Whoosh! Issue 25 - October 1998

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

14. L. Graham

Interview July 03, 1998

[493] *Xena Fan Fiction Works were found as indicated and if you decide to go to these websites, please pay careful attention to the disclaimers that introduce each story regarding violence and/or sexual content:

  1. Homecomings
  2. The Kind
  3. Lucky [alt]
  4. Prelude To A Dig [alt]
  5. Sherwood: Part One [alt]
  6. Promises to Keep: A Tale of Sherwood [alt]
  7. The Second Time [alt]
  8. The Sweetest Dreams
  9. Four Nights, Three Days [alt]
Question #01:
[494] What has been your inspiration for writing fan fiction?

L. Graham:
[495] I've always loved to write and simply found myself at a place in my life where I didn't have much in the way of any other kind of creative outlet. I'd been sitting up late nights reading some fanfic because basically I hated my life at the time and I really enjoyed the humorous sketches and parodies. Frankly, anything that could make me laugh was a worthwhile endeavor. So when my brain finally became functional again, about six months after first tuning the show in, I started thinking of story ideas-how would I like to handle xyz scenario.

[496] At the same time, I began an editing relationship with a few established bards and that pulled me in a little bit more and made me more comfortable. I'm notoriously terrified of other writers (I flee from them on sight) so there was a certain appeal to the anonymous nature of the Internet postings. I finally worked my nerve up and was pleasantly surprised when I didn't die as a result of someone else reading a story.

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

L. Graham:
[498] I'll continue to write XWP fanfic as long as I have fresh ideas. I nearly walked away after "Homecomings" simply because I'd written all of the outlines I had lined up, but then three ideas jumped on me in a single afternoon. I do enjoy feedback, particularly critical feedback which helps me improve my writing. The exercise is certainly good for me since writing is like any muscle that just withers and atrophies if not flexed properly. I still like the idea that I'm getting less freaky paranoid about being around other writers

Question #03:
[499] 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?

L. Graham:
[500] I started writing literally before I could write - I would imperiously dictate stories to my Mom who dutifully wrote them down on scraps of paper. Even back then I had trouble sticking with the plot though and would frequently wander off. I wrote all through high school and turned to novels in college, producing four before I graduated. Yes, they were wretched, but they generally kept me out of trouble. Being Southern to the core, I enjoyed writing and exploring some of the darker aspects of the region. You ain't Southern without at least a half dozen skeletons in the closet, usually wearing party hats. I managed to collar a few friends in college to read them, but for the most part it was a very solitary pursuit. (The online community offered by XWP is perhaps its most attractive feature.)

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

L. Graham:
[502] I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy growing up, though I did have a high school classmate force me to read excerpts from her romance novels during biology lab. That made for a rather frightening introduction to the genre and gave me some truly startling misconceptions about sexual relations. (which have been since straightened out)

Question #05:
[503] In your opinion, is XWP a romantic show

L. Graham:
[504] I suppose that depends on how you define romance. I think at its best XWP is an adventure show that is character driven by two strong female leads who are obviously very devoted to each other on some level (you take your pick). I think the show does its best work when it remembers to pay close attention to the characters themselves, but it can falter if it doesn't pay close enough attention to get a good plot line.

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

L. Graham:
[506] Sigh. Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit that one of them does--"The Second Time," the little b*st*rd. It was pure undiluted romantic subtext, and I'll never forgive myself for it. Also, I suppose that its prequel "Lucky" falls into that genre as well because the entire focus is on the sexual relationship (or lack thereof) between Xena and Gabrielle. OK, so there's a lot in there about vulnerability, risk, wholehearted devotion, and why you should never, never drink when you're planning on spending the night in the same bed with someone you like.

Question #07:
[507] 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) time?

L. Graham:
[508] I don't think that my stories knowingly address that subject. (My therapist told me to just accept the fact that I'm straight, try to get on with my life, and deal with the fact that Bruce Campbell doesn't know I'm alive.)

