April 29, 2010

Autumn's Interview with bethesdagray about 'How Do I Live'

 HOW DO I LIVE by bethesdagray, on FFn

Summary: When Edward abandons Bella to discover a human life for herself, the resulting damage is something that neither of them could have imagined, and neither can heal alone.
Twilight - Rated: M - English - Romance/Fantasy - Chapters: 21 - Words: 73,984 - Reviews: 115 - Updated: 4-18-10 - Published: 2-10-10 - Bella & Edward

Did you get the feeling in New Moon that Bella’s transition from basket case to Breaking Dawn’s SuperBella was just too damned easy? What kind of person can plunge to that depth of despair and come out of it a few months later ‘all better’? What about the physical and emotional damage that that kind of obsession and desperation would play on a human being, never mind an immortal?

Bethesdagray addresses these questions and more, beginning her story in the waiting room of the Volturi fortress, and continuing along a much more realistic path than that taken by New Moon. This Bella is broken, but she’s not weak, and this Edward is exactly the seventeen-year-old immortal he started as in Twilight (remember, before Stephenie Meyer started breaking her own rules and mythology, she told us that vamps are frozen in emotions and taste exactly where they were when they were changed). They are very real, in a fantasy setting, and their trials and joys are so well-written! These are two people desperately in love, with all that implies (heh-heh), trying to find a way to be together with the least damage to everyone involved. Thank god, though, bethesdagray acknowledges that every ‘yes’ means a ‘no’ to something else, and everything we do has cost. As an added bonus, she’s written the best Alice I have ever read. I actually liked her, which says a lot, because I don’t like Alice (so shoot me).

This story has a bit of everything: angst, laughter, UST, thoughtfulness… and citrus that WOWS. Again, not a fan of vamp/human sex. I have yet to find a writer that can convince me that Edward wouldn’t satisfy every lust, but bethesdagray comes very, very close. This is a fabulous story that is very close to completion. I asked bethesdagray a few questions, and here are her answers:

1. Where did you get the idea for this story? What was your inspiration?
Maybe “issues” is a better word than “inspiration.” I’m a pretty new Twilight fan, and when I read the books for the first time last December, I was a few months out from a painful breakup of my own. New Moon absolutely killed me. I could completely relate to the “end of the world” feeling that Bella was experiencing, and at the same time, I hated that she had the luxury of lying down in the dirt and giving up when I had to go to work and make sandwiches for my kids and pretend to still be okay. As if I needed another reason to be jealous of this character, she even got to indulge in her heartbreak in ways I never could. Waking up screaming is pretty pointless when you live alone, you know?

Anyway, I read on, and even though I enjoyed all of the books in their own way, I still felt traumatized. I felt the need to make the story grow up a little, become real for people who had experienced that proverbial hole in their chest for themselves. This was my way of reclaiming the fairy tale, giving the sparkly teenagers back their HEA even if I didn’t get to keep mine. (If I’m being completely honest with myself, I suppose I needed to hurt Edward a little bit, too. Bella’s a whole lot more forgiving than I am.)

2. Why do you think readers should read your story?
I think that my characters explore a lot of the underlying motivations behind the choices they make in SM’s books. If you really enjoy picking apart an emotional puzzle, then this is the story for that. I tackle everything from “What made Edward fall in love with Bella?” to “How mad can Bella really get at someone that pretty?” I hope that, if NM left you scratching your head a little, then HDIL? will help you make a little more sense of it, and ultimately help you hold onto the fairy tale by making it feel plausible and real. The longer I write this, though, the more I suspect that that ambition is a little grand.

I do think that HDIL? stands alone as its own story, and is not just an expansion on NM. The plot is twisted, and I like to think that it’s unexpected and engaging, and I’m very excited to see what readers think of the ending, which will be happening within the next month (even if it kills me).

3. Is there anything you would want readers to know specifically?
I guess the main thing I want people to keep in mind when they read is that I’m coming from a place of personal loss and healing, and I’m going to infect this fairy tale with it, intentionally or not. I get kind of preachy with the themes of HDIL?, and I know that it’s self-indulgent. That’s kind of the point, the spark point of the story. I won’t apologize for it, but I hate the thought that my story could be depressing people who have no need for the catharsis. On the other hand, I really do feel the most perverse pleasure when someone says in a review that my story made them cry. So, if you need to cry, come and read, and then please tell me about it. If you don’t, then for god’s sake go read something sexy and funny. Life has enough pain in it without my help. If it didn’t, HDIL? would never have been written.

