Word Warrior

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?
A: Originally, my only aim was to stay true to the TV show with an emphasis on the "subtext". However, when I was writing "Truth or Dare," things changed. A good dramatic story has to involve growth in the characters. They have to learn from the experiences they have in the story and by the end, change. The Xenastaff knows this and that's why the characterizations of both Gabrielle and Xena have gone through a lot of changes over the two seasons we've seen so far.

When I started writing "The Child," I decided that this story would take place a couple of months after the events in "Truth or Dare." Once I knew this, I also realized that the growth I'd already shown in "Truth or Dare" should be reflected in "The Child." Suddenly, I wasn't dealing with just the continuity of the TV series, but also my own, inter-story continuity. Now with my latest piece, "The Empty Heart," I've gone even further along the path. This story takes place about a month and a half after "The Child" and is closely tied to the continuity set up in the previous two stories. It's fascinating, to me, to be working in these two different "realities" -- both the TV show and my own extended story arc. It really exemplifies the fanfic writing experience. There is no one to tell me I can't do something. I make my own decisions, based on my reading of the characters and can take them to places they wouldn't ordinarily go due to the limits of television.

The other thing I've enjoyed doing is creating my own characters and weaving them into the mythology. I have them return in my stories so that eventually, they feel as much a part of the supporting cast, to me, as the fol ks on the show. The characters of Widgie and Jorgos are an example of these. In fact, Widgie has even shown up in some other fiction (with my permission, of course). I think that's a lot of fun!

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?
A: Does it surpass the appeal of the series? I don't know. I truly love the series. I think comparing the two media is apples and oranges. There are things that can be done on the show that no fanfic will equal and vice versa. The visuals work so wonderfully on the show -- the New Zealand scenery, the beautifully expressive faces of Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Conner, the wild fight scenes, stunts and the special effects. These are all unique and integral to the appeal of the series.

But as for being attracted to themes which aren't ordinarily explored, a resounding "yes" on that. With prose fiction, a writer can delve deeply into the thoughts and psyches of the characters, instead of relying solely on dialogue and visuals. Therefore, themes of a very personal nature can be explored in fanfic. And while the TV show is limited to 44 minutes for each episode, I can write in as few or as many (usually "as many" for me) pages as I deem necessary to tell my story.

There are also no censors involved, so a fanfic writer can include sex scenes, extreme violence -- anything they want to. The same goes for budget. In television, budget is always a consideration. "Can we do this? Will it cost too much? I'll trade the extras needed for the village scene so that I can have this special effect in Act Three." That sort of thing. With fiction, that's never a concern. It can contain a cast of thousands, have special effects limited only by the author's vocabulary and include anything that can be imagined without worrying about the guys at Flat Earth being able to pull it off onscreen.

Q: Do you read fan fic written by others. If so, do you have any favorite authors? Have you been influenced by any?
A: I've read some other stories, but not many, I'll admit. I have this crazy rule that I don't read anything while I'm writing. I want my head to be working on my own stuff, not thinking about someone else's story. And since I spend most of my time writing, that doesn't leave me a lot of room to read. However, I was incredibly impressed by Rebekah's "All Through the Night" and hope that she continues her tale some day. I've also enjoyed the works of Bat Morda and N10dre. I haven't read many beyond those, but I have several stories on my hard drive, waiting to be read. They're mostly the pieces that I've heard good things about from other sources.

Rebekah's story influenced me in that I wanted to write something of that caliber. But I think that's about the extent of any influence. I've been a writer my whole life and had already developed my own style before I started watching and enjoying Xena.

Q: Of the stories you have written which is your personal favorite and why?
A: "The Child." Writing it was a marvelous experience for me. I adore children and don't have any of my own, so I got to create the kid I'd like to have. I also had fun writing about Xena's tender side -- something that is often overlooked. Plus, it was a blast making up my own language and bringing in the Norse god, Thor. I'm of Scandinavian descent myself, and delighted in bringing "my people" into the Xena mythos. Ah, the freedom of fanfic!

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?
A: I am a very instinctual writer. This may sound a little wacky, but I never have any idea what a story is going to be about when I start writing. I just start typing and find out what's going to happen as the story progresses. I don't plot, I don't have a clue what is going to happen or how it will end. I just write and trust that it'll all work out eventually.

