INSIDE THE HEAD OF KAREN SURTEES
I've known Karen on and off for a couple years now. She is a great writer, wonderful person. Now let's get to know this little Brit better.
Why did you start writing?
I'm in the Royal Navy, I began writing to alleviate the boredom of night watch-keeping in the ship's control center; which was basically keeping an eye on the computer and fire alarm systems. I have written since I was a kid but never finished any. Xena however was just a minefield of things waiting to be written, so when I got my computer and found the Xenaverse I decided to post the stories.
If you had to do it all over, would you be a bard? Would you write?
In short Yes, I get too much pleasure from putting my thought's on paper.
Give us a brief day in the life of Karen?
Lololol, well a day in my life is never the same, for the last year I have been working on a small British Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia as a customs and immigration officer. However by trade I'm a paramedic and I can usually be found at the medical center seeing patients. In the evening I'll normally go swimming for an hour before I retire to my room to read or write.
How do you handle stress?
I work, I find a lot of the stress I'm put under is because things need to be done at work. In the Navy you can't just tell your boss NO so if they want it done today they get it done today even if that means working over. If all my work is up to date then I'm pretty stress free. I also find that my better stories get written under pressure.
Years from now, how would you want to be remembered?
To be honest I've not really thought about this. I guess all I really want is to be remembered as someone who got things done, and was reliable.
What is your pet peeve?
Who is Karen?
Karen is a 5'4" Brit, who loves most cult TV, strong female characters. Loves good books, sci-fi, thriller, medical drama. She has a partner called Becki, and loves snuggling at night. That's me.
Do fans expect too much from stars?
Yes, on the whole I think we do expect too much of them. We tend to get them confused with their characters and not allow for the fact that they are human too, they have families and worries just like everyone else. When they are at conventions or promoting the show then they are fair game. If not I think people should just leave them alone.
What are your feelings on censorship?
I don't agree with censorship in any form.
If you can cure one disease, what would it be and why?
Cancer, several of my family members have died due to this disease.
Do you believe in capital punishment? Why?
Hmmm hard one, I think yes. It annoys me that people who commit horrific crimes still have a life. I think the punishment should fit the crime. It also annoys me that I can't afford to go to university and study, but that if you are in jail you can do the courses and get them paid for by the government.
What is the most sensitive part on your body?
The back of my neck.
What do you see yourself doing in the future? Future projects?
I'm just about to become the training officer at my new establishment; I like to teach my skills. I'd also like to be able to do a degree in paramedical sciences.
How do you handle depression?
Not terribly well, I'm a bit of a hermit. I don't enjoy going out partying or clubbing. I prefer to be by myself.
What was the hardest thing you ever did?
My hardest decision ever was to stop resuscitation on a patient. I had to decide whether to treat two other people or to maintain life support on one who in my opinion was likely to be beyond medical help. A year later I was at court for the accident inquiry explaining my decision in front of his wife and family.
What was the easiest?
I don't think there are any truly easy decisions.
What advice can you give to future writers?
Set aside a little time each day to write, and write what ever comes into your mind. Just get those fingers moving. When it comes to writing a story it helps get through the blocks.
How did it feel to be published?
I was a little overwhelmed to be honest and now I just get this excited feeling whenever I think about it.
What has the show (Xena) meant to you?
Xena has been an unbelievable experience. It has brought together so many people and so many talents. The Xenaverse is unlike any other community and everybody is supportive of everybody else. It makes you believe that humanity has a chance to live up to what we have all seen in the show.
How do you feel about its end?
I haven't seen the end, but I'm a little disappointed. Not so much in how they ended it but that Rob Tapert had said that he wouldn't kill off the characters. By saying that he gave the fans the hope that the riding into the sunset was a possibility. He shouldn't have said anything and then maybe the ending would have been more palatable. I now have the problem that when I watch reruns or my video tapes I see these two characters going through hell and I have to wonder what it is all for because in the end they don't get to be together.
What are your dreams? Hopes? Wishes?
I'd like to have a family, to be able to have a recognized partnership with Becki. For all of us to be recognized as people, not a sexual orientation.
Who do you trust?
My partner, and my sister. A lot of other people to some extent.
What would you say every writer needs?
A good editor.
Do you believe in prayer?
It's everybody's personal preference and should remain that way. Religion has caused too much death and pain and hate. I find it hard to understand how people can say that they are religious and follow the word of god while using his supposed word to discriminate.
