1. Why did you start writing?
You could say it's genetic. My grandmother used to tell wonderful stories about traveling from England to North America. I wrote my first fiction story in elementary school in the 1970s and I've been writing ever since.
2. If you had to do it all over again would you still write?
Absolutely. I still write. I write for a living and I write for fun.
3. Once you’ve written a story do you ever sit down and read it for enjoyment?
Sometimes. The shorter ones I'll usually read again. As for longer ones, I just lack the time. I noticed that I do tend to read the stories that most people are less frequent to comment on. I don't think I’m looking for errors, I just tend to enjoy the stories more that other people might not care for as much, but I'm not sure why. LOL But I write for the masses and I write for ‘me’ too.
4. How did you start writing Xena fan fiction?
I was working for a computer company in the late 1990’s and that's where I first discovered the Internet. Around that same time, I discovered the TV show so I did a search for Xena and stumbled upon Tom's Xena page, Lynka’s and Mary D’s site. I really enjoyed the stories I found because I never knew such a thing existed in the universe. I was hooked and I decided to start posting some of my own ideas. If I'm not mistaken, Lynka was one of the first sites I posted to and not long after MaryD approached me to be added to her Bard's Corner. Of course, that was nearly 20 years ago, but I think that's the way it happened.
5. Is your muse a constant companion, or does it abandon you for long periods of time?
I have ideas all time. I don't always have the time to write though. It took me a long time to write Xena fan fiction again because I felt like I had told all the stories I wanted to tell. It wasn't so much the disappointing finale, but rather I didn't have anywhere else I wanted to take the characters at that moment. In January of 2011 my friend Norma, who I met through the netforum (a.k.a. Nut forum) passed away from cancer. Almost a year to the day, I lost my other Xena friend, Bridget to heart disease. I loved both of them tremendously and I decided in March of this year to start organizing an idea I had for the Sappho episode of Xena. I'm not sure why, but maybe they were the ones pushing me back towards the fandom that brought them into my life… even though they left this world way too soon. So, as a tribute to them and our friendships, I dedicated “the 10th Muse” to them. Although it's taking me awhile, rest assured, this is one story that will be finished.
6. How do you feel about sequels?
I've done quite a few series over the years. They began as sequels but then blossomed from there. So, if there’s more ‘story’ worth telling, sequels can be good.
7. Is writing a quiet thing for you, where there can't be any noise or conversation going on?
I like to write when it’s quiet but I can write anywhere. I like to write in hotel rooms or in hotel lobbies. Don't ask me why. I have no idea. I just do. LOL
8. Do you prefer to write/read romance, angst, horror etc, etc?
I don't actually read very much fiction, but when I do, I usually gravitate more towards romance, angst, drama and comedy. I like adult fiction and PWP too, if it’s well written. They are also the genres I write most in. Many actors say drama is easy; comedy is tough. I think that’s true of writing as well. You never know if an amusing story is going to fall flat or not, but I've been relatively lucky that most of the comedy I work into my stories are successful and people get the joke.
9. What usually sparks a story idea for you?
Anything really. Sometimes I might hear music or see something happening in the world and I'll think that could make a good story.
10. Where do your ideas come from?
That's a good question. I'm not sure. My ideas are built from other ideas. For example, as I mentioned above, I recently started a new Xena fan fiction after a ten-year absence, which is about Sappho called ‘The 10th Muse’. I had general ideas running around in my head for years but after looking at some non-fiction about Sappho’s life, I thought about how I could work her presence into a Xena story since she was already established in Season Six.
11. What advice can you give to future writers?
I'm far from perfect when it comes to grammar, punctuation and such, but there were some stories that would be much more powerful if they used a beta reader to catch errors. Consistency is important too – we can’t go from one scene set at night and the next sentence talking about ‘her hair shimmering in the sun’ or a character with a broken leg walking away. LOL However, finding dependable beta readers in the genre you write can be difficult. The beta readers that I’ve found tend to be unreliable, but how much can I really bitch, they do this for free. LOL Still, although I've done hundreds of fan fiction stories, I would still like to run my material past a reader if I can find someone that has the time to devote to it and can offer an honest critique. Of course, I might just be impatient and I don't want to wait two weeks for chapter that I've written that's less than 10 pages long. For people just starting out though, having a second set of eyes look at your work, and offering sincere criticism, is important. It's also important to be able to take that criticism and become a better writer. So you better have a tough skin and be open to ideas outside of your own if you want to write successfully. Otherwise you’ll just sound like a whiny bitch. Be prepared for people to not like you.