Question #08:
[509] In "Sherwood", you bring the legend of Robin Hood to uber-Xena life. Was it reader-response that prompted you to write the sequel, Promises to Keep?

L. Graham:
[510] Yes. One hundred percent, yes. I liked the characters and kept meaning to get back to them, but life got busy and I put it on hold until I got the most charming letter from someone asking if there was ever going to be a sequel. She said the magic words ("Can I bribe you with chocolate chip cookies?") and I promptly sat down and ripped off "Promises." We became fast friends and she eventually delivered on the cookies.

Question #09:
[511] You have said that the alternate tale, "The Second Time" was written for those who hinted that "first time" stories all sound the same. Where you also encouraged by Bongo Bear's "The Alternative Fan fiction Clich‚ List".

L. Graham:
[512] Bongo Bear's list, while hilariously funny and definitely something that every writer should have by the computer before attempting such a scene, was published two months after "The Second Time" and thus was not available to assist me. (However, I'm happy to say that I only fell victim to #21 and 16, and possibly #5, 15, 22, though it's hard to tell when Xena couldn't remember half of what was going on.)

[513] Actually, I'd read a disclaimer at the beginning of one of Joe Murphy's stories saying that he'd vowed to never write a first time story because they all read alike. I'd really never thought of it that way before, but after some reflection I had to agree with him to a large degree. So I started wondering how one could write a first time story but get around a lot of the assumptions usually tacked onto them.

[514] No, what really happened? There were sunspots that day, El Nino was getting ready to blow, and I was temporarily delusional. I have no recollection of writing that story. I wish I could say that I simply got drunk and ripped it off, but I have only my smarmy little subconscious to blame.

Question #10:
[515] Your latest story, "Four Nights and Three Days" is the sequel to "Homecomings", which was technically the sequel to "The Sweetest Dreams". Despite coming after the rift-trauma of the third season and many references to "The Furies" episode, the last of your trilogy is the most sweetly romantic. Was this simply a natural development or was it partly compensation?

L. Graham:
[516] I never really meant to write "Four Nights, Three Days." It's starting to sound like I never mean to do anything, which is true more often than I'd like to admit. I wrote "The Sweetest Dreams" out of sheer frustration. I was tired of being stymied, tired of not feeling like my family took me seriously about my writing, and tired of not being able to write. (Because of my work situation, I'd been literally too exhausted to undertake a novel in over a year.) So I just sat down and ripped off a little revenge fantasy starring me as Gabrielle and gave Xena all the really bad lines. That was my very first XWP story (though "The Second Time" was posted before it).

[517] "Homecomings" actually took nearly eight months to write simply because I moved three times in the process. By then I was feeling frustrated again and wrote out another little fantasy, this time dragging my beloved, charming, slightly dense father into the fracas, thinly disguised as Herodotus, Gabrielle's father. Note that the Rift hadn't emerged when I started the story, so I had to work in some references as I went.

[518] The subtext was as much of a surprise to me as it was to Xena and Gabrielle. I really never meant it to work in there, but golly, there it was. I like to write general stories as well, just to keep my mind sharp, forcing me to constantly think of the situation in new terms and not to just rely on the standard setup. (Side note: I'd really like to see a story in which Xena and Gabrielle have a relationship and then realize that they work out much better as friends. I know it's not very fuzzy or happy, but it would be interesting and have a fresh outlook.)

[519] By the time I got to 4N3D, I'd pretty much worked off all my frustration and was feeling rather mellow. ("Rather mellow" for me still means dredging up uncomfortable issues and making Xena realize that her father was a violent alcoholic.) I really think that the evolving romance was mostly the natural development of the storyline though, as well as my own soft-hearted nature feeling a bit guilty for all I'd put them through in the last few hundred pages.

Question #11:
[520] There is some controversy over what uber-Xena fiction is. One of your stories, "The Kind", is set in pre-historical times and the characters are wolves. When did you write this charming unusual story and What is your current definition of a completely uber story?