How do you feel about subtext?
I'm gay. Subtext is maintext to me.
What makes your best friend your best friend?
My best friend is someone who can listen to me and understand what I'm talking about. But has the guts to tell me when I'm wrong and also knows when to kick me in the behind and tell me to get on with it. Someone I can pick the phone up and know that they will be on the other end.
What's the most romantic thing anyone has done for you?
That's too private to talk about.
What theme would you like to tackle in your next work?
What was the last thing that made you smile recently?
A sound wav file from Babylon 5. Susan Ivanova, says 'If I live through this job without losing my mind it will be a miracle of biblical proportions.'
What made you angry?
This report leaked by the Washington Post on the Salvation Army and their discriminating work practices and attitudes.
You now have absolute authority over the world. Omnipotent in all areas. (Congratulations) What's your first move?
To clean up the environment.
How would you categorize your best writing, and give the URL's for them if posted?
Behold a Pale Horse is my favorite. You can find it at Maryd's site (http://ausxip.com) and also at my site http://www.members.aol.com/surtees1/index.html
What stupid thing did you do as a teen?
Too many things to mention.
What, if anything, can stop you writing, if only for a while?
I get blocked pretty easily and also I have a lot of things that have to take priority.
In your opinion, do you fit your astrological sign?
I'm a fish and yeah I think I fit my sign.
What to you is the worst feeling in the world?
The best feeling in the world?
Getting someone who should be dead to hospital alive.
Favorite song of the moment?
Ray of Light, Madonna.
What is the first thing you think of in the morning?
What time is it and do I have to get up yet?
Is there one part of the writing process where you usually get stuck? What have you tried to change that, successful or not?
I always get blocked when I get to the end, and I haven't found a solution yet.
Are people easily swayed by 'hearsay'?
Some are and some aren't.
What are your feelings about people who use others for personal gain?
If you can't do it without using people then you don't deserve it.
What is a hypocrite?
Someone who says do as I say not as I do. My best example right now would be the fact that the US wants other countries to sign the treaty on the reduction of greenhouse emissions but refuses to sign it and make the changes itself.
What kind of doughnut do you eat?
Does the best writing flow for you, or does it come from rewrites?
Sometimes I just get a scene and I have to write it there and then whether I have a story for it or not. That is how Behold a Pale Horse was written, from just one scene.
Which part of writing do you enjoy most and why? (e.g., Taking the original notes, final rewrites...)
The initial idea is what gets me going. I have whole scenes written just waiting for a story to go with them.
How often do you think about a piece when you're working on it and when do you think about it?
Most of the time I'm mulling over something that has to do with the story.
When someone walks into your bedroom, what are the first 5 things that they're likely to notice?
1. My Xena replica sword.
2. My Startrek mirror plaque.
3. My Xena print.
4. My signed Startrek enemies print.
5. My teddy bears.
Do you feel in control of your writing, or do you get carried away by your inspiration or characters?
I get carried away, I recently removed nearly forty pages of DH because they did nothing to move the story forward, I'm now trying to finish the story.
If you consider yourself to have a muse, what exactly do you mean?
My muse is inspiration and I can find that in nearly everything when it comes to story ideas.
Tell the truth--are you your favorite writer, or in your own top five? Why or why not?
Nope, I'm not even close and that is because I find it hard to think of myself as that good.
Would the world be a better place if women ran it or would it be basically the same?
We would still have problems, they would just be different.
What is your favorite spot where you live now?
We have a little garden in the sickbay I like to sit in.
What books are you reading now? What about it/them is holding your attention?
I like a good angsty book I have just received and read the Deal by Maggie Ryan. And I'm also reading a nonfiction book on medicine in flight.
What would your friends say is your worst trait?
Do you type with your fingers on the 'right' keys?
What is the longest any plant in your home has been with you?
I don't own any plants. I move around too much.
Do you have any particular bedtime rituals (glass of warm milk, etc.) that you follow every night?
I read for at least an hour.
If you find a spider in the bathtub, do you help it out or squish it?
I get someone else to deal with it.
What was the last thing you bought that you really didn't need?
A DVD player but you see I had all these Farscape and Buffy dvd's that I had to watch and now that Xena is coming out on dvd then I figure it was a good buy.
Have you ever smoked cigarettes
Who is your favorite Greek God?
