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Discovering The Sentinel meant a welcome return to fan fiction writing for Mackie. An author who started writing fanfic when she was a little girl, Mackie wrote her first TS fanfic, Remote Control, in August of 1997. Mackie's Cascade Library story listing currently includes 45 stories and contains delightful humor and entertaining case-based pieces with plenty of hurt/comfort. Mackie has written Sentinel crossovers with shows including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, and One West Waikiki. Her well-liked Transitions series is a collection of 17 missing scenes and epilogues so far, cataloging the progression of Jim and Blair's friendship beginning with their meeting in Switchman. So far, she's written scenes for all the episodes up to 2nd season's Flight.
Mackie's website, Mackie's Idol Pursuits, houses not only her stories, but the fan fiction of seven other gen Sentinel authors for whom she plays a gracious internet mom. Recently, Mackie also created Faux Paws Productions to organize one of the gen Virtual Fifth Seasons for The Sentinel with a number of other authors. Episodes are being planned for airing in September of this year. This author's other Sentinel obsession is related to collecting Sentinel memorabilia -- everything from pictures to hats to posters. Those fans who attended the first Sentinel convention in Vancouver in 1998 will remember that she was the lucky bidder who purchased Jim Ellison's badge for a hefty price.
When we asked Mackie to do an interview for the Library, she responded by saying, "'Bout all I can say is "I love sexy men--and two in one show makes my hormones boil!" LOL! Mackie's readers will find the rest of her interview is just as entertaining! Thanks for taking time to chat with us, Mackie!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm old. Really old. Most of the things I enjoy doing involve sitting down, so exercise is a real challenge. I have a collection of mystery books to rival most public libraries, and collect rocks (mineral specimen), stamps, television and motion picture memorabilia, kaleidoscopes, and all things penguin and hummingbird.
What else do you enjoy besides writing TS fan fiction?
I enjoy quilting, jewelry making, beading, weaving, and playing with my four dogs (I *had* to get exercise in there somewhere!). And I love reading mystery books, in case you thought I just collected them for their covers or something<g>.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
I loved Richard Burgi on One West Waikiki. The Sentinel added yet another cute guy. What can I say? I'm shallow!
What is your favorite episode and why?
Dunno -- I have likes and dislikes about every episode. Which one I look forward to watching depends on my mood: do I want a taut, well-written story, or am I looking for a little humor, a little angst...?
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
I started Remote Control in August of 1997 after a very long estrangement from fan fiction. At the time, I was writing for my own pleasure and had no plans to let anyone else read it. Jim and Blair simply captivated me, and for the first time in years, I felt like writing a story. In fact, no show since Simon and Simon has involved me to the same degree of obsession as The Sentinel, and it's nice to know there is still a kid inside who actually cares if a show gets cancelled or not!
I was fairly new to the web, but once I stumbled across Guide Posts, I became a very happy reader. The idea of creating my own website was born. The first story I actually posted (to Guide Posts) was an epilog to Prisoner X, Layers of Dark and Light. The instant feedback was a rush, and I've been a feedback junkie ever since.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
Remote Control: Blair in peril, Jim angst, a plot (albeit a shallow one). What more could I ask?
Which story are you most proud of?
Again, Remote Control. Prior to that, my last heavy involvement with fan fiction was in 1985, with only two other stories between then and my Sentinel obsession. It felt good to return to writing.
Which character do you most enjoy writing? Which character is the easiest for you to write?
Are you trying to get me in trouble here? I enjoy writing Jim because he's so clueless when it comes to relationships. Blair is easier for me because he's so spontaneous, so adept at "winging it". Since I don't try for a lot of depth in my stories, this usually works for me. When I try for "meaningful", both characters get a lot more complicated, so I tend to stay away from deeply introspective stories. I prefer just to toss 'em into a situation and see how they cope. This approach can be frustrating if I'm going for angst and the characters insist on being silly. I don't know if I envy or pity writers whose characters don't talk to them, but I suspect I'd miss it, even if the boys are contrary most of the time!
What genre(s) do you most enjoy writing?
If "case stories" is the new term for "could-be-an-episode", then I guess I enjoy case stories the most. I try to inject drama, humor, and smarm into every plot, the amounts varying as the recipe dictates. I love crossovers, but I find them difficult to write because I want to do justice to both universes.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
It was ages before I found the courage to ask for a beta reader. I know my grasp of grammar and punctuation leaves a lot to be desired, but I felt uncomfortable asking anyone to help me. Finally, I worked up the nerve to ask one of my favorite authors, Tate, if she'd ask one of her betas to read one of my stories. Since then, working with Joanne has been painless and enlightening. I've been spoiled rotten by her skillful application of the red pen and attention to detail ("...don't you think Jim should get *dressed* before he rushes out the door?").
Shellie Williams cringes when I call her one of my beta readers, but her eloquent, thoughtful LoC's always distilled the essence of my stories. I began picking her brain *before* posting a story, and everything I've written since has been improved by her insightful comments. A writer couldn't ask for better friends and beta readers!
How do you deal with writer's block?
