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Hi Swellison!

Section I. Who are you?

Your stories are listed under the name of Sue W--- and Swellison.  How did you come to use two different names?

I've been in fandom a long time, and I started out as a zine writer, using my own name. I kept using it when I finally got online in 1997. When I got laid off in 2003, I decided that I needed a disconnect between my fan life and my work life, so I created a pseudonym, Swellison – my initials and ellison, identifying myself loud and clear as a Jimbabe.

Would you tell us where you live?

I live in Houston, Texas.

What work, volunteer or paid, do you do? Do you have any pro-fic writing experience or aspirations?

I'm a seismic data processor, in other words, a middleman in the oil business. My fannish activities include being part of the Revelcon ConComm. Revelcon .is a multi-media fan convention in Houston in March. Most of the ConComm are Sentinel fans, so there's always a Sentinel panel or two, and other Sentinel fans around for talking about the guys.

I've wanted to be a writer since I was ten. I thought I'd be a librarian and write the Great American Novel on the side. As with Blair, things didn't turn out the way I thought they would, maybe I'll write that novel when I'm retired. In the meantime, I satisfy my creative urges through writing fanfic.

Section II. When and how did you become a TS fan?

When did you first see or hear about The Sentinel?

I remember a couple of my friends tried to get me to watch The Sentinel when it first came on, but I wasn't interested because, from the title, I thought it was a lone hero show like Stingray, and I preferred partnership shows. (Talk about your first impressions being off-base!) My friend Jennifer showed me 'The Debt" and then asked if I wanted to see more. I did, and was well and truly hooked by the first episode of the second season ("Flight").

Why did you decide to write fan fiction about these characters? Had you read other authors and stories that introduced you to the series and/or fan fiction?

My friend Christy loaned me her notebooks of Kristine Williams' TS stories, which she printed off from the net and whetted my appetite for TS fanfic. For a few months after that, if I was visiting a fan friend who had a computer, I'd usurp their pc and read fanfic. Finally, I broke down and bought my own computer in the summer of 1997, so The Sentinel is the reason I went online. Once online, I hung out at Guide Posts, reading—and my first TS fic was a response to their non-owie smarm challenge, Here and There. I just kept writing, after that.

What do you think the readership finds most interesting in gen TS fiction?

I think the main draw in TS fiction is the relationship between the two core characters, especially the Sentinel/Guide part of it, and how it affects both men and their world views. Plus, The Sentinel is one of the few television shows where the viewers get to see the partnership develop from Day One. So, the reader starts with an almost proprietary interest in making this fledgling partnership work out, and a willingness to explore the ups and downs of such a developing partnership through the fanfic.

What do you appreciate most when you read TS fiction? Who are your favorite gen TS authors and why?

When I read TS fanfic, I want to wrap the story around me, and be drawn completely into the Cascade Universe. I also want to read a story with more than perfunctory use of Jim's senses; Jim's Sentinel abilities are unique and I love stories that are senses-heavy. My favorite authors are a lot of the old standbys, who truly capture the 'feel' of the show for me: Kristine Williams, TAE, D.L. Witherspoon, Jael Lyn, Crowswork, Debbie Pack, Kim Heggen, Robyn and Becky, Mackie, Laura Picken and Gil Hale. I also love well-done, in character humor, so Hephaistos, Besterette, Lila Kulp and Johanna Fally are favorites, too.

How did you become involved in the Faux Paws Productions stories?

Well, I sort of misinterpreted a posting and barged into Mackie's fanfic site, unannounced. Fortunately, she liked my stories and agreed to host my fiction, anyway. So, when she and Hephaistos decided to launch the Faux Paws Virtual Season, I wanted to contribute, but I couldn't think of story with a complex enough case plot. Then I went to Media West, and the in-flight magazine had a lengthy article on windsurfing in the Hood River Gorge. That started me plotting, and after further research, I subbed a plot outline for Windshift, which appeared in FPP's Fifth Season. A large Peruvian emerald in the gem collection at Houston's museum and my college lab memories became the impetus for Fire and Ice, my Sixth Season story.     