In Xena it has to be Aphrodite, but in reading texts etc., I would have to say Artemis.
Why do fools fall in love?
Because it is in our nature to do so.
Do you keep a diary and if so what do you call it? If so, what effect has it had on your writing?
I get bored writing about what I have done so I don't keep a diary.
How has online writing affected your life and how you see yourself, your goals?
Online writing gave me a place to show my work and the responses have helped me to develop as a writer. I would like to be able to make a living from my writing at some point in the future.
What skill would you like to have that you don't have now?
I would like to be able to play an instrument.
Who is your real life hero and why?
Anybody who works in the emergency services. Anybody who can put someone else's life above his or her own deserves respect in my book.
What fan fiction story touched you so much that you still remember it vividly?
There are so many good fan fiction stories out there that I like, it is hard to pick one. I have an 700mg CD filled with stories. I couldn't honestly say that just one touched me.
If you could only choose a single climate with no variation would you prefer it to be sweltering hot or freezing cold?
I have lived in the heat I think I'd like to try the cold now.
What is the first thing you notice about someone when you meet them?
Their smile or lack of it.
Have you ever done something that accidentally caused something really bad to happen to someone?
Not to my knowledge.
How is $25 well spent?
On a good book.
Would you rather live in a sociable suburb, or alone in the deep woods?
My hermit tendency says the deep dark woods as long as I had an Internet connection.
What literary character did you most identify with as a child?
I didn't really identify with any character as a child, I loved reading and anything that had a strong female character would do me.
What is the source of your inspiration?
Where do your ideas come from?
Just about anything can give me an idea.
What do you find most satisfying about your job?
Knowing I have the skills and ability to save peoples lives.
What are the three things you enjoy most about writing?
The achievement of finishing a story, hearing from people who have read and enjoyed it. The simple act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
What were your favorite book, TV show, and movie when you were a teenager and what do you think of them now? Book, hmmm don't have just one favorite. TV show St Elsewhere, and movie would be the Star Wars trilogy. They are all still very good to watch.
What's your idea of a perfect world?
My perfect world isn't somebody else's. If I had the money I would live in the middle of nowhere, writing and doing things I like. I wouldn't have to deal with anybody that I didn't want to.
How real is your fiction to you?
Fiction is as real as the author can make it. What the reader thinks is up to them.
What Disney character do you most identify with and why?
I don't really identify with characters. I don't feel it is necessary to think in those terms. I'm me and if you don't like who I am, then tough.
Who do you read for inspiration?
I don't read for inspiration I talk with friends and I look at the world around me.
What's your favorite website?
Maryd's site for sure, closely followed by Missy.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an Air traffic controller.
What are the limits in sacrifices for true love?
There are no limits.
If you could interview your favorite author, what questions would you ask? And, WHY?
I'd want to know what they felt about their own writing? Do they feel that they are good? Do they believe that they get paid enough for their stories? I'd like to know these things to compare them to my own feelings.
What makes a great kisser?
Knowing your partner.
What have you learned from your animals?
That love is unconditional.
Does our society glorify violence to the point we have become desensitized to it and the consequences?
To some extent yes we do glorify violence. I think nothing of hearing about murders on the TV. The consequences are yet to be seen though I think the states is now seeing what their lack of gun laws is enabling their children to do.
What is your motto?
Live and let live.
What do you think we take too seriously as writers?
Well some people are and some aren't.
What questions should I have asked? Then answer them.
I think you got just about everything!!!
Karen's Site is http://www.members.aol.com/surtees1/index.html
Karen's address is SURTEES1@aol.com
That Road Once Trodden
Behold a Pale Horse
Degrees of Separation
True Colours (with Pruferblue)
Many Roads to Travel (with Pruferblue),
Thanks to Kamouraskan for the beta.
L. J. Maas and Murphy Wilson [Amy Murphy].One Step Beyond ... Uber, That Is. WHOOSH #49 (October 2000)
The "Inside the Head of..." series in Whoosh various issues
Amy Murphy resides in Indiana, and is an avid reader of Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Fiction. If it exists in the Xenaverse, chances are she has read it! Murphy has also tried her hand at writing fan fiction, turning out two very nice pieces that reside on a couple of web sites throughout the Xenaverse.
Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Favorite line: "I Have Many Skills" --various episodes
First episode seen: TITANS (07/107)
Least favorite episode: LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)