September 10, 2010

Micki Martini interviews The_Black_Arrow, author of The Blessing and the Curse.

The Blessing and the Curse by The_Black_Arrow

Summary: By pretending she is falling for Edward, Bella is fulfilling Esme's dying wish. But sexy, possessive Edward can read her mind. Will she ever get into his? Can Bella forget the pain of her teenage years, and can she resist his relentless seduction? AH.
Twilight - Rated: M - English - Angst/Romance - Chapters: 21 - Words: 137,424 - Reviews: 10395 - Updated: 9-7-10 - Published: 5-31-09 - Bella & Edward

This interview was won in an auction to benefit Fandom Gives Back Eclipse/Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation sponsored by So You Think You Can Write.

The Blessing and the Curse is one of those stories that sucks you in from the very beginning and once started is next to impossible to put down. The_Black_Arrow’s descriptive prose is so spot-on, reading her story is like watching a film. This Bella is insecure and conflicted. This Edward, aka Curseward, is possessive and jealous. The supporting characters are richly developed. This is not a happy, feel-good story. Darkness, angst, and sadness prevail for much of it, but what keeps readers involved is the connection between the characters. Bella and Edward share a bond that goes beyond the natural world into the spiritual.  An excerpt from the prologue:

On one side of the coin, it was a blessing, because Bella had her soul mate by her side since the moment she first opened her eyes on this world.

But on the flipside, the blessing was her curse: her wicked soul mate could hear her thoughts, read her like a book and use what he wished.

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen are born on the same day to BFF mothers Renee and Esme, who consider them soul mates. When Bella is the tender age of five, Renee dies and Charlie’s profound grief renders him unable to properly care for her and she moves in with the Cullens. Bella and Edward‘s close relationship is marred by his increasingly possessive behavior in their teen years, culminating in a traumatic event that forces Bella to flee the country. The story begins with her return to the Cullen home after a six year absence in which she has made a life for herself and is now engaged. Why does she return? What does Edward do when he finds out Bella is engaged? Will Bella be able to resist Edward’s overwhelming, all-consuming need for her? For the two or three people in the fandom who haven’t read this story: Go. Read. Now.

Micki: The Blessing and the Curse is your first and I believe only fanfic. What inspired you to write it?

The_Black_Arrow: I started reading a bit of fanfic around the start of 2009. I worked on the top floor of a building, and I used to look out the window with my cheeks just burning and my heart hurting after reading a particularly harrowing chapter of M.A.D [Mutually Assured Destruction] by Jandco, or inwardly squealing after the finger-touch moment in the quad in Wide Awake. I really loved these people for writing these cool, interesting versions of a book I'd gotten (embarrassingly) a little addicted to. Anyway, my beta, bookbag, sat across the partition from me, and one day we decided that we were going to take a writing class. We went along, and I said to bookbag that if I ever thought of a fanfic concept I'd try to write it.    
Meanwhile in this writing class, we'd been given a photograph each to write a short piece on. Mine was this amazing foggy field with a black silhouette in the distance. I wrote a few pages from the point of view of a woman walking to this man, feeling this awful sense of destiny and horror and longing all blended together. Then, when I was driving to work one day and tossing up ideas for a fanfic, I was thinking in terms of 'opposites' of the book and thought, wouldn't it be interesting if Edward COULD hear her mind. The fact he has to touch her in order to do it added in a tactile and creepy element that I liked, and would add a good conflict for her character- wanting to be touched, but the moment that you are, your secrets are laid bare.
And yes, you're right; this is my first and only fanfic.

Micki: How much do you feel the writing class helped you and in what ways?

The_Black_Arrow: The writing class was helpful because it made me realise that I wanted to write, and it woke up the dormant part of me that I had long forgotten about since my creative writing days at high school. It was fun, sitting around with all these other people, talking through plot ideas. But it was also difficult, because I'd thought of TB&TC and really wanted to focus on that, but no way was I going to own up to writing fanfiction. So I quickly improvised a 'legitimate' story about a girl and her grandmother, and they kept asking me questions about it throughout this eight week course and were maybe a little weirded that I didn't seem to be that into my own 'story'.

