Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998

Twenty-Seven Grilled Bards And One Reviewer: Rare, Medium And Supertoasty

28. WordWarior

Interview July 2, 1998

[935] Xena Fan Fiction Works were found at MaryD's Xena Information Page.

*If you decide to go to this site, please pay careful attention to the disclaimers that introduce each story regarding violence and/or sexual content:

  1. Truth Or Dare [alt]
  2. The Child [alt]
  3. Her Xena [alt]
  4. Just Another Dead Warlord [alt]
  5. Musings
  6. When Xena Came To Town
  7. The Testament
  8. The Babysitter
  9. The Warrior's Journal
  10. Night At The Theatre [alt]
  11. Games
  12. The Empty Heart [alt]
  13. Who Are You, Gabrielle?
  14. Who are You, Xena?
  15. For The Love Of Cliches [alt]

Question #01:
[936] What has been your inspiration for writing Xena fan fiction?

[937] I've always been a writer and when I feel strongly about something, there is usually a deep need in me to express it through fiction. I had fallen on some difficult times in my career and had lost a lot of confidence. I wrote some fanfic because there was no pressure and I needed to get my feet wet again. I liked the show, the characters and the message of self-reliance and strength, so I wrote a couple of stories. They were so well received that I continued to write until new projects came my way.

Question #02:
[938] Has your motivation changed over time?

[939] For awhile, the rush of getting responses did influence me. It was a lot of fun to put a new work on the web and hope that people liked it. About a year ago I stopped writing fanfic because I got too busy writing for my 'real' life. Occasionally, I'll pop out a short story, but the big, involved 'epic' fanfic is a thing of the past for me.

Question #03:
[940] Have you written other fiction? If so, was it before or after becoming a Xena fan? What genre are your other works? Generally, was/is the response from readers of these stories similar or different than the response to your Xena fan fiction?

[941] Yes, I've written a lot of fiction, in many forms. I've been a writer since I learned the alphabet, so it was long before Xena. I have written for a variety of media and genres (comedy, superhero, suspense/ thriller, children, fantasy, romance and more). I've never experienced anything like the responses one gets when publishing on the web. Generally, I wrote for professional purposes and one doesn't always get responses from that sort of thing, other than a paycheck (which is a darn good thing, btw). Xena fanfic introduced me to the 'fan letter' and that is an amazing feeling. Getting immediate feedback on your work is incredible and really satisfies in a deep and lasting way.

Question #04:
[942] Do you - or have you ever - like(d) reading Romantic fiction prior to Xena fan fiction?

[943] Yes, I've read romantic fiction in the past. There have been times in my life that were very stress-filled, and some of the paperback romances are like popcorn for the mind -- a light, quick snack that takes you away from your own life for a few moments. And there was a time when I decided to write a romance, to make a quick buck. It didn't work out -- I overplotted the thing like crazy because I fell in love with my main characters and immediately started putting them through the ringer. I'm not cut out for simplistic storytelling when writing novels.

Question #05:
[944] In your opinion, is XWP a romantic show? Why or why not? (i.e., It's action; adventure; drama; melodrama)

[945] I think it's all those things and more, including a romantic show. But the focus isn't on the romance. It really is subtext -- something that runs beneath the action and makes us care ever more for these characters, helps us to root them on in their struggles.

Question #06:
[946] Do you believe that any of your stories fall under the genre of Romance?

[947] Yes. I wrote a story called "Her Xena" and that is definitely a romance. The core of the story is of star-crossed lovers, both fighting impossible barriers across dimensions, just to be together. I don't think of any of the other stories I've written as romances, though there are aspects of it in all of them.

Question #07:
[948] Are any of your stories as much of a reflection of what it's like to be lesbian in modern times as it is about pre-Mycenaean (uber-Xena time if applicable here) times?

[949] I am not a lesbian, so I wouldn't presume to write on the subject. I write about two people in love and they happen to both be women. Love is love. I'd write the same if they were a heterosexual couple.

[950] The show has never made the slightest inference that lesbianism is disapproved in the world in which they live, so I use that as a guide for how they are viewed as a couple.