I can't fight a scene if it refuses to be written. A few times, I've succumbed to desperation to finish a story, and I still cringe when I read the scene(s) I compelled myself to write in order to meet my mental deadline. If I can think sensibly about my writer's block, I simply turn away for a while -- read a book, chat with some non-TS friends (I actually have one or two!), and then read some really good fanfic in an attempt to get back in the mood.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Finding a plot and then seeing the story through to completion. I generally start out with a scene -- it can be from the beginning, the middle, or the end. I'll build more scenes around it and eventually have a story. Bridging all the bits (i.e. creating a *plot*) and giving them continuity and flow are the challenges. Also, I tend to nit-pick my stories to death, changing a word here, a word there. It's hard to make myself say, "It's finished -- live with it!"
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Letting it go, being able to say, "It's finished -- live with it!" If I can re-read one of my stories months later and still feel satisfied with it, then I know I've given it the best I could do.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
I deliberately avoided putting a meter on my page because I didn't want to know how many people were reading my stories. I was determined to write for my own pleasure because I've been in fandom long enough to know every writer will find an audience, even if it's just one other person who loves the idea of Jim and Blair being mermen who live in the warm waters off Tahiti and battle evil, multi-tentacled beasts intent on conquering the ocean realm....(with apologies to any writer who may be contemplating just such an AU!<g>) Lofty intentions aside, I've turned into a feedback junkie. But as much as I love to hear from readers, I have to write the sorts of stories I would also like to read.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Of course! If you "rush the boring bits" to get to the "good bits", your reader will be just as bored. I probably read my stories a dozen or more times as the various parts come together -- if it doesn't still entertain me after numerous read-throughs, I'll put it aside until I can inject some excitement into it. A writer puts her heart and a big dose of ego into her story, and if she's bored with parts of it, just imagine how a reader with no vested interest in the work will react!
Your Transitions series has grown into quite a collection of missing scenes and epilogues for episodes. What inspired you to write these, and do you have a favorite?
The series is sort of a challenge to myself to see if I can find little bits to show a progression in the relationship between Jim and Blair. First season, of course, was the easiest, and I haven't had time to devote the necessary attention to second season to see where it will take me. My favorite is Night Train simply because I'd despaired of finding anything suitable for a transition, and then it just popped into my head, fully developed (I really like it when that happens...saves a lot of sweat and frustration!)
You created an entertaining matriarch with a pinching fetish, Agnes Hargrove, who has appeared in two stories so far. What inspired her, and are you planning on bringing her back soon?
For Sale... is another one of those plotless snippets that popped fully formed into my head. It was my response to an online challenge from Angie Harrison. Agnes pretty much defined herself in the first two bits, and she'll feature again when Blair's "date-from-hell" finally materializes. I guess I just like spunky old broads; I hope to be one someday!
Tell us about your Evolution series and what inspired it.
An easy one! During the long commutes to and from work, I have plenty of time to daydream about The Sentinel (amazing choice of subject, don't you think?) Anyway, I was so disappointed in the character of Steven Ellison that I created an entire AU for Jim's family background. At the time, I wasn't paying much attention to canon, I wasn't going to write the story, and...well, as usual, it just got away from me. There's a third story nearly completed.
You've written crossovers with several TV shows. Which one is your favorite, and do you have plans for sequels for any of them?
My favorite is the One West Waikiki crossover. I suspect Mack and Blair will become reluctant partners again at some point in the future. Hey, call me a heretic, but I really think I like Mack Wolfe more than I like Jim Ellison (Wait! Did I just confess that in public?....Stop that! I don't look good in tar and feathers....)
You have quite a collection of Sentinel items -- tell us about that. Which item is your favorite, and if you could have any item you don't already own, what would it be?
Well, I am trying to create a Sentinel shrine, and it's coming along nicely. The badge [Jim Ellison's police badge] is my favorite (and not just because Richard kissed me *twice* when I bought it!) but because of the rest of the story. I'd had no intention of going to SentinelCon (finding a housesitter willing to live in and care for four dogs...well, you get the picture). When I saw the list of auction items, intentions went out the window. With a flurry of last-minute arrangements, I was on a 4 a.m. shuttle bus to LAX. In my mind, the badge was *mine*. I hadn't attended a fan event in years, and I'd never been to an auction. I still wonder if I set a record sale price (per square inch) for an essentially useless bit of memorabilia! I'd like to get a Jags cap, or at least a clear pattern of the logo, since I have one of those expensive sewing machines that can do rip-offs...er copies...of the original.
Where did the title for your web page, Mackie's Idol Pursuits, come from?
I've always mourned the fact that I've never had a nickname ("Linda" is such a dull-sounding moniker!) In cyberspace, I can be anyone, so I became Mackie, at least whenever I can remember to use it. Idol Pursuits grew out of my fanzine days, when I was Idol Hours Press. It's just kind of a play on words to describe what I do in my "spare" time.
Mackie's Idol Pursuits has grown into a mini-archive for seven other authors' stories. Did you originally envision your page as such, or was it a gradual progression?