L. Graham:
[521] I took a nap. I should never take naps. I have a very wacky sleep cycle and when I nap I wake up grouchy, crabby, and cranky. But I was exhausted so I dozed off for just a minute. As I was floating up toward the surface, a series of strange thoughts flitted through my mind. "Hey, we always take the uber concept forward in time. What about backwards? If Xena had been in 'Clan of the Cave Bear' I bet she would've kicked that jerk's butt and made him give her baby back. Well, golly, what about before then? Before people? How come Xena and Gabrielle always have to be people? Why not horses or badgers or spiders or sompin? Or maybe wolves? Hey, I bet Gabrielle would make a really cute wolf cub."

[522] Basically, I was whomped with the anthropomorphism stick but good. It didn't hurt that Xena's always had that sorta lean, lone wolf look about her. That story really just wrote itself. I was afraid that it was literally too weird for the 'net, so I privately circulated it and it seemed to go over pretty well so I took a chance on it. (I also had two more ideas as I was drifting out of that nap, one of which formed the basis for 4N3D, so maybe I should take naps more often.)

[523] I think that the entire XWP fanfic community owes a tremendous debt to Della Street for pioneering the uber concept with "Toward the Sunset." While the show itself technically set the tone with THE XENA SCROLLS (my first episode, btw), she's the one who really took the initiative to apply it to the new fiction. I think that the idea of uber has pretty much settled out as being the basic X&G dynamic set down in some other time and setting. While I've certainly written an uber tale or two that directly dragged Xena and Gabrielle into it (Mel's dream in "Prelude to a Dig"), I prefer an uber tale to stand on its own. It's nice if we can see the connections and sorta wink, wink, nudge, nudge each other, but it shouldn't feel stilted either.

[524] I think the uber genre is a great way to allow writers to stretch themselves, plus it allows them to pick some better names than the usual cheezy fake Greek ones. Anything that gets someone to think creatively and then express themselves on paper is a very good thing in my opinion, and the uber offshoots are doing a terrific job of that. "Surfacing" is easily the best piece of fanfic ever written.

Question #12:
[525] 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? Are you still awake?

L. Graham:
[526] Yep, I'm still awake! Ummm, would I amend my style for someone. Probably not. I know that sounds weird, but I'm a very selfish writer. I think that was bred out of producing novel after novel in a complete vacuum with no audience whatsoever, just writing for myself and the sheer joy of the exercise. I've noticed a tremendous response to 4N3D and have wondered if that's because I allowed there to be a bit more romance than usual, and because the relationship was consummated (which really doesn't happen that often in my stories). But I know that I won't start throwing in sex all over the place, not for all the feedback in the world. I wrote "The Kind" figuring that no one would like it, but darn it I liked it and thought it had some merit. Bat Morda, a dear friend, gave me high holy hell about closing "Sherwood" just before the sex scene, but I stuck to my guns and let the story stand as it was. (This however led to a very amusing bet about how best to write such a scene, but that's another story. Literally.)

[527] All of that said, I have to admit that I was led to write the Sherwood sequel purely because I knew there was an interest. The same could really be said of 4N3D, as I was happy to leave the series where it stood in "Homecomings" but a number of people asked what would happen next. The difference here is that the readers sparked questions in my mind that generated an interest on my own part. I often get requests for a sequel to "The Second Time," but I won't just churn something out, not until I'm struck out of the blue with a really sharp idea that I'm interested in exploring.

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Lunacy | Baermer | Bat Morda | B.L. Miller | Bongo Bear | C.N. Winters | Della Street | DJWP | Ella Quince | Hobbes | Jenbob | Joanna | Katrina | L Graham | L.N. James | Lyssa | Marie E. Costa | Missy Good | PB | Paul Seely | Puckster | Quest | sHaYcH | S.L. Bowers | Tim Wellman | J.C. Wilder | Wishes | WordWarior

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