Section III. About being a writer ...?

Why do you write?

I believe everyone needs a creative outlet in their life, and mine is writing. I write because I can't not write. I can get bogged down in the earlier phases of the writing process – plotting and research – for months before I write anything down, and I procrastinate fiercely while writing, but I'm always somewhere in the process, if not actively in front of the keyboard.

What was the first story you wrote, and how did it feel to first place it into the public eye? Do you write in other fandoms besides TS?

My first few stories were (classic) Star Trek stories, published in zines long out of print. Then I moved on to Simon & Simon, Alias Smith & Jones, Blake's 7 and (gen) The Professionals – all partnership shows. With zine stories, the nervous period is the time between submitting the story to the editor and hearing back from them, saying they accepted or rejected the story for publication, so it's a private worrying/waiting period. My first TS story was also my first story posted online, Here and There. I wasn't worried about posting the story, because I'd been writing fanfic for over a decade by then, but I was anxious to read the reviews, because everyone has their own perception of the characters. I was new to the fandom; I wanted to know how close to the mark I was in portraying Jim, Blair and the Cascade Universe.  

Most of my current writing is Supernatural, which I tell friends is the best partnership show since The Sentinel. My three main fandoms have been The Professionals, The Sentinel and Supernatural. My Sentinel and most of my Pros stories are posted at Mackie's Idol Pursuits, and I post my Supernatural stories at and Supernaturalville, still under Swellison.  

Your story, “Blessed Protector” receives frequent recommendations for its originality as a Blair!Birthday fic. Do you do a lot of research for your stories as you did in this one?

I research all my stories, although the level of research varies. A missing scene story's research could be just rewatching the episode a few times and jotting down the relevant details – who's wearing what, time of day, location for the scene, etc.. Longer stories are more involved, and therefore require more research.  For Blessed Protector, I found a bargain book about the metaphysical properties of rocks and gemstones and snatched that up, as well as checking out a few online New Age sites. I made up the airline, so I could route the plane wherever I wanted to, but I did look at road maps of Washington to pinpoint the location of the car accident. I found a fan who was also a dispatcher on Cascade Library's beta list and I badgered my friend Laura, who's a nurse, with all sorts of medical questions to get the injuries and hospital scenes right.  

What do you think/hope readers most appreciate in your stories?

I try to write canon-based fanfic, so I hope that my stories feel like the episodes to the readers; that the characters are recognizable, the dialogue flows, and the senses play an interesting role in the story. My Sentinel writing is also when I first started paying attention to the rules about point of view, resulting in better and easier to read and visualize scenes.

How do you decide whether to write in a first person POV or third person as a narrator?

I usually write in the third person, unless I have a specific reason to write in first person. I do regularly use direct thoughts to get more thoroughly into the mindset of my (third person) viewpoint character.  

Have you ever had a writing coach?

No. I've attended a couple of freebie seminars and I have several how-to books on writing, which mostly sit on the shelf collecting dust.

Do you work with a beta? Why or why not? What is your process for determining when your story is ready for posting?

For my Sentinel writing, I was new to the net and didn't really work with a beta. I used a couple of friends as sounding boards and I consulted Laura on medical questions, but I really didn't work with a beta. The FPP Virtual Season had a lengthy editorial process after the first draft of a story was submitted. After I've completed a story, I run it through a grammar checker at least once. If there's no deadline for posting the story, I sometimes leave it alone for a couple of days, give it one more 'fresh' reading and tweaking, and then I post it.

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?

I'm most comfortable writing canon, case and action, humor or slice of life stories, because these are the 'usual suspects' for me, writing-wise, so I'm in my comfort zone developing these types of stories. I came late to my appreciation of hurt/comfort and I know there are lots of excellent TS writers who handle the genre way better than I do.

If you were to write a completely new AU for these characters, what would it demand of them?