Question #08:
[951] Which of your works have received the most reader response to date?

[952] Truth or Dare. The Child comes in a fairly close second, but Truth or Dare is without a doubt the story that received the most responses. And it still gets email even though it's been on the web for a year and a half. When I first posted it, the flood of email was almost overwhelming -- I had no idea that the story would be so well received. I think it single-handedly pulled me out of the writing doldrums I'd been experiencing, giving me back my self-confidence.

Question #09:
[953] "Truth or Dare" explores good Xena and dark Xena and says many things including that Gabrielle must see and confront both parts of the warrior's nature in order to truly love her. And it was written prior to the second season I believe, before we see bad Xena (other than HTLJ Trilogy). Was there a specific episode that stands out as inspiration for this outstanding story?

[954] Truth or Dare was written in January of '97, so it was just after the first clump of season two eps aired (I started watching the show at Orphan of War). In fact, I was writing the story at the time of the 1st Burbank Con, so it was prior to Xena Scrolls, but after Solstice Carol (to put it in perspective).

[955] The episodes I used to portray the dark Xena were the Herc trilogy. By this point, I had managed to get copies of the episodes I'd missed, though many were not the greatest quality (including my Herc trilogy). However, I had been fascinated by Warrior Princess. The absolute seduction of Iolaus by Xena just seemed an aspect of the character that had been lost and was the basis of the scene where Xena tries to seduce Gabrielle in a cruel fashion, during the height of the warrior's darkness. Another influential episode was The Reckoning. When Xena goes a bit mad and strikes Gabrielle, it opened a lot of leeway for what a truly dark Xena is capable of doing, as does The Ties that Bind.

Question #10:
[956] About "Who Are You, Xena?" You have said,

Not willing to leave any challenge unmet, I've taken up the gauntlet suggested by some readers. This is the result. Is it any good? I dunno, but it's a darn fun exercise to try to see things in a different way than I'm used to. Oh, and I tried to follow the lines of some of the complaints I've seen lately about Xena -- you'll recognize 'em when you see 'em. Once again, it's just me, playing games with character and psychology, seeing what falls outta my head.
[957] And of "Who Are You Gabrielle":

This was written in response to a conversation about the nature of the character of Gabrielle. In this discussion, it was postulated that perhaps the bard could be seen in a different light than most fanfic portrays her. I thought it was a fascinating theory and simply had to see what would happen if this particular mirror was held up before her. I was just having some fun playing mental games with characterization and psychology.
[958] Part of the psychological game involved imagining how Xena and Gabrielle saw each other and not just themselves. Was this written before, during or after the trauma of the rift in season three?

[959] It was written March 28, 1998, so it was after the entire rift arc on the show. But it really grew out of a discussion about the story I had just posted, The Empty Heart. In this sequel to Truth or Dare and The Child, I had a scene, an argument between Xena and Gabrielle, where Xena lays out some very bare 'truths' -- things Gabrielle had never really faced before. The rift wasn't really a part of the discussion, nor was it in the forefront of my mind as I wrote the stories. I was really trying to find some basics from all three seasons of the series -- things that were beneath the surface and had never been brought into the light, in my experience.

[960] I knew it was controversial to portray Gabrielle as flawed and possessing darkness of her own. I assumed a lot of people wouldn't want to look at that possibility. OTOH, I figured there had to be some people who, like me, would enjoy a different look at this character. And who maybe shared the same questions about her motivations. As it turned out, there were quite a few people who responded to the piece on a very deep level. So many that I dropped the ball on answering email. I put a bunch of letters in a folder "to answer when I have time" and now I can't find the folder anywhere. Hate when that happens. I look like a big creep for not answering email and I don't get to have those letters on file. (Not the first time this has happened, either.)

Question #11:
[961] You wrote "The Empty Heart" a year before the rift. The story is intense, rending the reader's heart and finally restoring it. It was posted not long after the rift. Did the timing it's release seem to affect reader response?