My philosophy? I'd have to say the most important thing about writing, to me, is honesty. It's imperative for me to be as honest as possible when I tell a story. I feel the emotions, wear the expressions of the characters on my face and then describe what I'm feeling and how I look. I also use my own life experiences to extrapolate the psychological and emotional responses. No, I've never been a warlord or lived in ancient Greece, but humans are all basically alike in the important things. For example, I've experienced the loss of a loved one, so I would draw on that to describe how Xena would feel if she lost Gabrielle, etc. The key is to use real emotions in a fictional plot.

Readers can always spot a dishonesty. How many times have you read something and thought, "Xena would never do that" or "that doesn't sound like Gabrielle." Often, beginning writers will try to force the characters to do things because they *need* something to happen in the story. This rarely works. I listen to the characters and let them lead the story. I try very hard not to impose my will as the writer.

Where the ideas come from differs, for me. My first story was "Just Another Dead Warlord." I had only been watching Xena for a month or two (I began watching at the start of season two) when I decided to try my hand at fanfic. I wrote that story in one sitting. Had no story or idea, actually, just started typing and that's the result.

With every story after that one, the time it took to write was approximately a chapter a day for the rough draft and then a week or two to edit it. Editing is extremely important to me. I would hate to release a story with spelling errors, typos and clumsy passages. To me, the job of the writer is to communicate to the reader. If the technicalities get in the way of communication, I've failed. So I work very hard to catch as many problems as I can before posting it on the web. It's time consuming, but worth it.

Where did the rest of the ideas come from? With "Her Xena", I asked the question, "what if Xena had died instead of Lyceus and he had lived her life?" This intrigued me, so I simply had to write it to find out what would happen. I had a lot of fun with that story. I had to project what Xena would've been like had she died "innocent;" never having been a warlord, etc. And for me, alternate universe stuff can be a whole lot of fun.

"Truth or Dare" was perhaps the simplest idea of all. It started with the very mundane thought, "I want Xena and Gabrielle to have a conversation." That's it. I just wanted them to talk. So I got an image in my head of them being trapped in a cave-in and I thought "that'll force them to talk to each other!" Everything that happened in that story was a surprise to me. For instance, I thought it would end when they escaped the cave. "Gabrielle will find a healer and that's that." But then Widgie made her entrance and I thought, "Whoa! This is a really interesting character. I want to know what's up with her." I literally did not know Xena was blind until I typed the words coming from Widgie's mouth. Shocked the heck out of me, I'll tell you! And it twisted the story into a whole new direction.

"The Child" started with an image. I saw a very young, Scandinavian child sitting near the bodies of her slain parents. It immediately caught my attention. Who is she? What happened to her parents? What in the world would Xena and Gabrielle do with a kid tagging along? How will they get her home? My natural curiosity compelled me to write the story so that I could find out the answers to these questions. And once again, I was clueless as to what kind of story it would be. I thought maybe it would be a murder mystery -- Xena tracking down the killer. Or a journey piece -- the adventures along the way as Xena and Gabrielle travel to Scandinavia. But the characters and the story went in a very different direction, making it more of a psychological character study with just a dash of the other two mixed in. Do you see how clueless I can be? Beats me how these things ever get written.

"The Empty Heart" was the most difficult story to date. It's huge. And it encompasses a lot of major themes and is, at times, a very pain-filled story. This one is your basic psychological thriller -- with an evil villainess, magical powers and some major relationship issues thrown in for good measure. I started this knowing that there were issues left over from "The Child" that Xena hadn't dealt with. And I had the character of Alcimede, my villain. What it became was a study of the role emotion plays in our lives and an exploration of the masks we wear. As of this interview, I am in the editing phase of the story and should have it posted within the next couple weeks.

Basically, a theme has emerged in these last three stories. When added together, they take place over one year's time and explore basic themes. I think of them like this:

Title Season Theme
Truth Or Dare Autumn The Dark Side
The Child Winter The Light Side
The Empty Heard Spring The Heart
The War of the Gods Summer The Soul

The last one ("The War of the Gods") hasn't been written yet (and that's just a working title). I don't know if I'll get the chance to write it or not. Right now, all I know about it is that it's a crisis of faith for Xena as Thor and the Norse gods are forced to battle the Greek Pantheon, with Xena's soul as the prize (though I have no clue if that's what it'll end up being -- remember, I'm as much in the dark as you as to how these things will work out).
So here's your peek into the workings of WordWarior's mind. Bet you thought I knew what I was doing, huh? Ha! I simply realized, long ago, that I had to trust myself. As long as I believe that there is a story to tell and am honest in the telling, it will unfold.

The Child | Her Xena | Just Another Dead Warlord
Musings | Truth Or Dare

*the Empty Heart is not available yet but it will be up soon

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