12. What has the show Xena meant to you?
I think more about the people that I've met over the years because of the fandom - some good, some not so good and some absolutely great. I'm grateful that it’s given me the chance to express myself creatively and touch other people with some words I put on a page. I’d like to meet new friends but it’s hard in a fandom that’s not around as much as it once was.
13. How do you feel about the way it ended?
I'm glad Joss Whedon learned from Rob Tappert’s mistake – don’t kill your lead character or you'll run the chance of killing your franchise. LOL I do understand WHY Tappert went the way he did, but his story also changed from a woman seeking redemption (which she’d never truly find) to a journey of two women discovering who they really are and being the best they can be. I know many people who walked away from writing fan fiction as a result of that finale and that’s sad. Many people, at least some that I knew, it really felt like they were betrayed. Not only does Xena get her head chopped off, she never got a real kiss from Gabrielle. The finale was a double downer. To add insult to injury, a few months after the finale Lucy Lawless did an interview with (I believe) Advocate magazine stating that she thought Gabrielle and Xena were a couple beyond a shadow of a doubt. It felt a little bit like too little too late. I have heard recent talk of our reboots of the franchise, so I'm wondering if fans will finally get their lesbian superhero now that it’s 20 years later and not nearly as taboo to have a lesbian lead.
14. How real are your characters to you?
I ran a virtual series that was a spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called ‘Watchers’ (www.thewatcherscouncil.net) and we had character worksheets that each writer had to fill out before suggesting a new character into the show. I think doing this helps make the characters more real to the reader (and especially other writers when you're working in an ensemble). As for the characters others create (like Xena), I think of them as ‘real’ in the sense that they have to do things that are ‘in’ character and not necessarily what you WANT them to do.
15. Do your characters speak to you?
I like to think that my characters do their own talking. I'm just there to type the words. One of the compliments that I love the most from readers is when they say they can “hear” the characters saying the words I've written, or that it's just like watching the show. That means I've done my job correctly.
16. Are you in control of your story, or do the characters run the show?
I'd say it's 50-50. I start with a general idea of how the stories are going to go. But when I write anything it's happening in real time so each character will react to the situation in their own way. So while I might have an idea of where I want things to go, it could take another turn if the actions of the characters make the story more believable. It's a bit hard to describe. LOL
17. How would you feel about another writer giving one of your characters a cameo in their story?
I wouldn't mind. I think that's actually happened before but it's been so long ago I honestly can't remember where or when. LOL
18. Has online writing changed your life in any way?
It gave me confidence to get back to my roots of writing and the letters I received from fans and friends inspired me to start writing professionally, which I still do today. It's a bit of a double edged sword, however, because writing professionally leaves me less time to play in fan fiction but I write professionally because fan fiction was the jump start I needed.
19. Have you ever been stalked on the internet by an overzealous fan?
No. Not that I can think of. There are a few people that I can expect to hear from when I post a story. But that's more like seeing a friendly face than being afraid of who's reading my work. :)
