Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Short Q&A With Enginerd


1. Why did you start writing?
When I was grade school, before computers were for home use, I dabbled with scenes that I wanted to see on TV shows I liked.  I never finished a story, save for one (Chiseling stone does get tiring, you know).  It involved the 70's Battlestar Galactica running into a, yep, lost ship from Earth with a female Captain!  It was a super-short, awful, Mary-Sue type story - but amusing when I look back.  When I got my first laptop, a huge improvement with the mechanics of writing, I continued to dabble in scenes that I'd want to see on TV, but I wasn't trying to develop stories. Then I saw the TV show, Xena: Warrior Princess. Xena's relationship and journey with Gabrielle and the online community really inspired me to try my hand at writing a complete story.  

2. If you had to do it all over again would you still write?
Yes.  It was and is rather therapeutic, actually.

3. Once you’ve written a story do you ever sit down and read it for enjoyment?
Occasionally. Especially if I get an email or comment about a story that's been out there for several years. I am surprised by the detail I have forgotten.

4. How did you start writing Xena fan fiction?
After a few episodes where it was clear to me Xena and Gabrielle had a "more than friends" kind of relationship. I wanted to explore that aspect and slowly develop over a few stories, a romantic relationship that wasn't subtext.

5. Is your muse a constant companion, or does it abandon you for long periods of time?
She comes and goes. I may abandon a story for a while and dabble in another genre that inspires me. I go where she takes me.

6. How do you feel about sequels?
Well, if anyone is familiar with my sequel-laden work, I'm clearly not adverse to them.  

7. Is writing a quiet thing for you, where there can't be any noise or conversation going on?
It is a solitary thing. I can't write when another person is near me, let alone talking. I may have either some music quietly playing in the background or silence.

8. Do you prefer to write/read romance, angst, horror etc, etc?
I like romantic dramadies. Life is a mix of humor and drama and I love a story that can balance that. Having humor with drama can provide for some amazing contrasts and poignant moments.

9. What usually sparks a story idea for you?
(Whiskey)  Thankfully, there isn't a single source. (Vodka, wine, beer….) I get ideas all over the place.  But alas, not all sparks will result in a story.

10. Where do your ideas come from?
I tend to gravitate towards ironic or incongruous situations. I like to ask "what if?" for different scenarios. For example, what if Janice went to Mel's home and found the purported Southern Hospitality wasn't for someone like her? Or what if Jane Rizzoli became jealous over the last person she should be jealous of, as in Facts, Just the Facts.

11. What advice can you give to future writers?
Write for yourself.

Commit to finishing a story, if you write and post in parts; not finishing is not fair to the reader.

Don't beg for reviews or worse, threaten to write slowly or stop unless you get more reviews; that indicates to me you don' t have a sincere desire to tell a story and may not care whether you finish or not.  

Put some effort into writing your summaries.  Starting off with "I suck at summaries" indicates to me that 1) you don't know what story you are really trying to tell and 2) the chance you will finish the story is slim.  

Seek continuous improvement. The goal should be to make it easy for readers to get swept up into your awesome tale; don't let them stumble over spelling errors, poor grammar, unconventional punctuation, or endless paragraphs.

Don't be discouraged if you get negative feed back. Sure, sometimes people can be mean. But most of the time, there is something to learn if someone takes the time to point out something negative. Learn from it and keep writing.

12. What has the show Xena meant to you?
It got me on the slow road to self-discovery.

13. How do you feel about the way it ended?
Disappointed. Seems kind of silly that someone could be so disappointed by a TV show but I actually was.

If you are going to have bad story telling, the ending of a popular series is certainly the most memorable time to do it, especially if you want to be "bold" and kill off the lead character. Frankly, I just couldn't fathom the story logic. It seemed like convincing the audience of the credibility and logic of what was happening wasn't as important as getting all of the desired elements crammed into a huge finale. New beautiful scenery, costumes, cinematography - check! Good music - check! Lots of impressive fighting - check!  Shocking death of Xena - check! Gabrielle growing as a warrior and going on a hellish journey - check! Having Xena have major showdown - check! Have the troubled hero finally get redemption by dying (and staying dead this time) to save a really large number of people…uh, spirits, uh... (never mind) - check!

Sometimes bigger isn't better.

14. How real are your characters to you?
When I'm in the moment writing, they seem real.

15. Do your characters speak to you?
Not directly. But I get a feel for their voices and how they would/should react.  

16. Are you in control of your story, or do the characters run the show?
If I'm lucky, the characters drive the story along between the major story points I want to achieve. Sometimes I have to abandon some points if it doesn't flow well ...or the characters disagree.

17. Have you created a character that you would like to meet?
Yes. Janice Covington's sister Roberta and Martha Calderón from Dolcemente. Uh, does that make me crazy? If so, no. Cause, like, I know it's not really possible to meet your fictional character. I know that. I do.

18. How would you feel about another writer giving one of your characters a cameo in their story?
If I was asked and convinced they would be respected, I'd be honored.

19. Has online writing changed your life in any way?
It gave me a hobby that has introduced me to me and some really awesome people.

