London Free Press
By James Reaney
Nikki Stafford's book, "Lucy Lawless & Renee O'Connor: Warrior Stars of Xena" is reviewed by columnist James Reaney.
Buffy, Xena and Gabrielle are all women born to kick butt on TV. Jennifer Hale was born to write about them. Hale, a London Laurier secondary school and Huron College grad, has sold 25,000 copies of her celebrity fan bios on the stars of Xena Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "It's probably the best show on TV," she says of the Slayer-saga. Hale and her twentysomething buds never miss a Buffy episode. "It isn't just that she walks around and kicks butt . . . all of the female characters are very strong." Hale also has plenty of time for Xena, a show she says has a strong following among women in their 30s. In her books, Hale has tracked down more than you ever need to know about Lucy (Xena) Lawless, Renee (Xena's sidekick, Gabrielle) O'Connor and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who plays Buffy. Hale hasn't met these stars, but she knows her Buffy, her Xena and her Gabrielle. Xena and Gabrielle battle mythical monsters in a TV series set in ancient Greece and filmed in New Zealand. Buffy puts the wood to vampires who keep invading her California high school. All three are tough. Hale has recorded the greatest hits of all three. The books' biographical content suffers because, like many "instant" celebrities, these heroes have little or no life away from their TV roles. Hale's best stuff is her own takes on episode guides, fan Web sites and trivia -- all delivered with the cool of Buffy dissing a demon. She can follow leather-clad Xena and faithful gal pal Gabrielle through every twist in their ambiguous relationship. Hale also tracks the clever pop culture references in the Buffy series, whether they're to Russ Meyer's boob-charged movies or the Power Rangers kids' TV show. Like the TV stars she writes about, Hale, 25, has hit hard and fast, with two books in 1998. The Xena book took about 10 months to complete; Buffy took less stress. Sales of the Buffy book broke the 10,000 mark on the Amazon.com Web site. Like the stars, Hale has her own action brand name. She wrote the two books as Nikki Stafford, a name similar to one her Toronto-based employer, ECW Press, had in mind when it steered the Xena book her way. It's as Nikki Stafford that she has been listed among the coming attractions at a Xena fan convention. It's at Nikki's e-mail address that Xenites and Buffy fans drop by to chat. It's Nikki who thanked Jennifer Hale in both books, formally titled Lucy Lawless & Renee O'Connor: Warrior Stars of Xena and Bite Me! Sarah Michelle Gellar and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "As always, my biggest thanks are reserved for Jennifer Hale, who always offers her most generous help in everything I do," says "Nikki" in Bite Me! "I answer to it," Hale says of her Nikki name. "It's fun . . . I actually refer to Nikki in the third person and sometimes my friends want me committed." It's a stellar career start for a movie buff and one-time piano teacher who came off the Western Gazette as literary editor in 1996. After more studies at the University of Toronto, Hale went to an interview with ECW Press seeking information on the publishing industry. Whatever she was looking for, ECW saw something in her. Within a couple of days, ECW gave Hale a job and then directed her to write a book on the TV cult show, Xena Warrior Princess. ECW had registered the book as being about Lawless, who plays Xena. That wasn't good enough for Hale. She adjusted the focus to include equal time for Gabrielle, the brainy, gentle blond she admits to preferring to Xena. She also adjusted the spelling of the "author's" first name to Nikki -- and a star was born. With Xena and Gabrielle out and about, Hale pitched a book on Buffy to her bosses at ECW, where she's an associate editor. Her Buffy book is now battling it out with several other "unauthorized" Gellar-related publications. Wham. Bam. Hale is coming back to London later this year for her wedding. She doesn't have another book on the go. She's taking a breather. She laughs a lot when talking about her time spent with the three TV heroes. But then Hale says she's always laughed a lot. She's a happy warrior.
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