Micki: You mentioned creative writing in high school, what other writing experience do you have?

The_Black_Arrow: I don't have any other writing experience at all. High school was ten years ago- I'm 28- and I used to really love it, and I recall I was pretty good. But soon tertiary education broke my spirit and made me hate writing, because it was just dry essays. Then I started working, and I literally just wrote reports and dull things at work, zzzzz. Maybe since high school I've written like, a page drabble here and there, but TB&TC is the first and only multi chaptered work I've ever written. And boy has it taught me a few things about writing.

Micki: This story has taken a long time to unfold. Did you initially work from an outline or just wing it as you went along? Did you know early on how you wanted to end the story?

The_Black_Arrow: I wrote the first five chapters like a person possessed. It just fell out of my brain, and I could see it as clearly as if I'd watched it in a film. Then I sat on it for a long time, and lost my nerve. Bookbag finally convinced me to post the prologue, and I did so with much trepidation. My aim was to get twenty reviews, which I thought was reasonable considering there were something like 140,000 Twi fanfics on I woke up the next morning and had 14 nice reviews of the prologue saying it looked interesting. So I posted another, and another, and couldn't believe that anyone was reading it. Then I got myself into a bit of a pickle, because no, I did not have an outline. The first five/six chapters were clear as a bell, and then I posted the last chapter I'd written and realized I had nothing more up my sleeve. And then it got really, really, REALLY hard. People had started to find the story, and right about where you're up to at the moment Sue, I sat down at my computer and got my first taste of writer's block. I'd committed the cardinal sin- not forward plotting- and now I had people who wanted the next chapter and I had absolutely no idea in what direction I wanted it to go. It's been sheer hard work ever since. Every single chapter has been a labor of love and I've worked harder on it than anything else I've ever attempted. And therefore to answer the second part of your question, I had an idea of the general way I wanted to end it. But I did not know the end when I started, and that's the #1 lesson I've learned throughout this experience. Know your ending. And without an outline, it's all just morphed into something I never expected. It's all written itself. And I'm at the point where I'm writing the ending, and still second guessing myself a bit, because that's what I do.

Micki: Yes, the dreaded writer's block. I have to ask... how is the next chapter coming along?

The_Black_Arrow: Writer's block feels as real to me as a physical disease. It has been absolutely crippling. The rest of the fic is all there. It's written, and I made the decision to cut it into two smaller chapters rather than one long one. Chapter twenty has gone to bookbag for a read through, and she will decide if it works or if I've got to rewrite it. After we finish up with this interview, which is lovely and fun by the way, I'm going to open up Chapter 21 with a view to finishing it off. It's all there. I just need to 'weather' it... that's what bookbag and I call it when I go through and add in the smells and colors and looks and sighs and try to make it a little more three dimensional. Sounds easy, right? The weathering is what takes the most out of me. Writing this is so difficult for me because I really have to pour myself into it, and it takes days or weeks for each chapter to be written, and usually about eight versions of each chapter exists, so I can watch the evolution from bare bones skeleton to nice plump Rubens girl. The current draft chapter 21 is a lean Kate Moss type. I need to fatten it up.

Micki: I'm in complete awe of the imagery in TB&TC. When you mentioned you saw it as a movie, I can assure you the readers have as well. I have made a point to read reviews of fics, to get others' takes on a story. There are common themes in the reviews of TB&TC: stellar photographic imagery, "this is one of the best works I've ever read,' and "please update." Few people have been rude however.

The_Black_Arrow: That's true, very few people have been cruel, or if they've had negative comments they've tried to be constructive. It used to hurt me in the beginning if someone didn't like it, but I've grown up a little and I understand that this is not everyone's cup of tea. I am always just so flattered when people love my imagery, especially as my writing style has been described as 'purple prose', lol. When someone tells me that it moved them, it reinforces to me that you can write the way that you like to write, and it will resonate with some people too.