20.  Have you ever been stalked on the internet by an overzealous fan?

21. Which one of your online stories is your favorite?
Well, I'd be surprised if any author could pick just one. And there is no one perfect story for me, as much as it pains me to say after all these years. So I'm going to cheat and give you a couple and the reasons why they are notable to me:

Curse of the Conqueror (X/G) - I enjoyed taking the standard conventions and turning them on their ear and carrying them throughout the story in hopefully a humorous way.  "You know" what I'm talking about. Well, at least I was amused. There is also some of my frustration from the finale buried in here, which the reader might pick up on if looking.

Duty (J/M) - I enjoyed exploring telling a story through several characters' perspectives. But I got a lot of flack for this story. But I stand by Mel's choices, which several readers argued she would never make. Of note, there are more stories in the series that resolves the major complaint.

Asylum (J/7) - I enjoyed fleshing out the Janeway family and their relationships with Seven and Seven's view on the Janeways.

Birds of Prey:
Just a Matter of Time (B/H) - Loved the idea of Helena going back in time and meeting a younger Barbara on the cusp of becoming Batgirl.

Rizzoli and Isles:
Dolcemente (J/M) - I wanted to explore the role of the piano in Jane's life and her struggle with her feelings for Maura and some unwanted attention.

22. Do you have to do a lot of rewrites?
I rewrite and tweak while the story is in progress and figure out the way ahead. Sometimes I'll go in a direction that requires an earlier scene or two to be added or altered to help the flow and consistency. When nearing the end, I'll review it from the very beginning, hopefully catching inconsistencies. This may explain why I'm a very slow writer.

23. Is there ever a point in your writing where you get stuck each and every time? How do you get out of it?
No one point and no one solution, unfortunately.

24. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most and why?
Sometimes when I'm in a writing "zone," I love how the ideas flow the story forward and I enjoy getting caught up in the dialogue. When I have an emotional or pivotal scene to write, I like figuring out the best way to set the right tone. When I'm stuck, I like to polish what I have already written to feel like I'm doing something productive…and pray I can figure out what's next. After the story is ready, the effort to actually publish it online is perhaps my least favorite part.

25. When you're working on a story are you obsessed with it until it's done?
In the late 90s and new to the online writing gig, I was. I was actually worried someone would have the EXACT same story ideas and post them before me. Now, I'm not feeling any pressure to rush, pretty sure my take on an idea will always be unique. Not necessarily good…but unique.

26. Who are your favorite top five writers? Online or published.
That is tough. Some of my favorite books are from Douglas Adams, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Johann David Wyss, Alexander Dumas.

Online, Ella Quince, LJ Maas, Pink Rabbit Productions, and Vivian Darkbloom are just a few that come to mind out of an abundance of talent out there.

27. The song says "Who rules the world? Girls." If that were true would the world be a better place?
No. Human kind is fallible, even girls.

28. Do you write a story straight through, or do you write in pieces, then put it all together.
Usually straight through. But sometimes I'll have a scene that I want to write that should come later that I'll outline. One time that comes to mind is in For Better or Worse. I had an opening scene where Xena was dutifully practicing while Gabrielle was trying to distract her for hopefully a romantic encounter. As I was getting near the final couple chapters to tie the story up, I thought it would be a great closing scene to mirror the opening and get Xena trying to distract a dutifully practicing Gabrielle, who had learned much since the opening scene. So I jumped on that scene before the preceding closing chapters.

But that is atypical.

29. Do you read books for pleasure while you are writing?
Yes. More fan fiction, though. Which is also another reason I'm a slow writer; I find I enjoy reading. And it is hard to get the solitary time to write these days.

30. Do you have a favorite Greek God?

31. Do you have a pet peeve?
You'll find a few in my answer to question 11. Oh! And people talking on the cell phone in a rest room, who don't seem to be bothered by the sounds of bodily functions in the background of their conversation.

32. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I think more writing, even if I'm slow and don't produce too many stories. I may even venture to original fiction some day.

33. What is your favorite word?

34. What is your least favorite word?

35. What turns you on?
Dry humor and bacon.

36. What turns you off?
Insincerity and hypocrisy.

37. What sound or noise do you love?
Heartfelt laughter.

38. What sound or noise do you hate?
Barking at 5AM.

39. What is your favorite curse word?
The vulgar slang of intercourse and all its derivatives and associated phrases and phrasal verbs.

40. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Brain surgeon. At least once. Possibly twice. But not more than three times.

41. What profession would you absolutely not like to participate in?
Septic tank cleaner. I hear it's a really shitty job.

42. If Heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Here is Enginerd's favorite story:
Curse of the Conqueror by Enginerd - 184 pages
A very funny Conqueror story - yep you heard me. Xena the Conqueror rules all of Greece but is unhappy - she has problems with her love life. So she goes to her mother for advice and gets the cryptic response to "find someone with good oral skills." So Xena takes that advice and being of a literal bent kidnaps her mother's bard, Gabrielle. From there on the reader is taken on a humerous adventure as the couple cope with scheming henchmen, naked amazons, comas and assorted odd adventures. Enginerd creates a wonderfully wacky alternative universe that deftly combines humor and adventure.

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