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Interview for the Petulant Poetess

Warner Bros.

I recently ran across an interview I did in 2013 for The Petulant Poetess on their Facebook page.

It was fun to revisit it, and I thought I’d post it here because I love talking all about MEEEEEEE!

What brought you to fandom and what year was that?

I’m OLD, so I first read the HP books as an adult, both because the children in my life were reading them and because one of the smartest people I know recommended them. So my husband and I started reading them, and we had a lot of fun making predictions for the last two books. I also had a writer friend who wrote fanfic for another fandom. I thought: “Well, that’s odd.” But after the HPseries ended, I found I was still yearning for more about the older characters, so I started to poke around at FFN [fanfiction.net]. Most of what I found was disappointing, but fortunately, because there’s a relatively small number of people writing the characters I’m most interested in, the good stories and writers ended up on my radar screen fairly soon. [I never answered the question about what year it was: 2010.]

What is your favorite book of the series?

I like OoTP [Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix] because that’s when it stops feeling like a fairy tale. After the end of GoF [Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire] the stakes get much higher, so for me it was a more gripping read going forward.

Who are your favorite character/s (and why)?

I love the grown-ups, but especially Minerva McGonagall. Strong women have always interested me as characters, and I’m fascinated by the dynamics between a powerful woman and a powerful man, whether it’s a romantic partnership or not. I also like looking at how those dynamics change when the partnership is between two powerful women.

What’s your favorite thing about the Harry Potter fandom?

Is it too clichéd to say the people? The folks in fandom are some of the most talented and generous and interesting I’ve met, and everyone is doing all this thinking and creating and everything else out of love. For a children’s story! As a person for whom stories have always been part of life’s blood, I find that pretty wonderful.

Is HP your only fandom? Was it your first?

It’s my first and only, thus far. [Still true, more or less, although I have read some Downton Abbey fic.]

When did you start writing HP fanfic?

In 2010. I read some really good stories that excited me, and I thought: “I want to do this.” So I did. It’s rewarding in a way that writing original fiction isn’t (although that certainly has its own pleasures) because of the built-in audience and because you share a common understanding of the particular fictional world you’re all playing in. You can write a story with a late point of attack without spending lots of time on exposition, so you get to the meat, which is the fun part. You can also subvert the built-in expectations in ways that are harder to do in original fiction.

Besides writing, what other ways do you support fandom or express your love for the series?

I read. I squee over others’ writing. I’ve done a little beta-ing. Sadly, I’m pants at art. And I’d love to go to a con, but kids and a mortgage have conspired to keep me away as yet.

What brought you to The Petulant Poetess?

I don’t remember. I suspect it was MMADfan, whose stories are expurgated on FFN but complete here. How nice it was to find a modded archive!

What was the first story you read (if you can remember)?

I don’t remember the first story, but I remember the first one that made a huge impression: It was a Minerva/Severus post-war AU called “Witness” by the immensely talented kellychambliss (sadly, it’s not yet on TPP, but she’s been slowly putting her stories up here, so maybe soon.) The first TPP story was probably MMADfan’s epic Albus/Minerva romance, Resolving a Misunderstanding.

Who are your favorite TPP author/s (and what about the way they write most appeals)?

Merlin’s beard! There are lots I love, but I’ll continue to single out the two I mentioned above. Kelly has an unsurpassed ear for character and for revealing it through subtle details in a story. She also manages to cut to the quick of things with an economy I can only envy in slack-jawed amazement. MMADfan does exactly what I always want fanfiction to do: she takes JKR’s magical world and weaves a much richer picture from it, overlaying it with a realism that always appeals to me. She invents incredibly compelex and believable magic, and her original chracters are some of the most fleshed-out and compelling I’ve read.

Who are your favorite o-fic author/s? What story/ies, in particular?

Dame Muriel Spark is my great literary love. Memento MoriThe Only Problem, and A Far Cry From Kensington are my favorites. And the Africa stories are not to be missed. But I’m perfidious, because Nabokov’s Lolita is hands-down my favorite novel. I enjoy Stephen King a lot too—a terrific storyteller who creates great characters. The Shining and The Stand hit the sweet spot between great plot and vivid characterization for me. I admire Joyce Carol Oates a great deal, and my favorite of hers is a relatively obscure novel, American Appetites. I just finished The Woman Upstairs and was devastated by it in the best possible way, so I’ll be checking out more of Claire Messud’s work. [I did. It’s fabulous. Read it.]

What is your favorite story out of all you’ve written?

Well, that’s rather like asking which of your children you love best. I think my more recent work is better written, and of those, I’d say I’m happiest with the way A Change of PlansHeart’s Desire, and The Observer Effect turned out.

Do you (or do you have any plans to) write o-fic?

I do. I’ll let you know when I get my National Book Award. 😉  [I’m still working on it.]

When you’re reading HP fanfic, what are your favorite ship/s?

Minerva/Severus, Minerva/Amelia, Minerva/Albus, Minerva/Alastor—do you sense a theme? And thanks to tetleythesecond, Bathilda/Griselda is head-canon; it needs more fic, with all that history just waiting to be explored. I also like Hermione/Severus because it just seems to work, and I have a kink for plausible student/teacher. But I’ll read good stories featuring any ship, and I’m especially delighted when an author manages to make something I thought implausible work.

When you’re writing HP fanfic, what are your favorite ship/s?

I mostly write Minerva with the folks mentioned above. I’m trying to branch out and to write more gen, too.

What is your greatest inspiration as a writer (what feeds your muse)?

Most of my stories seem to spring from phrases I’ve read or heard or that just pop into my head for no discernable reason. Then I start to build stories around them. Quite frequently, the story stops on page one and gets shelved, but some go on (and a few go on, and on, and on . . .) I get excited when I can flesh out tiny canon moments, and sometimes that gets me moving when I’m stuck.

What about writing do you most enjoy?

The same thing I like about reading: it’s a chance to escape into another world. You can live a hundred little lives right through your keyboard. I think Stephen King said it’s the thrill of “Can you?” I agree. “What if” always excites me too.

What are the most important thing/s you’ve learned as a writer (how have you grown)?

I think I’m technically a better writer than I was three years ago. I’m also more disciplined in terms of what I put into a story. I’m striving to write more stories and fewer words. Someday, I’ll have it down to just a single, perfect word.

Are there any other tidbits that would help the TPP community get to know you better?

I have a long-suffering husband and two adorable squiblets; I’m an opera freak (listening, not singing); I’m a big fan of science, although I’m far from a scientist; I’m active in the autism acceptance movement; I follow both copyright and (US) First Amendment issues avidly; I have no sense of direction (literally or metaphorically).