Micki: Your beta, bookbag, how significant has her role as beta been to TB&TC?

The_Black_Arrow: Absolutely integral. Without her, this would not have even been posted and it would have stalled at chapter six. I cannot stress how important she has been throughout this. She has spent HOURS sitting with me in cafes and restaurants, or sitting in the sun near our work while we eat our sandwiches, workshopping every single bit of this story. It's like.... I'm the director, but she's the executive producer. She's got a skill at understanding higher concepts, whereas I'm hopeless and get bogged down in detail... hence why I can write a whole paragraph on the way that dust motes circulate in a room. She can tell me flat out if something doesn't work, and what is wrong with it. I wouldn't dream of posting something she didn't think worked, and I trust her opinion absolutely. So by the time she gets a finished chapter- which is a nasty task because I have a rather shady grasp of grammar and punctuation- she has put in a lot of work into it already. She's motivated me when I was ready to quit, she rec’d me to the first person who told their friends (and so on), and she is a damn fine writer in her own right. She is my everything- hits play on tape deck and blasts Barbra Streisand.

Micki: Do you still read fanfiction?

The_Black_Arrow: No, I don't read fanfiction any more. I stopped for a while because I'd read something really fantastic- just something creative and sexy and funny and I'd look back at my draft and think, "This is CRAP." My brain, so weary from writing and rewriting the same passages over and over, was craving new interesting stimuli, and reading other people's stuff just discouraged me a bit. I thought, I'm never going to write as good as X or Y. So I put myself into a cone of silence, and consequently fell behind on updates and never managed to really get back into it. It’s weird possibly, a fanfiction writer not reading fanfic. I possibly might be moving on from it a bit. I'm asked a lot if I'm going to write a fanfic after this one ends, and I'd have to say at this stage, probably not.

Micki: Do you have plans to keep writing even though it won't be fanfiction? Do you get plot bunnies running around your head that you want to explore?

The_Black_Arrow: Absolutely, I've had a few ideas I've been kicking around in the back of my head that I'm dying to write, but TB&TC is just stopping me from starting anything new until I complete it. It's an unusual writing experience I think, posting chapter by chapter and getting instant feedback. Usually a writer has the luxury of time, and if they're not feeling something they can just rest it and revisit it a few months later to try again. But when you have people waiting, it adds a new dimension to the writing process. It's a good thing, because let's face it, if I didn't post this I probably wouldn't have gotten this far. So, once TB&TC is completed, I'm going to take a break, and I'm going to just sit down with a blank page and just.... try to get that spark back. I might do the occasional Twi one-shot or enter a competition or something, or I might do a TB&TC outtake if there was something I couldn't get out of my head.

Micki: You are truly gifted. Many writers take years to finish a novel, be proud of what you have accomplished. I would like to ask a couple questions particular to the story but I wish to be mindful of spoilers.
 POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: Bella felt privileged to be raised as a Cullen and yet she thinks they will not want her after Esme dies? Why does she feel that way?

The_Black_Arrow: No spoilers in my answer, I don't think. I think she has always felt like an outsider, through embarrassment or shyness. Although Esme and Carlisle have welcomed her and treated her like family, I think she has still kept herself deliberately separate. Maybe it's to stop herself getting hurt- she feels abandoned by her father, and the way he has dealt with Renee's death has reinforced the distress she has felt over her mother's death. I think that this Bella character has a hard time relating properly to men, and subsequently she is worried that when the matriarch of the Cullen family is gone, the dynamic will change, and she is steeling herself in advance against rejection. Very good question. You're making me think here!

