Bat Morda

Q: XWP fan fic has created a mythology all of its own - separate from the TV show. Do you find in your own writing that you try to stay true to the series or have you also added to the fan fic mythology?

I try to stick with the show as much as possible. Up until the point I finish a story, I'll try to incorporate the reality presented in the series. One exception was overlooking the Perdicus marriage in Broken Arrow although I did mention it at the end. Trying to remain true to the Xena and Gabrielle we see on screen keeps the fan fic characters believable, and provides consistency. It's also a ton of fun. Things we saw on screen can be looked at in a new way, or reinterpreted or whatever. Of course the whole relationship thing can be looked at as total embellishment, or just incorporating something they aren't actually *showing* us on screen but is plausible none the less. That all comes down to where you pitch your tent in the Great Subtext Debate. I think my perspective on that one is pretty clear.

In the Janice & Mel stories I've got a lot more room to manoeuvre since they're based on characters only seen in one episode. In that case I think I've definitely taken liberties with the show and added to the mythology. I mean, I gave Janice a dog after all, which she didn't have in the show. I've added a lot to their past histories as well which is easy to do as long as the characters ultimately resemble who we saw on screen. I've been told more than once by people who were originally disappointed with the episode The Xena Scrolls that after reading Is There A Doctor On The Dig? The episode made more sense and had more depth. I don't know if I'd go that far myself, but it's nice to hear anyway.

Q: Many readers feel that the fan fic often surpasses the TV series in its appeal. What are your thoughts on this? Do you find yourself attracted to themes which are not normally explored on the TV show?
Fan fiction is a wonderful by-product of the show, but I'd stop well short of saying it surpasses the tv series in it's appeal. I think the two compliment each other wonderfully. The series gives fan fiction a visual language to draw from and fan fiction can expand on what we've seen on screen. It's totally awesome being able to sit back and read stuff that *could* be a show, be it one they would ever air in the United States or not. Sometimes the fiction goes to extremes, where you read things that are so far out, the resemblance to Xena and Gabrielle that we see on screen ends with their names. And occasionally the show throws something our way that makes the fan fiction author scratch their head. For example starting a new story around the time the season gets ready to end has it's perils. Ulysses! What do you mean Xena loves Ulysses! Oh, geeze now how am I going to rationalize that one! Sometimes it's a challenge, but always a fun one. Still, I shudder every time I hear the word 'Rift'.

As far as themes are concerned- I don't consciously write thinking "I'm working with this theme", or "I'm going to examine that theme." I sit down to write a story and it just sorta falls out all over the page. I've had people ask me about themes after reading Assassin... Oracle... Bard especially, and I think "Wow, did I put that in there?" The basic themes of the show are so universal: the power of love, the struggle toward redemption, good vs. evil, and the darkness & light within each of us- it's a natural have such threads running through stories. As for things not normally addressed in the show, the relationship dynamic can be looked at more closely- and you can get inside the characters heads. Hear what they're thinking, not just what they're saying. You can also tell the story from a variety of perspectives. And there are no deadlines, no budgets, and no one can fire you for screwing up.

Q: Do you read fan fic written by others. If so, do you have any favorite authors? Have you been influenced by any?

I think there is a big difference between inspiration and influence. I read a lot of fan fic and the list of authors and stories I adore is quite long. Still you asked, so I'll plug a few. Tendre is the queen of satire in my opinion. I keep drinks clear of my computer when I read her parodies, I've learned my lesson. I also enjoy Catherine Wilson, Della Street, Dax, and Oversoul- really the list is huge. If I were to name someone whose work I found *inspirational*, well that would have to be WordWarior, that quality of storytelling is what I aspire to.

As for influence... I have influences, but it isn't the written word. Occasionally I'll have the unsettling experience of reading something that is similar to something I've just written, and think "oh no, they'll think I copied them." But I try not to let it get to me. A lot of things make so much sense, events are bound to crop up repeatedly in a lot of different stories. That's coincidence, not influence. The three biggest influences in my writing would are 1) the show. I want my characters to feel like they could step into or out of an episode. 2) The time I've spent playing AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and no, it isn't devil worship). That's great practice in trying to visualize a place or scene. What did it sound like, smell like etc... I really try to make things visually believable. And 3) I don't try to keep whatever is going on in my 'real' life from creeping into my stories. In a way it's cheap therapy. During the writing of Assassin... Oracle... Bard I quit drinking Pepsi. I got a little... Edgy shall we say. Next thing I knew a family of four faced a nasty death and Janice Covington got shot in the arm. During The Search For Amphypolis I had an experience which dredged up some past relationship stuff. Next thing I knew Janice was having it out with an ex. However I'm feeling at any given moment has some sort of impact on the events and tone of whatever I'm writing. I suppose that's what makes my stories sound like... well, me.

Q: Of the stories you have written which is your personal favorite and why?