20. Which one of your online stories is your favorite?
I have stories in several different genres and shows. I've written in Xena, Buffy, Rizzoli & Isles and Guiding Light. It's hard to say which Xena story is my favorite, although I do love some more than others. But since I have to pick one I would probably say I'm really liking the new one I'm working on called 10th Muse http://cnscaldron.com/xena_fanfiction/the-10th-muse.html . Sappho comes across as a bit of an ass, but that's intentional, which will eventually be revealed. As for my favorite completed xena story, I have to say the Change of Heart Series. http://www.cnscaldron.com/xena_fanfiction/changes-of-heart/changes-of-heart-main.html I really disliked season five and the Gabchak was the final draw. In fact, I wasn’t going to write anything else in the Xenaverse and my last story was Chapter One. I decided that was it. I was done. Gabby walking away from Xena was a nice end for me. But Barry Marshall, a friend, co-writer and co-founder of the Xena Fan Fiction Directory (http://www.xenafanfiction.info ), asked, “What happens next?” so I thought, ‘what the hell. Keep writing.’ The more I wrote, the more it helped me to give Season Six a-go. Actually, other readers too said that without this story they might not have decided to watch Season Six -- it made a great ‘filler’ and justified why Gab was staying with Xena. That was a nice feeling. It helped them get back to the love of the relationship and showed Gabby could be treated with respect and not like a doormat that she seemed to become in Season Five. And for the most part I did like season six.
21. Do you do a lot of rewrites?
Sometimes. At other times, the first draft is the one I go with. What I do is write a chapter, let it sit for a day or so, look for errors which can mean everything from typos to (what I might see as) character flaws. I might flesh out some of the description too because I’m a very dialogue heavy writer. So there are places that might need a bit more physical description so I make the changes at that time.
22. Is there ever a point in your writing where you get stuck each and every time? How do you get out of it?
I can't say that there's a certain point that I get stuck but I have trained myself that once I finish a chapter I don't close the document until I know where the next chapter is going to go. That makes me more likely to go back into the story and finish it. The issue I often find isn’t a lack of ideas, but a lack of time.
23. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most and why?
I like posting the work to see what people have to say. While some authors and writers might say they don't care one way or the other about feedback, I really do like to know what people think -- good or bad. I don't expect tons of praise, but I do expect constructive criticism. I know that some of the things I've written over the years have made some fans angry and other stories have put smiles on peoples’ faces. The worst thing for me is to have someone read a story and there’s no reaction at all. It takes a lot of work to put a tale together so when there’s not a peep it makes you think, “What’s the point of doing this?”
24. When you're working on a story are you obsessed with it until it's done?
No. Since I leave notes of where I'm going next with a story it doesn't sit in my head. It's those stories that I have yet to put on paper that keep rattling around most of all. For example, I have an idea of doing a Rizzoli and Isle / Cagney and Lacey crossover. I've even toyed with the idea of finding a way to work in my other three fandoms of Xena, Buffy and Otalia of Guiding Light. Again, time is the preventative factor.
25. Who are your favorite top five writers? Online or published.
I honestly don't like to list names because I'm bound to forget someone I really enjoy and my list extends beyond five. I worked with an extremely talented group of people on Watchers (the Buffy spinoff ) for five years and they are most definitely on my list. So that's the closest I'll get to saying who my favorite writers are. I know that might seem like a copout, but so be it. As for published authors, I really like Steinbeck’s works. LOL
26. The song says "Who rules the world? Girls." If that were true would the world be a better place?
I'm not sure if gender is really the issue. I think it's more about intelligence and education. I think we live in the information age yet we know less today than we did 20 years ago. I think that investigative journalism is dying, which is sad because it breeds more ignorance. I think religion is playing a larger role than reason and that’s bad. We live in a society today, at least in America, where politicians work more for corporations than the people they are supposed to represent. So I don't believe that whether boys or girls ruling the world makes a difference.
27. Do you write a story straight through, or do you write in pieces, then put it all together?
That's an interesting question. Sometimes I write in chunks. If I have an idea of a scene that I really really want to get down before I forget about it, I'll write that scene and save it for later. Sometimes I'll have an idea for a story and I'll sit down and I'll write it from beginning to end in one sitting. At other times, I'll go through and do stories chapter by chapter. I have some Otalia fan fiction that’s literally hundreds upon hundreds of pages long. There's no way I could've wrote it in one sitting. So it really depends on the story and the idea I have for it.
28. What do you enjoy most about writing?
I like being able to please people with my ideas or make them think on a deeper level. A lot of my writing is layered. While it will make sense on the very surface, there other things that sometimes happen within the story that might seem insignificant at first, but have a greater meaning later. When one of the readers understand that and get the reference I’m making, that's one of things I enjoy most about writing. Because then it's not just ‘fluff’- you could say that it's fluff with a purpose. :)
29. Do you read books for pleasure while you are writing?
Good gracious no. If I read, I would have no time to write whatsoever. I do like to look at news and enjoy watching TV like the Daily Show and Colbert Report.
