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When Tate asked a friend to post a Sentinel missing scene for her in March 1997, she probably didn't know that she would become one of the most popular authors of our fandom. This author's Dead Drop: Alternate Ending story was the start of her well-written and well-loved six story series on a psychic connection between Jim and Blair -- a series which is considered a Sentinel fan fiction classic by many readers. Since then, Tate has mastered the art of writing a story in serial, entertaining readers almost weekly with her two famous series based on the Sentinel Too episodes -- Watermark and Wellspring. As her interview below hints, Tate often uses the theme of dreams in her stories, and is also known for her unique writing style -- first person POV from Jim or Blair.
Tate's Cascade Library story listing currently lists eight stories. The ninth one (Wellspring) is currently listed on our Stories in Progress page and will soon join her other completed stories. Her completed stories are located at Mackie's Idol Pursuits.
Thanks for taking time to chat with us, Tate!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm 31 year old, single woman of Mexican decent, living in beautiful (and blessedly warm) San Antonio, Texas. I currently work for my alma matter as an Assistant Director of Admissions, responsible for traveling across the country to recruit high school students, reading application files, and working on promotional publications. I received my bachelor's degree in English and have been writing for fun since I was about 7 or 8. I obsess over a few television shows (X-Files, The Sentinel, Stargate SG1 mainly) and a particular rock band, Queensryche. From them, I borrowed my pen-name--"Tate" is the last name of the band's lead singer.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
While channel surfing a couple years ago, I saw a preview of Second Chances and decided to give the show a try. Unfortunately, a friend called and I only caught bits and pieces. A couple weeks went by and I vowed to try again. The episode was Blind Man's Bluff. I was hooked!! It had all the elements of a great show--neat premise, interesting characters, talented actors. Through Tigger's page, I found a post by another TS San Antonio fan and met up with her. She writes as "Mercury." We did a couple of TS video marathons on my big-screen and the rest is history!
What is your favorite episode and why?
Though Blind Man's Bluff will always be special to me, and I've enjoyed some of the new episodes, I think I'd have to say Night Shift. I liked everything about that episode, even the conflict between Jim and Blair. ~ducking~ I believe every relationship/friendship has its low points. I think the show dealt with one of theirs realistically. The character of Johnny Macado also interested me. (I think the young actor did a great job with him.) I enjoyed seeing more of Rafe and Brown. Just that little scene where Simon tells Jim, "Don't look at the duck," LOL! Of course, "Angel" Gabe and his line about "the whispers of the heart," that was awesome! All in all, I think Night Shift is a classic!!
How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction?
The episode Dead Drop ended without any fanfare about Blair's brush with death. I wanted to do something to spice it up. When I showed her a few pages, Mercury encouraged me to finish the story -- Dead Drop: Alternative Ending. She posted it in March of 97 for me. It was an ordeal, letting the story go and seeing if it'd receive any feedback. Luckily, the response was fine. It became the first of six stories dealing with a psychic bond that formed between Jim and Blair.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
I think I'd pick the series I wrote consisting of The Struggle, For Sanity and Sense, and Above All Else. I like the idea of a story that highlights a problem with Jim's senses and concentrates on the friendship aspect instead of one that deals with a case. It'd be something different.
Which story are you most proud of?
Although Watermark received the most positive feedback of any story I've written, I'd have to say I prefer Wellspring to anything else. That could be because I'm working on it now ~grin~, but I actually believe Wellspring is more of a well-rounded (for lack of a better term) story than any of my others.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
The beta reader who's been with me the longest is Joanne. She is incredible! Whether it's a grammar or a plot suggestion, I trust her judgment without reservation. I owe her a lot. Her comments are direct, but kind at the same time. My newer betas are Danny from Germany, who comes up with wonderful suggestions for scenes. Mackie, who picks me up when I've fallen through a plot hole or when I'm running out of gas. Becky and Robyn, who are the cheerleaders of the group. They keep me supplied with feedback from the grammatical to the medical to the 'smarmy'. I appreciate all of my betas for their honesty. They're wonderfully kind and talented people.
Tell us about your first series of fanfic stories, in which Jim and Blair have a special connection.
My first series was an effort to take the Sentinel/Guide bond to a different level. I've always enjoyed sci-fi/fantasy television and books, so I just inserted my own mystical element into the show. I developed a psychic bond between them that only manifests in time of dire need. I was hoping it would compliment the other growing mystical aspects of cannon TS that had been introduced in Flight.
A few of your stories have a "nightmare theme." Can you tell us something about why that worked for you?