(Q courtesy of Mels) Give us a Random Fact about yourself
I’m sort of a gypsy at heart. I’ve moved eight times in the last four years, and I’ve lived everywhere from a friend’s dining nook to this amazing communal flophouse. Everything I own, aside from furniture, can fit into the hatchback of my Focus.

4. Do you do anything special while writing a chapter like listen to special music, need total silence, eat a bag of M&Ms, drink heavily, whatever
I often play Twilight or New Moon in the background when I’m writing canon. It lets me keep my character voices in my head. I drink when I’m stuck on a section, but the editing the next day is killer. I hate editing. I’ve also been popping into a lot of WC’s lately to help push through some more difficult passages.

5. What do you do after you click the submit button for a chapter?
I sleep! Seriously, it’s usually the middle of the night when I actually finish a chapter. And then, of course, I wake up and immediately check for reviews, because I am hungry for the validation of strangers.

6. Do you have a soundtrack to your stories?
Oh, for sure. I’ve had to snap a rubber band on my wrist to keep from saturating my story with lyrics, but I hear them constantly as I write.

Some of HDIL’s signature songs are listed here (since you asked):
The Story of My Life, Neil Diamond
Wake Up, Alanis Morissette
What Can I Do? The Corrs
Good Enough, Evanescence
Human, The Josh Joplin Group
Like a Radio, Over the Rhine
The Luckiest, Ben Folds
Better than Chocolate, Sarah McLachlan
Samson, Regina Spektor
Fallen, Sarah McLachlan
Storm, Lifehouse
My Never, Blue October
I’ve Changed, The Josh Joplin Group
(and, of course…)
How Do I Live?, Trisha Yearwood

7. What actor/actress do you picture as YOUR Edward and Bella?
I have to go with Rob and Kristen, mostly because that lets me reconnect with my character voices by watching YouTube. Rob is the prettiest man ever created, and his facial expressions kill me dead. Edward can be kind of an asshole at times, and I think Rob actually manages to make that part of the character sexy and sympathetic most of the time. I think Kristen does a beautiful job with Bella, particularly how she brings out the separateness and unnatural maturity the character shows at times. I do prefer the younger looking, more vulnerable Bella from Twilight versus New Moon and off-screen Kristen. I just don’t think Bella should be that hip!

8. Is the story all planned out or do you do it as a fly by the seat of your pants thing?
For the first half, I was definitely flying by the seat of my pants. I started writing with the intention of writing about Edward’s struggle with his bloodlust after becoming re-sensitized while he was away from Bella. That plan lasted for about three paragraphs, as my subconscious screamed that there was another story I needed to tell.

10. Do you believe in HEA?
Wow, I had to really think about that one. I guess I have to say yes, and for sadly autobiographical reasons. If I want to keep up the daily perseverance in my own life, I simply can’t believe that every victory achieved is just a prelude to another struggle, another loss. I remember being unbelievably depressed at the end of the musical “Avenue Q” after the song “It’s Just for Now.” I mean, love is really, really hard sometimes. All that can’t be for nothing, right?

I work in a retirement facility with Alzheimer’s patients. One of my residents is this amazing woman. She doesn’t speak much anymore, but she just radiates a peace and calm that I don’t see in most people with severe memory problems. I can’t say for sure, but I think it might be because she found it, the “it” that we all look for and write for. What’s more, she still has it. She’s been married to the same man for over fifty years. He visits her three times a day, every day. He brings her photographs and chocolate and music, and he never, ever looks like he wants to be anywhere else. I watch them together, and even though she can’t speak to him, her eyes just shine and say everything that her words can’t while he holds her hand and talks to her. He calls her “my girl,” and talks to her for hours about their friends and their children and what’s in the news. And she just lights up inside when he comes around, and in those moments I can see in her the person that was, and still is, his girl.

So, yes, I do believe in happily ever after. I may not ever find it personally in the form of a relationship with another person (because we all know that’s not the only happy in the world), and I don’t think it’s the right ending for every fic, but I know that it’s out there.