30. Do you have a favorite Greek God?
In the xenaverse or in general? In general I was always rather fond of Athena, but on the series… not so much. I really do love Aphrodite on Xena. The reason is although she can seem like a superficial airhead, she really had a great deal of wisdom and compassion. I think one of my favorite scenes was in the season five finale of Xena where she's practically begging Athena to leave Gabrielle alone as she's wearing the black dress of mourning. That was rather a creative spin on her appearance, but not every fan picked up on it immediately. That's the kind of stuff that I like my readers to point out that I work into stories. I have to say though, I do enjoy playing with Ares too. I think Kevin Smith did a phenomenal job in that role and I could've seen big things happening for him as an actor that have happened for Karl Urban recently. But yes, in fiction, I do tend to play most with Aphrodite and Ares because they're my favorites.
31. Have you created a character that you would like to meet?
Rowena, a character we created on Watchers. She had a lot in common with many of the people on the writing staff so she’d be fun to geek out with. I also would like to meet any of my Sappho’s I’ve created in the Xenaverse. All of them seem pretty entertaining gals too for different reasons. :)
32. Do you have a pet peeve?
In fan fiction? I think when the characters sound too lovey-dovey with each other it just doesn't ring true for me. There are a few early Xena works of mine that fall into this category because that's what you had to write at a time in order to really be noticed. LOL I think today I would cut back a bit on the endearments they use with each other. In some fics, it’s almost Shakespearian how they speak to each other. LOL
33. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
In the future, I’m trying to finish what I have going on now. LOL I actually have two stories in progress - one Xena and one Guiding Light - so my priority is to finish those sometime in the next year. I also want to start my new Rizzles fic too.
34. What is your favorite word?
I don’t have a favorite or least favorite word – I’m boring that way. LOL
35. What is your least favorite word?
Don't have one.
36. What turns you on?
Well done fan fiction can be quite smexy when done right. It can't be too heavy on euphemisms or too clinical. I like when the desire builds up in the story. But I also like ones that cut to the chase.
37. What turns you off?
Again, if a sexy story is littered with so many errors that it makes it too difficult to read, I have to pass.
38. What sound or noise do you love?
I love hearing kittens mew.
39. What sound or noise do you hate?
I hate the sound of babies crying. And yes, I'm a mom. LOL Of course, my child is an adult now so my contact around babies is minimal, thankfully.
40. What is your favorite curse word?
Fuck. I use it quite often and it has many purposes. LOL
41. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Actually, I'm doing what I always wanted to do. I can't imagine doing anything else in this world. If I had to though, I'd probably say something with photography.
42. What profession would you absolutely not like to participate in?
Anything that involves manual labor. I'm not very coordinated or physically strong. LOL
43. If Heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“Surprised to see me?”… I'm Agnostic. I don't think that there's a guy in the clouds passing judgment on gay people or anyone who eats bacon (or thousands of other goofy ‘laws’). I do think that there is some type of pattern in this universe, and the things happen for a reason. I believe that everyone has an energy, spirit, essence, etc. and I think we've all been here more than once. I point to people like my grandparents who lived one block away from each other in England as children but never met once until they were in Ohio as adults. I hear about reports of three-year-old's in the US Midwest who speak perfect German and can identify all the parts of German World War II planes, although neither his parents, nor any of his family, knew anything about Germany. So although I'll never see the Holy Bible as being ‘written by God’, I do see evidence that points to my beliefs that there is something higher in this universe. So yes, if there is a God, I'd be quite surprised.
Here is CN Winters favorite story:
In this traditional, season six, subtext story that's part French farce; part musical, Gabrielle has a Doppelganger, the Poetess Sappho. It's up to Gabby, Xena and Sappho's friend, the goddess Aphrodite, to guard Sappho during the 10th Muse Competition...Of course they must also try to repair Sappho's damaged relationship with her lover, and bandmate, Anaktoria.