[962] I can't speak for the readers, but I believe it did. Truth is, I got a very small amount of feedback on the story. I think it disturbed people, and they didn't want to see that sort of tension and anger between Xena and Gabrielle, not after having survived the rift. It's a shame I couldn't post it when I originally wrote it, but that's water under the bridge. The few people who did write, appeared to find it very affecting, so that was good to hear. I just have to assume that either the story failed for the majority, or it just wasn't the kind of thing anyone wanted to write to me about.

Question #12:
[963] Since you wrote "For the Love of Cliches" I have no trouble believing that you do not hesitate to take on a challenge, or even search them out. How long did it take you to write this little gem, and have you ever wondered what you would have said if your mother/ sister/ aunt/husband/cousin (whichever could apply) had peeked over your shoulder when you were writing it?

[964] How long? Maybe twenty minutes. As long as it took to type. I had a list of the cliches sitting on the hard drive right next to the doc I was typing in and I just checked them off as I wrote.

[965] As for someone reading over my shoulder, I wouldn't have let them unless they understood what I was doing. In other words, I'd have forced them to read some of the altfic. Anyone who has read the altfic could probably catch on to the humor in the piece. If you haven't, it wouldn't make a lot of sense.

Question #13:
[966] There is some controversy about what uber-Xena fiction is. What is your current definition of a completely uber story?

[967] Using the archetypes of Xena and Gabrielle in a setting different from their own. I think Xena and Gabrielle need to be recognizable in the uber characters and that certain conventions should be adhered to. If you get too far away from this, you're writing an original novel or short story. This happened to me, in fact. I started writing an uber piece. Within a few chapters it became apparent to me that I was writing a novel. The characters took on lives of their own and I no longer saw Xena or Gabrielle in them. It was this novel that took me out of fanfic writing, in fact.

[968] A good uber piece (and I'll admit that I'm partial to uber fiction. I don't read much X/G fanfic but I've read several of the uber pieces) should evoke those things we love about the show -- the themes of redemption, darkness and light, innocence and world-weary experience, etc. -- and put them in settings that complement the struggles. Putting in the in-jokes is fine and can be a lot of fun, but what it boils down to isn't sly nods, but the character archetypes and the thematic similarities.

Question #14:
[969] The title of the article, Romancing The Fan: Romance and Xena Fan Fiction, at least in part suggests that we fan fiction authors, inspired by XWP, write for more than ourselves alone. We are drawn to Xena's power and her envelopment/acceptance/love for us (vicariously experienced) is empowering. We expand on the theme and share our idealized visions of love or emotional bonding with the hope of forming a type of relationship with readers. Life is all about relationships and we - like actors who would woo their audience - we seek not only artistic expression but acceptance as well. There is no monetary profit in this endeavor. Our profit is of a spiritual nature during the writing of it and whenever a reader communicates to us their thoughts and feelings about our expressed visions. If it's positive, our efforts to woo were successful and we are spiritually energized. If we get little response or too many negatives, we will give up or amend our courting in some way. Do you have any thoughts about this? Do you disagree? Are you still awake?

[970] Writing is for love and feedback is our pay. Yes, we write for ourselves, but any time we put ourselves on the line (and that's what good writing is: pouring one's soul onto the page) there is a deep need to know that the messages were received. That what we did touched someone. We can't tell this by rating points, or volumes sold, so feedback becomes our gauge of success.

[971] However, it's important not to get so caught up in number of emails that we lose sight of why we write. If a story doesn't get a huge response, was it unsuccessful? I don't believe that conclusion can be drawn. I've posted stories that get very little response. Several, in fact. The short stories tend to generate only a trickle. Is it because they suck? Or is it because they're short, it doesn't take long to read them, and the reader doesn't feel as galvanized into writing as they do after an epic? If it's controversial, it will tend to generate more response. Or if it is highly sexual, that will also get a reaction. But short, general fanfic tends to be overlooked in the feedback arena. That hasn't stopped me from writing it. I still write and post and then put it out of my mind, answering the occasional email it receives. After all, I like to tell stories. That's why I do it.

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