11. Give me a list of your current projects.
I am primarily writing HDIL? right now, but I am also working on an entry for the “Fun with Your Clothes On” contest called Ladylike. It’s Rosalie/Bella slash, a complete departure from the oh-so-carefully-canon feel of HDIL?, and it’s been a lot of fun to write.

Do you have any more fic plans in the future?
Way too many!

Seriously, though, I’m playing with the idea of following up HDIL? with some fluff with the same characters, sort of a “thank you” to the readers who have stayed with me while I tortured them emotionally for so many chapters. There is another idea in the works, too, a story that’s not quite fluff and not quite angst that is actually inspired by the love story between the people I described above for the HEA question. That one will almost definitely get written.

I’ll probably do more contest entries and one shots, also, just to explore a little more without committing to the 100K+ words that go into a complete long fic. I want to play with smut a little more. Graphic sex wouldn’t have been a good fit in HDIL?, but a mind this dirty is a terrible thing to waste. Oh, and I’m shameless enough to admit here that I would give my right thumb to write for the Friday Free for All.

12. What brought you to fanfic? To Twilight?
I was exceptionally nerdy in high school. I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and most of all, Beauty and the Beast (that corny TV series with Linda Hamilton). The latter series got me reading and writing fic, but I never attempted more than a short story. Fan fiction was a different thing back then (watch me give away my age, if my fandom choices haven’t already), and I contributed to several hardcopy fanzines and conzines. (Today’s lack of hardcopy, along with the practice of sharing unfinished work, really took some getting used to when I got into Twilight fan fiction. I admit that I still miss being able to touch and hold my stories, read them in the bathtub. And, wow, the art that went along with some of those stories…)

Anyway, I’ll skip past my scrunchie-wearing years.

I admit that I shamelessly mocked Twilight for about three years before I started reading. My roommate’s twelve-year-old daughter was an avid fan, and, in retrospect, that could have been a significant bonding point for us (it would have been an improvement over her eating the pudding from my section of the fridge and swiping cigarettes from my purse). My ex wanted to see the first movie, and in the spirit of vampire = win, I agreed. It was a visually pretty movie, but, as I hadn’t read the books, I found it a little goofy and confusing. I promptly forgot about it for another year or so.

I loved, I lost, I moved a bunch of times. During the most recent of these moves, I stayed with a friend while my furnace was being repaired. My books were all packed, and I noticed that she had the books with the pretty red-and-black pictures on the shelf in her guest room. I read Twilight in fourteen hours. Everything goes gray after that.

I think I hit terminal geekery the day that I stood at a ticket counter and spoke the words “One for New Moon.” I was so self-conscious; it was like going into a porn theater on a Sunday.

I discovered Twilight fan fiction when I was visiting my parents last Christmas. The first story I started reading intently was LolaShoes’ Let Your Light Shine (which I do not recommending starting while you are staying with family – LYLS requires mucho alone time). I started writing HDIL? in January, and was helped along by some extremely insightful and supportive reviewers. Can I shout out here? If so, then I really have to send my thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed from chapter one. There’s little doubt in my mind that HDIL? would have been long forgotten without their encouragement.

13. What is your background in writing?
I’ve been writing since I was ten years old. I used to hunt at yard sales for old manual typewriters and then bang out silly stories on them until the keys stuck or the ribbons broke. I finished my first novella when I was twelve, which I readily admit reads exactly like it was written by a twelve-year-old girl. Even then, it was all supernatural romance, hurt/comfort and the like. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school, and took English and writing classes in college. More than anything, though, I thank my appetite for books of all kinds for any skill I’ve acquired.

I got married when I was nineteen, and for some years I was too busy and overwhelmed to create much more than breastmilk and shopping lists. My return to writing is fairly recent, and I think that the life experience (that is, life taking me out back and beating me like the fax machine in Office Space) of the last ten years has really helped me tap into some more authentic character perspectives and emotions.

If you could have 15 minutes with any Edward FF or SMs which one would you choose and what would you do? (If you do not LIKE any of the Edwards feel to substitute an actor here. Rob, Kellan, PFac or Jackson)
Annetteskitty writes a brilliant Twilight/The Bad Mother’s Handbook crossover called Cumming to America (I don’t know the maturity rating on this blog – feel free to edit out the title if you need to!). That is the Edward I would choose, although technically he is Daniel Gale, brilliant geek with sex constantly on his mind (an identity I relate to fully). His Bella is curvy like me, and I drool like crazy thinking about getting it on with him in the campus library. Oh, yes, those study tables are plenty sturdy. Mess up my sensible ponytail (we’re going to pretend I have more hair), knock my glasses (and yours) askew, push up the pencil skirt I will have to run out and buy for this fantasy, and oh my god nerdy boy, let me change your life. Um, yeah.

