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Unlike most authors in the fandom, Sheila entered the world of Sentinel fanfic writing through fanzines, publishing her first story, Legends, in the zine Compadres. Since then, she has continued to write many satisfying stories, including crossovers with The Real Ghostbusters and Stargate SG-1. Sheila has become one of the most well-known gen Sentinel fanzine authors, with all of her pieces first published in fanzines and appearing online at later dates. Sheila's Cascade Library listing currently lists 10 stories. Her online stories can be found here at the Cascade Library. Most of her fanzine-published stories are available from Agent With Style.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Sheila!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a social worker with the State of Iowa and have been at my job for over thirty years. I have just moved into a new house and the first thing I set up here was my computer. I've been active in fandom since 1978 and have three main fandoms: The Real Ghostbusters, TS, and Stargate SG-1.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
Writing other fan fiction. Attending cons when I get the chance. Reading (I always have at least one book in the process of being read). I try a little art from time to time. I've edited a few fanzines, mostly RGB, one Quantum Leap. Travel when I can afford it. And spending far too much time on line.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
I was flipping through channels and happened upon a scene in a TS episode. I liked the interchange between Jim and Blair--I am a sucker for 'buddy' shows, so the next week, I made a point of waiting, with a tape in my VCR, and have been a fan ever since.
What is your favorite episode and why?
Blind Man's Bluff. Partly because I love hurt/comfort. The scene with Jim and Blair when Jim talks Blair down from the car hood is a treasure, and earlier in the episode, Blair's constant support of Jim in his blindness is so typical. I also like Flight, The Rig, and many others, but Blind Man's Bluff is the one I show other people to tempt them into the series.
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
My first Sentinel fan story was a crossover with the Real Ghostbusters. I tend to start writing in a lot of fandoms that way. It's a way to explore the characters and still have old familiar ones on hand. I knew I wanted to do TS fanfic after I'd seen an episode or two and started reading online fanfic.
What was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?
My first TS story was Legends, a crossover with The Real Ghostbusters. I didn't post it, I sent it to a zine, Compadres, a multi-media zine. The first story I posted wasn't a TS one and I'd been writing for zines for so long that it just seemed like one more place to submit. Most of the things I've posted have been stories previously zined.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
That's a tough question. I think I'd like to see my novella The Limits of Trust; it's a crossover, but I had fun writing that one. It dealt with issues that I felt were left unresolved after TSbyBS.
Which story are you most proud of?
I assume you mean which TS story. In general, non-TS, I'm proudest of Curses, my RGB/Stargate novella. TS? Well, in TS, I think I'm proudest of Nine and Sixty Ways. I wanted to do a story where Blair wasn't helpless and didn't need to be rescued -- and I'd come upon the quote I used for the title twice in a couple of days, and that popped into my head as something Blair would know. Fun to have Simon recognize it, too.
Which character do you most enjoy writing? Which character is the easiest for you to write? Who is your least favorite?
I most enjoy writing Blair, yet in some ways Jim is easier to write. One of life's little mysteries. I don't know if I have a LEAST favorite, but I do like Blair a little more than I like Jim. I've always been fascinated by characters who are extremely intelligent and who have higher degrees--and Blair was sooo close to having his doctorate. Least favorite character on TS is Cassie. I don't think I've ever had reason to put her in a story, though.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
I like writing hurt/comfort best, with a nice little taste of smarm. Crossovers are great fun, too. I like case stories, too. I like h/c because it's a way to show the characters' friendship and support and bring that out a little more than normal guys can admit in the course of the daily routine, when they think they have to be all macho.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
My main beta reader is Elaine Batterby, who is the editor of a multi-media zine called Our Favorite Things. She is very good at proofreading, and she also notices glitchy, plothole type things and stuff that doesn't make sense. Lucy Carr, who is an excellent writer, often edits my novellas. She's edited many of my novellas and is very thorough and reminds me when I'm only making sense to myself.
Unlike most Sentinel fanfic writers, most of your stories were first published in fanzines. How did you get started in doing this, and how did you discover web publishing for fanfic? How would you compare the two?
I discovered fanfic existed when I read a book called Star Trek Lives by David Gerrold way back in the 70s. The first con I went to had zines and I bought them all. I sent my first stories off in '78, Star Wars stuff. Zines were the only option then. Once I was on line, I happened upon fanfic fairly quickly though there wasn't much of it in the beginning. In a way, I find much of the zine stuff more satisfying; maybe it's just that I like to hold it in my hands and curl up and read. TS fanfic on line is usually great, but I've read stuff in other fandoms that my friend's five year old could outdo.
In Thanks for the Memories, Blair has amnesia. What inspired this story?
Amnesia stories are always fun. I've read stories with amnesia in many fandoms and I was tired of the total forget everything type or the kind where memoriy is restored with a second blow to the head. I wanted Blair to be challenged and learn what was really important, instinctively, even if he couldn't consciously recall it.
