writing that wakes up my muse. Other places that my muse has decided to go bananas at include church or during long meetings.
Most of Justifiable Means was written on the back of scratch paper at the office last spring. I'd sit down between patients, when it was slow, and write furiously. Then I'd jump up and shove the manuscript under a chart or something! I lived in fear that someone would rummage around on my desk and discover my secret!
Generally, if I have writer's block I try to do something that empties my mind, such as housework (the idea for Strong Enough came to me while I was mopping the floor) or going on a nice long walk. My mind can't stand to be empty for long, so usually something useful percolates out eventually.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Finding the time to do it, when I'm in the right kind of mood. When I've been very busy with work, there's no energy left to give to a creative effort. I didn't write much from January to March this year.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Going back weeks or months later and reading my own stories, and realizing that I still enjoy them.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
Love it! Who doesn't? I consider myself privileged, as I said earlier, to have a few readers who send me truly objective and critical feedback. I've learned so much from them. And there have been those who sent me encouraging words early on, when I needed them most... you are golden, and your words will live forever in my heart.
I do think that if a writer says that she is open to all feedback, then she needs to grit her teeth and read it, favorable or unfavorable... and take it seriously.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Read. Read a lot. And not just fanfic... read published fiction and literature, and nonfiction that you find interesting. I spend far more time reading than I do writing, and every book I read gives me new words to use, new ways of phrasing the same ideas. I've been told that I have a very fluent or smooth writing style, and I can only give credit to the many, many books that I've read.
And stay away from the television. That's ironic, since a TV show brought us all together. But we all have only so much time in a day. If you spend four hours a day watching TV, when are you going to read, and write, and live? I watch less than an hour of TV a week, plus the occasional re-watching of TS eps on tape.
Live life to the fullest and seek out new experiences. Try your hand at, oh, I don't know, fly-fishing or something. And go on a police ride-along if your local PD makes that opportunity available. Collect funny stories, especially if they're true. Find a good pub to hang out in and practice telling those stories to the waitpersons. Travel, and take notes on what you find.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
Any fanfic? Strictly speaking, some ST:OS stuff that came out in a collection when I was a teenager. Net fic? Some XF story, don't remember.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
A Starsky and Hutch piece called Over the Edge.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
Kate Fitzsimons sent me all of her stories one night after I asked her about TS on one of the S&H lists. She also sent me the URL to Robyn's New Fan page, and I was off and running to the "Best of TS Fanfic on the Web" page. From there I fell in love with Lois Balzer's stories and the whole gang at Wolfpup's and Idol Pursuits. I didn't come up for air for days.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
Drama, with a real plot, a little suspense, and judicious amounts of smarm. I'm a sucker for other first-person writers as well.
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
Inspires? Such a lofty term!!
I think it's really just the guys and the way they portray the characters. The acting is superb and I get little chills sometime just watching them.
I'm always telling people on the lists that my husband is incredibly Blair-like (even down to the hair, though he's much taller) and so I find myself using him as an inspiration when I write Blair. And I tend to relate to Jim somewhat; if I need to know how Jim would respond to a situation I can often put myself in that same situation mentally and see what happens.
I'm also fascinated with the whole sentinel bit. Every time I examine a patient, I keep thinking how much easier it would be if I had super-senses. No heart murmur would hide from me! I could diagnose pneumonia from across the room. Robyn, do you find yourself thinking this as well?
[Robyn giggles - Yep!]
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
Strengths? The actors, the wonderful Vancouver setting, the haunting theme music, and the unique premise. Weaknesses? Car chases, horse chases, foot chases, motorcycle chases... even my husband thought those were stupid. And the really bad blue-screening in a few eps. And some of the BOTW were awful.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
Oh, let see: I'm closemouthed, opinionated, stubborn, emotionally restricted, socially clueless, tactless on occasion, and hate to repeat myself. Sounds like Jim to me.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
No idea. Something involving an internal struggle, with one of the guys facing a loss of self-respect instead of just physical danger. Actually, a modified form of Strong Enough might make a good ep.
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?
I'd settle for one more good hug. Beyond that, no real opinion.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
Probably Justifiable Means.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Well, gotta finish this serial. Then, FPP will be cranking up Virtual Season Six and I've got several outlines in the works for that. Can't give away too many details, lest Mackie come after me with her eels.
After that, who knows? I'd like to try my hand at an AU in a historical setting, maybe American Civil War.
Last updated 5/22/00 clc