Micki: SPOILER ALERT: At the end of chapter nine "she (Bella) imagined she had almost felt his deep shock and grief through the palm of his hand." Is it likely that Bella has heard Edward in the past but felt she was imagining it?
The_Black_Arrow: SPOILER ALERT: Ha, yes, you've got me. I planted that as the first seed, and was certain that everyone would chorus in unison that the game was up. But actually, not a lot of people mentioned it in their reviews. Absolutely yes, I'm sure that Bella has 'heard' Edward before, but her relentless mental control and keeping herself shielded from him probably stopped her from actually properly hearing him. Sort of a little twist on Bella's canon power perhaps- using a shield to keep someone away.

Micki: SPOILER ALERT I was hoping that Esme would last long enough to see Emmett's and Rose's baby, was there a reason you chose for her to pass on before this event?

The_Black_Arrow: SPOILER ALERT: Well, in real life things don't work out. A few people suggested to me that I could write the baby being born as Esme passed... But I just couldn't. While the main premise of the story is based on fantasy/science fiction (the mind reading), it was important to me to keep the rest of the story fairly well grounded in reality. Otherwise, it would just start to feel too Hollywood schmaltzy. It was a cruel decision to make, but not everything in life is fair, especially where a disease like cancer is concerned. It will take someone, no matter how much they have to live for or how badly they want to be there for a special event. It makes the unfairness of her passing much more potent.
Also, I have never claimed to be the sort of writer that offers 100% closure, and I'm not interested in tying everything up into a neat little bow. My favorite books are the ones where it has literally KILLED me that the book has ended and I have been left behind. Hence, that is why writing this ending has been terrifying. I've never written anything before, let alone tried to execute a somewhat understandable, coherent ending that people can accept.

Micki: SPOILER ALERT: Michael's a douchebag, if he doesn't turn ass and run away, Edward might murder the bastard. And I totally expect loose ends with this.

The_Black_Arrow: I am always fascinated by the hatred that Michael has incited just by existing. I'm often asked why I have such a soft spot for him. To me, he is not the bad guy.

Micki: Michael - you lost me at the office when she comes to say goodbye.

The_Black_Arrow: cringe Yes, that was awful. I think they are two people that are just not totally in love. And we've all reacted and done things we later regretted, right? What Edward has done to her over the course of her life has been way worse. But the only thing that has redeemed him is the intensity of his love. Michael loves her too. Just not with the same intensity. Love takes many forms, and I don't think ending up with a nice man like Michael is the worst case scenario. Bella and Michael love each other, just with the volume turned down. Women around the world are happily married to Michaels, mild-mannered, distracted, kind, selfish, and awkward. He says the wrong thing, he is not quite supportive, and he cannot properly fulfill her because she will never be honest with him.

Micki: I don't think as a reader I get enough of Michael to make that determination. I almost asked that as a question, why don't we get more Michael? Their courtship is largely undeveloped.

The_Black_Arrow: I didn't think that people would be interested in reading about their relationship in depth, but I suppose in retrospect if I've set more of the story around her relationship with Michael, I could have made people understand the difficulty of the decision. I take your comment as feedback and if I ever decide to rewrite TB&TC as a novel I will keep this in mind! It does help to know what doesn't make sense for readers.

Micki: This has been awesome for me. It's what I love about fanfiction; that one can really become involved on so many levels, author, reader, reviewer, blogger, and interviewer. You can get into it as much or as little as you like and there's something for everyone.

The_Black_Arrow: I completely agree. I hope I have something ready for posting soon. I'm going overseas so who knows, I might be posting the end from a hotel in Switzerland or Paris or Rome.


1 comment:

dihenydd said...

I have just read the last chapter of TB and TC and am so sad to see it end. Even sadder that we may never see anything else from TBA. I do hope that if she writes anything else that her fans get to find out somehow.

Thank you both for a really interesting interview.

BTW I didn't hate Michael and never understood why people did. Maybe because I am an 'older' reader I see all around me people who have taken the 'Michael route' in all sorts of situations. The 'Edward route' is very much a leap into the unknown situation which tends to be easier the younger you are, with less to lose. Since canon Bella was older than her years it seems natural that she would be conflicted over this choice.

Post a Comment