Heartsounds is an entertaining drama piece in which Jim doesn't believe Blair is dead when his burned out car is found with a body in it. Did you find this story difficult or easy to write?
I found the Jim parts easier to write than the Blair parts this time around. I'm a sucker for stories where it looks like one of the characters is dead, but I didn't want Jim to accept it without proof. Then there's always the fun of the reunion.
Families is a zine-published novella about a wealthy woman who appears in Cascade, claiming to be Blair's grandmother. What was your favorite part of this story?
Two parts, the moment when Blair and Jim each realize that the other wants their friendship and partnership to continue, and the reunion in the damaged hotel. I wanted Blair to have to face the possibility of change. But as Kitty Woldow once said to me, the shows we like are about characters who have 'chosen' their families. Every fandom I'm active in deals with that concept in one way or another. That's one of the things that drew me to TS.
You have written a crossover series between The Sentinel and Stargate-SG1 (the first of three stories is published online). What inspired this series, and why did you choose Stargate-SG1 for the crossover?
At the time I wrote it, I was enjoying both series. I've thought ever since I started watching SG-1 that Blair would have been a natural with the SGC and I wanted to do a 'what if' that would allow him to interact there. While I adore TS, sometimes I feel the show gives too little attention to Blair's unique skills and abilities, and I wanted to let him shine.
How do you deal with writer's block?
I hate writer's block. I seemed to deal with it all this summer. I tend to have several stories going and if I can't get moving, I'll make myself write at least one paragraph a day in whatever I'm working on. Sometimes it prompts me to keep going. Or else I read fanfic in a totally different fandom and think, how would a concept like that work in TS.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Finding enough time to do it. It's harder for me NOT to be writing. If I don't have at least one story going, I'm very frustrated.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Having concepts come together nicely when I was struggling. Thinking 'of course, that works' when I wasn't sure. Getting a nice new zine with a story of mine in it is a wonderful moment and it's great when I get feedback on an on-line story, but I'd write for myself if that never happened.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
I like good feedback. Even if the person is pointing out a fault in the story, that can help. I prefer a positive, helpful tone to a 'that sucks' attitude, but I'm used to being edited by some of the toughest. Nobody likes to hear bad things about their writing, but unless a writer listens to it, how can she ever improve?
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
My advice to all writers is simply to WRITE. If you have an idea, get it down and save it. You can always polish. My other advice is to read. You can pick up fannish conventions that way and get an idea of proper grammar and punctuation from a well written story. I usually read fanfic in a new fandom before I start writing it, just to get a feel for the universe and also to make sure I'm not covering old ground.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
It was Mind-Sifter, a Classic Trek series that came out in a published book as a collection of zine stories. Blew me away. I wanted to write fanfic from that moment on.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
It was also a Trek one. I've forgotten its name now; it was never published and very rightly so. It was a little too Mary Sue.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
I know it was one of Kristine Williams' earliest ones. I think she was the first TS author I found, and I promptly read everything she had posted at that time.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
I like any Sentinel story that focuses on the friendship element. I like a good case thrown in with it, too. I like hurt/comfort that arises out of the story's plot, rather than simply 'being' the story's plot.
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
The thread of friendship that runs through it all. Blair's smarts, Jim's abilities, Simon's wry humor and tolerance. These are great people, people I'd like to know.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths and weaknesses as a series?
Strengths are the great characters and character interaction, the hints of the mystical which are handled in just the right proportion. For me, the weaknesses were some lame scripts, and the balance that sometimes shifted in such a way that Blair was played down into a mere sidekick.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
With Blair. I like the academic focus with him (I was one of the folks who can't quite see him as a cop), and I like his brilliantly inventive mind.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
I would like to tell a story that found a way for Blair to get his doctorate, still work with Jim, and deal more with the bond between them that we saw when Jim brought Blair back at the fountain. And have plenty of action and adventure.
What three specific things would you have liked to see on The Sentinel that we did not see? How about general changes?
This is a tough one. Let's see. I'd have liked to see more university based episodes, balancing a little more Blair's career with Jim's--and Blair finding a way to get the doctorate, though that would probably have needed another season (yes, another season would have been a VERY GOOD THING). I'd have liked to find out what happened with Jim's mother. And I wouldn't have minded a little more Taggart, Rafe and Brown. General changes: less of the babe of the week thing and more focus on the friendship elements; the episodes that did focus on it always seemed to be winners.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
The one I've gotten the most response on in TS fanfic has been Extraction. Followed closely by The Limits of Trust.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
I just finished up a September 11th Stargate Story, but I'm working on a new TS story that's a crossover with an old series, The Master, in which the brother of a criminal Jim was forced to shoot is using Blair to take revenge on Jim. I've got two novellas coming out at Eclecticon, a Real Ghostbusters one called Little Boy Lost, and a Stargate/RGB crossover sequel to Curses called Keymaster.
Last updated 10/29/01 clc