I like all my stories for different reasons. They all had their moments where they were so pleasurable to write and I had a good time 'existing' in what was happening. But to be perfectly honest Is There A Doctor On The Dig is the one I'm most proud of. From the beginning it basically wrote itself with very little help from me. I don't recall any part of it being laborious. Something really clicked for me with that story, and by far it's gotten more response from readers than any other. It's kinda funny since it started as a total lark. I remember sitting in my seat at the Xena Convention in Burbank when they showed us a 10 minute preview of the episode. The instant I saw the pan up from Janice Covington's boots to her hat with the cigar- it just hit me. This woman needs a story! I was getting into the darkness of AOB and was having a hard time distancing myself from it so I decided to write a *fun* story at the same time, based on two characters from an episode I'd not even seen yet. I got the idea of naming everyone in the story from some Xena episode, from Sal Monious to Greg Ore, Purdy Kuss and everyone else.

That was how it started. I wrote a section of ITADOTD then a section of AOB and back and forth until AOB was finished. I don't have any trouble changing gears and I was able to keep a clear idea of where each story was going. I also tend to be pretty self-indulgent when I write. I wanted to write about my dog Idgie, and that's where Janice got Argo. Then my girlfriend was none too happy about not being included as well so I added Fiona Cyrene.

At the moment I'm trying to write ITADOTD's sequel (The Search For Amphypolis) which is kind of intimidating. The response to ITADOTD demanded it but now I'm in an awkward position. I do this strictly for fun and up to this point I can't say I've taken it very seriously. Now it's a conscious effort not to worry if it's as good as ITADOTD or not- which means: I'm afraid it might suck.

Q: How is the writing process for you? What is your "philosophy" of writing? Where do you get your ideas from? Do you pen a story in one sitting or have to work over several weeks?

I think it takes me 50-80 pages or more to say what I want to say in a story, so the process is on the order of months. I usually write on my lunch hour at work (which can be a little disconcerting come 1pm depending on the scene I'm in)- or I write at night. I just sit down with an idea and go. I might have a very vague idea of points I want to hit but how the characters get from points A to B is a surprise to me. Often things will happen on the way that totally surprises (or annoys) me. I also tend to put myself into my stories. I don't do it consciously, but usually see it when I'm done. I see a lot of me in Lessa (TBA) Raven (AOB) and Janice (ITADOTD & TSFA). I suppose my 'writing philosophy' is to be self indulgent and have a good time. If I want torture, I can clean the bathroom.

The Broken Arrow started from a simple idea. What if Xena and Gabrielle met this chick on a zebra who was a smart ass AND a goddess. Her mission: to get them together before cupid shoves Perdicus onto the scene. It all fell out from there.

Minor Adjustments was a quick little thing I did after seeing Intimate Strangers. That episode really left an impression on me. That was done in one sitting and how it is now, is pretty much how it spilled out at the time.

Assassin...Oracle...Bard started as an attempt to look at something a bit more serious, child sexual abuse. I also wanted to play with the idea of the Gabster having two look-alikes. I knew I wanted them to switch places, and use flashbacks to fill in the story but the rest just sort of spilled out. I got really attached to Raven while I was writing it and it was hard to kill her off. The whole bit with Raven In Therapy For Eternity totally took me by surprise, but I felt she deserved more than to simply roast over an open flame. It was also the worst punishment I could think of: work through all your crap no matter how long it takes.

Is There A Doctor On The Dig started with the idea of 'get the scrolls back'. The idea of ending each chapter with a dream/flashback was just a random thought that popped into my head and stuck. I wanted them to be from Xena's point of view to keep Mel central to the story, and just because I dig the heck out of Xena. The only part that got seriously rewritten was the first dream sequence. I thought the episode The Quest was so moving, I had to address it in the story. The only other things I had in mind from the beginning were that I wanted Callisto (my favorite villain) to be in it. I wanted pirates, a boat chase, wonder-dog, a nod to Indiana Jones and Mel in a tuxedo and of course, sex. All those elements just fell into place as I went along. When I wrote it I never intended to do a sequel but I decided a sequel would be cheaper than hiring a body guard.

The Search For Amphypolis is moving along. I've accepted that it will be similar, but not likely as good as it's predecessor. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sucked after all. I started by watching Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (which didn't suck) for encouragement. I didn't want to re-do the first story, but wanted it to have the same feel and use a lot of the same characters. In stead of using episode names for the *extras* I'm using people I know online. It made sense to have the dreams from Gabrielle's point of view this time, and if I took the time to dig up Callisto, why not Valaska as well? I'm looking forward to amazons, a puzzle with cryptic clues, my tribute to the Mac Gabbers (who I think are totally cool) a car chase and of course, sex. This time around I spent time doing research. I dug up what I could about the real Amphypolis and Potadeia. Looked up some Greek recipes, checked out what was going on in WWII and did some looking into the crusades. Above all though, it's fun. If it weren't I wouldn't bother.

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