The web page grew out of laziness. I live in terror of the beast known as html, and I didn't know how to put the GeoCities guide on my webpage. I took the coward's way out and sent them money so I wouldn't have to do it. That gave me a ton of space. I really admired all the hard work Guide Posts was doing to maintain an archive for writers without a website, so I gradually opened my doors to include a few of my personal favorites (which means I get to read their new stories first, so there's a definite upside!) I hope to continue this practice, but my poor site-sibs have been neglected while I stumble through the mine field of Virtual Season 5, RL, beta work, and my own writing efforts.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
Dunno -- back in the Dark Ages. Fanzines. Something Trek.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
Back in the Dark Ages. It was an extended epilog for Johnny Ringo, a half-hour western in 1959 or 60. After that, I wrote stories about any show that had horses in it. I created complex Mary Sues with Jeremy Bolt and Candy Pruitt, tortured Little Joe, and forced Illya Kuryakin through all sorts of perilous situations. The first piece of fan fic anyone got to read was Trek. Dreadnought Explorations -- the fanzine that would not die. It went through four permutations and is probably still available from one of the zine dealers out there.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
Dunno (I'm cursed with a poor memory). Probably Kris Williams. Probably Rhonda Hallstrom (thanks, Angie, for reminding me of her great stories!). I hold to a conviction that The Sentinel has more excellent fan writers than any other fandom in print or in cyberspace. What an incredible wealth of talent! It's a pleasure to wallow in obsession with you.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
Long, well-written ones with a plot. After that, I'm flexible.
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
Why not ask me the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything? Sheesh! Cute guys, an interesting premise, great characters -- what's not to inspire? Really, if I knew the answer to that, I'd be making money at this writing gig instead of just having fun.
Who is your favorite Sentinel character to write?
Jim is my favorite character to write. He's complex and unpredictable, brave and heroic. He's also my least favorite character to write, because he can be narrow-minded, self-centered and unbelievably selfish. He's human, and that's what makes his character so much fun to explore, although I'm constantly trying to justify why he's sometimes so cruel and cold. I think that's why my Jim is a tad (all right, a *lot*) more fanon than canon. The really good authors fret over the nuances of characterization; I just write from the gut...sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Mostly, it's my interpretation, my personal baggage, my need for the character to behave in a certain way that dictates his behavior.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
IMO as an industry outsider, I've always seen Pet Fly as "concept oriented". They'd come up with an idea, perhaps a pilot with great potential, but then they'd fall flat in their efforts to deliver a weekly series. With The Sentinel, they constantly turned to routine cop plots (what I called BOTW -- *Body* of the Week -- before the "B" became synonymous with "Babe"). Whatever caused this trend in their episodes, they left the most interesting elements of their premise -- sentinel abilities and the unlikely relattionship forged between Jim and Blair -- largely unexplored. I still believe it was fan feedback that lifted them to achieve landmark episodes like Flight and Warriors, season premieres whose promise could not be sustained on a weekly basis.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
Jim -- he's closer to my own age, and I love his social ineptitude. He's clueless about relationships and tends to speak without thinking (who else would comment that a woman's perfume reminded him of his grandmother?) Since I'm pretty much a social klutz, I have great empathy for his foibles.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
I'd like to see a current case involving Jim and Blair reveal all the "repressed" memories of Jim's time in Peru. Repression was a convenient "out" for writers who didn't want to deal with how Jim got his senses, why he forgot about them after Peru (we understand why he repressed them from his childhood -- Remembrance -- but he was an adult in Peru). I think it would take an intense trauma to make him forget so many of his experiences there, and yet we saw him use his senses in the pilot when he was rescued, so he obviously knew he had them then.... Actually, I think I'm getting a glimmer of an idea.
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?
Generally, more exploration of the Sentinel/Guide dynamic. Specifically, Blair accepting himself as Guide (with the capital "G"). Since I am cursed with a poor memory, I don't recall that Blair ever had a shamanistic vision, so it would be fun to see him realize he's just as important to the relationship as the sentinel himself. On the flipside, I'd like to see more of Jim's reaction when he realizes he can't survive this "sentinel thing" alone.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
I haven't a clue. If I base it on feedback, I'd have to say High Rise, which is just ironic enough to be true, since it was my least favorite story to write!
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
I'm trying to come up with an episode for Virtual Season 5. If we don't get some "Jim" writers into the mix, we're going to have a season titled "Blair Sandburg and What's-'is-Name, the Tall Guy". I have an auction story to write. I have one unfinished story that I foolishly posted to my Stories-in-Work page, and about another half-dozen I've wisely decided to complete before posting. A nearly completed crossover with The Crow: Stairway to Heaven beckons my interest, but I've had to shuffle it down in the pile due to more urgent commitments. I have an extended epilog to The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg that I've stubbornly refused even to start, but like my epilog to Sentinel Too part 1, Recovery, it may compel me to write it before anything else (stubborn, unruly muses!)
Thank you all for coming this evening...if you've managed to read this far, you obviously have entirely too much time on your hands!
Note from the CL staff: We have it on very good authority that Linda is *not* as old as she makes it sound. She's spunky, but she has a few more years to go before she fits into the "old broad" category!
Last updated 5/4/03 igr