A close second place goes to LYLS’ canon-but-still-somehow-emotionally-and-physically-generous Edward. I love the vulnerability and intensity of the sex in those stories (and am I really the only one who finds the bruises hawt?). Also, think all those standing and against-the-wall lemons are wasted on skinny Bella. Canon Edward should be doing someone like me. I have always thought that the man who is strong enough to wallbang just about anyone should have been awarded to a juicy gal. It just seems right.

15. What is your FF pet peeve?
I think that a lot of authors start out with a great concept and a great voice, and about a third of the way in, they cave to the pressure to make their story a tender love song. It’s more comfortable in some ways to follow that path, and readers will definitely push for that as they get caught up and attached to the characters, but a really original concept deserve a really original story arc.

Oh, I also hate it when kinky folks are made villains or otherwise portrayed as broken. It’s not that I don’t think that is never plausible or well executed, but it’s done so often that it’s kind of insulting to the freaks of the world, like me.

16. What is your Fandom pet peeve?
People who take themselves and their hobby just a little too seriously. Come on, this is fan fiction, and we are largely women who spend the time we could be earning a graduate degree writing about pretty monsters half our age. Who are we to judge anyone, or find anyone less cool than us? You can include in this heading jealousy, flaming, drama, whatever. If anything is supposed to be purely for pleasure, this is it. Twilight is the Twinkie of our lives, and I groan when people try to treat it like the bran muffin.

17. Which character do you identify with the most? Any character who would you like to see yourself with? Either as buddies or more?
I figured out recently that my APOV voice is almost exactly the voice I write in when I blog as myself. So, I guess I want to be Alice. (Don’t we all?) I love how she’s cute and vulnerable, but still ever at the ready to jump on some jerk and yank his head off when it’s called for.

I think that Rosalie and me would make an amazing power couple. I think she’s a Leo, and I think she would pull my hair at all the right times. We would look really good together. She would take me out and dare everyone with her eyes to just try and say one damn word to us while we danced together really inappropriately.

Jasper and I should blog together about our pain in a quirky little coffee shop while we each wear one of my iPod’s earbuds and listen to Dashboard Confessional.

I am sometimes the “mom” of my friend groups, and I connected with Emily’s character on that level when I read NM. I would totally bake muffins with her and talk about how men are shirtless assholes sometimes.

18. Which RL author inspires you?
I’m a little embarrassed, because he’s very mainstream and non-quirky, but I have to say Stephen King. I love that he is so open about how much he enjoys writing. I love how unapologetic (and yet adorably self-conscious) he is about the commercial quality of his work. I devoured his book On Writing, and I lived and died by The Stand (and still do every time I re-read it). Pet Sematary scared the hell out of me and made me think at the same time. More than anything, I think I am just drawn to people who are popular but don’t feel the need to be cool, and I see that in him.
Did any FF authors inspire you?
There is a writer called Gina-bean who wrote a story called Full Dark. I can’t recommend that story enough. It’s poetic without being excessive, and the plot moves along at a pace that is perfect. It’s brave and raw and still has a heart, and the tone of that story inspires me so much that I have to consciously focus on not ripping it off when I write my own stuff. I hope that’s a compliment and not a really awkward admission.

Nicole Light, the author of The Ties that Bind, is also an inspiration. She opens her arms to the canon stories the way I aspire to when I write HDIL?. It can be really tough to take the plotlines as written and create something new in those boundaries, and she does a remarkable job of it. Her story is a BD expansion that actually moved me to tears at points, which is nothing short of miraculous.

19. If you could ask any Twilight Cast member a Question who would you ask and what would your Question be?
Guy who plays Mike: Do you find it ironic that playing the part a repeatedly-rejected loser has gotten you more ass than a ballpark toilet seat?

20. Anything else you would like to add?
Only my thanks! This has been really thrilling, and flattering beyond words. Thank you for supporting the authors, readers, and fandom this way.


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