At one time, the Sentinalia list had a challenge going, concoct a TV program for a station that was all-Sentinel, 24/7.  I threw out a revised version of The District: Vince Hunter is unexpectedly promoted to Chief of Police after Manion leaves. He has problems with the stresses of the job, and then arrests grad student Blair Sandburg at a protest rally at Georgetown, and things get interesting from there.... not quite completely new, but definitely AU. (Richard Burgi played Vince Hunter on The District, in a recurring guest role.)

Which among your own works is your favorite and why?

Blessed Protector is my favorite long story. I call it my "everything but the kitchen sink" story because I worked in all of the classic Sentinel elements, one way or another. Also, this story took me years to write – I wrote more than half of my other Sentinel stories between the time I plotted BP and the time it was posted – and actually finishing it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment, and relief.

You've written both complex case/action tales and short works including epilogues. What should new authors expect to happen when taking on either challenge?

New authors are like a show's new fans – everything's marvelous, exciting, and wonderful. You get a story idea, write it, and want to share it right away. Take a little time to put some distance between yourself and the story; set it aside for a couple of days, or at least overnight, and then reread it and run the story through a grammar checker before publishing it. Also, find a beta – there's usually lists of volunteer betas on the net, or email one of your favorite authors and ask them for help. You don't have to agree with everything that a beta tells you, but you will get a more objective view of your story from an outsider. Remember that, as the author, you will always know more about the story than what is actually written.

My first story in a fandom is usually a missing scene because it's a quick story to write. You watch an episode and something feels incomplete, or off.  If it bugs you enough, you start to analyze why it feels off, and how to fix it. You don't have to worry about the beginning/setup or the ending, because they are known quantities already in the show. You just need to fill in the gap, write how the episode got from point A to point C – point B, that missing discussion or action that must've happened off-screen - to have the on-screen scenes make more sense.  This has to be something that you feel strongly about, or it wouldn't have provoked your interest in the first place.

If you want to tackle a lengthy, complex story like a case story, make an outline. It doesn't have to be rigid and super-detailed, but put in all your main plot points to start with: setup, middle, climax and fill in details underneath as needed. Also, add any stray ideas, pieces of dialogue, scene settings that occur to you unexpectedly as your writing progresses, so you remember them and can work them into the written story later. Long stories are written in segments. Go back and reread the previous scene every time you start working on your story, you can catch typos, tweak,  and ease yourself back into the story so that when you're done rereading, you're ready to start writing where you left off.  Lastly, be open to the idea that you may have to delete paragraphs or even a whole scene if it doesn't make sense or fit in smoothly with later parts of the story. Save the deleted chunk to its own file, you may be able to use it or the idea in a future story and you'll feel better than if you deleted the scene completely, after hours of work. 

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 like to write a 50,000+ word story, something novella length or longer, but so far I haven't come up with a plot that is detailed enough to produce a novella. Plus, there's a nagging voice in my head saying if I'm writing anything with that kind of length and time commitment, it should be original fiction, not fanfiction.

Do you create OCs and how do you use them? Do you find creating an OC challenging?

Yes, I do create original characters, if the plot needs them. It's easy to write a missing scene that's just between Jim and Blair, but a detailed case story has them interacting with other people, just like the guest cast in an episode, so I create whatever minor and major OCs are necessary for the story to work. I read somewhere that every character, no matter how minor, should have a description included, so that the reader can visualize them, and I try to follow that rule.

Creating an OC is difficult because they have to stack up to and interact with the established TS characters, and feel real enough that the reader accepts them as part of the story.  Usually, my main OC is the villain of the story. I take care in naming my OCs – how many syllables do I want in his/her first name, what kind of first name, traditional or unusual, what letter of the alphabet do I want for the last name? I pick a letter and then haul out the residential pages and randomly open it, scanning for a good last name.

How do you feel about feedback and concrit from your readers?

Like any author, I am eager for feedback. Detailed concrit gets me to thinking,  re-evaluating the story, and keeping the suggestions in mind for future stories. Just reading a 'Wow! I really liked this' email makes my day, too, especially if it's for an older piece.

Last updated 9/5/10 igr