I've always been interested in dreams--how they reflect the subconscious mind, how they can effect us, how we can influence them (i.e. lucid dreaming). After watching Switchman for the third time, I really wondered about how everything could have gone terribly wrong after Jim gave Blair the gun. That's when I sat down to write The Struggle, which was the first of a handful of stories that deal with dreams/nightmares--this time, Jim's. Reluctant to let the concept go, I tried it out with both Simon and Blair in different stories. The dream/nightmare theme carried over into both Watermark and Wellspring to a certain extent. In all of the stories, characters are driven to do certain things because of the dreams they have. I think the ongoing theme is to trust your instincts and subconscious mind, but not to hold them up as the only path toward the truth.
Watermark and Wellspring are two serial stories you're famous for. What's the story behind Watermark?
Lying in bed one night in early summer, I found myself imagining what it might be like for Blair to come to after a long coma--one induced by the incidents in S2-1. I wondered how he'd respond to people and how much he might remember. The next day I noticed a box of envelopes on my desk with the word "watermark" on it. The CD of the same name by Enya was also sitting by my computer. It all clicked. I started writing the story that day. It seemed natural to write it from Blair's POV.
I never really intended to write a sequel once Watermark was completed. Months later, I came up with the premise of writing a follow-up from Jim's POV. I wanted to use Johnny Macado, because I loved his character in Night Shift. The rest of the story developed as I wrote it.
What is it like to write and post a story in serial? What are the pros and cons of doing so for you?
It's a challenge for me to write and post a story in a serial, especially since I don't work from an outline, and I write a section the week before posting it. In college, I did my best work under pressure. I never wrote a paper earlier than the night before it was due. I wanted to try writing under that same kind of stress and see what would happen. Fortunately, Watermark didn't suffer much from not having a direction from the get-go and, so far, Wellspring hasn't either. The pressure of knowing that people are waiting for the next part can sometimes work miracles, even when RL is breathing down my neck. I must say that feedback is definitely motivational and sometimes sparks new directions. I think the benefit of writing like this is letting go and allowing things to "happen" almost on their own. I like sitting down and not really having any boundaries; the "anything goes" feeling is great. The flip side of that is coming up with a believable progression. I mean, starting Wellspring I had no idea what kind of trouble Johnny was mixed up in until the scene where he spilled the information to Jim. It's also really tough to make things gel and not get confused. I sometimes go back and read over previous parts to make sure I'm not contradicting anything. I really can't say if the next story I write will be a serial. I may go back to writing full stories before posting, but who knows?
You often write from the first person POV. Do you feel it helps you to "get inside the character's heads" better?
Exactly! I have a tough time getting into the character's heads any other way. Before I started writing Sentinel fanfic, the only substantial piece of original work I did was in first-person. It felt comfortable to me. I really think my first TS series lacked focus because I couldn't work well in third person. I also think the present tense has such an immediate feel to it, that it packs an additional punch. I'm guessing that's why Watermark and Wellspring have received positive feedback for the most part.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Getting motivated to complete a story. I actually have about six or seven TS fics started that I just abandoned. Once the initial spark is gone, I sometimes have trouble continuing with an idea.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
Rereading a story or a section of one and feeling like I did my best with it.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
I like dramatic stories that focus on the friendship aspect of the show. I tend to admire writers who really build interesting tales around the drama. As more writers and stories emerge, it's harder to find unique stories/situations. Sometimes I find myself relying on the same authors over and over again, because I like their style. I enjoy reading some AU stories, crossovers, etc. I try not to limit myself, but with everything out there, it's hard to read it all.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
The show is unique without being unfamiliar. That sound may sound like a contradiction, but it's not. ~girn~ The Sentinel myth created by Bilson and DeMeo, along with the mystical aspects of the show, brings the "buddy-cop" genre to a new level. It's sci-fi, but not really. Because of that, I think it has the potential to appeal to a wide variety of people. The fact that the actors are incredibly talented is another plus. The Burgi/Maggart/Young team can liven up even the most uninteresting of dialogues. I think it's weakness is that the writers are torn between writing "action" and providing satisfying storytelling. Sometimes they hit the mark (Night Shift) and others they really don't (Light My Fire).
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?
If there is another season of The Sentinel, I'd like to see more mystical elements--spirit animals, shamanism, dreams. I'd also like to see an emphasis on Jim and Blair's past--like seeing Jim's family again or learning more about Blair's upbringing. I'd also like to see more of some of the secondary characters like Brown, Rafe, and Taggart. I also wish they'd keep Megan around for more episodes. Generally, I'd like to see the series focus more on the personal lives of the main characters and a little less on blowing things up. Don't get me wrong, I like action, but it should be couched in some interesting stories.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
I'd have to say Watermark.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Actually, I have nothing new planned in the TS world. I'd like to take a few months off writing fanfic and work on an original piece. I'm going to start revising a manuscript I finished in 96. I'm sure I'll get back to The Sentinel midsummer hopefully with some new ideas.
Last updated 5/24/99 clc