August 29, 2011

Tanja's Interview with Liz Lemon Bennet about her fic 'She Gives Me Religion'

Hot-headed seminary student, Edward Masen meets just widowed bride Bella Swan. EPOV: AU/AH Started as O/S. Now expanded.
Twilight - Rated: M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 25 - Words: 185,559 - Reviews: 2316 - Updated: 7-26-11 - Published: 11-29-10 - Edward & Bella

There are always a lot of oneshot contest going on in the Twilight fandom and sometimes I make a habit out of reading the contest entries. There were, for example, The Monster-In-Law contest, the Best Domination Ever contest, the Beautiful Bellies contest, the Boys on Boards contest, or the Cherry Exchange contest where the first chapter of She Gives Me Religion was first posted as a oneshot. And while I can't remember if I first read this story during the Cherry Exchange Contest oneshots or if someone on Twitter talked about it I know I was hocked from the first chapter.

Anyways, I'm rambling.

She Gives Me Religion is told entirely in Edward POV which might be a change for some. It starts out with Edward, a seminary student, driving to the ER to support his mentor in the family room, or grief room, after a limousin of a wedding party crashed on the way to the reception. One person, the groom, died.

This is where Edward meets Bella, the bride, whose world literally just crashed.

What follows is the emotional story of two people trying to deal with huge changes in their lives while also building a partnership that basically started when both were in a fragile state of mind. Bella, newly widowed after barely being married and not having the best relationship with her in-laws. Edward, not longer sure if the seminary is really what he is supposed to do.

Here's an excerpt for you:
I'm on my knees before Edward Masen, The Beautiful and Kind—that should be his title. He's nude, and really hard. Huh, I never knew an erection could be so beautiful. It's a sculpture you'd find in a fine museum. I stroke one finger down the shaft. It's cold, hard—he is a statue. Am I really here? Where am I? Maybe I'm dreaming.
Intrigued? You know the deal. Read the story, leave the author some love and come back to tell us if you liked it or not. 

The Cherry ExchangeWhat was it that gave you the 'spark' for your story?  Was it a picture? A moment or event? Can you remember the initial inspiration?
I wish I had some terrific story for an ah-ha moment that inspired me, but I don’t. The prompt for the Cherry Exchange brought me to this idea. Never sharing my writing with anyone before, I thought the CE would be a nice way to dip my toe in the pool. I wanted to write a story about two adult virgins, but needed a reason for the virginity. On the surface, religion is their reason; however, there are additional reasons that have brought them to this point in their lives.

Once I had the characters’ back stories fleshed out, I wanted to keep writing, continue telling their stories.

I do, however, have a song that fuels this story. Around the time I began writing, I stumbled on an under the radar song that captures the characters and story quite well. They lyrics give away the ending, so I can’t disclose it until the end of SGMR. I look forward to the day I can share the song with my readers.

Do you have a particular process when it comes to your writing, perhaps a certain mood, environment or music? Do you have any 'triggers' to get you in the writing mood?
I’d say have a three-part process. In the first part, I am envisioning the scene.  This is happening throughout the day doing mundane things. Often I’m envisioning scenes that are to happen far in the future. When I can, I listen to music as the scene plays out in my mind. The second part is simply trying to write what I see. I need silence for this part because I’m an auditory writer. I need to hear the cadence of the dialogue. In the last part, I am obsessively tweaking, changing, and cutting. I cut quite a lot. When I make these changes I create all sorts of errors—particularly spelling errors—that become invisible to my own eyes. I’m very lucky for my team of people who help me with this story. 

Give us an elevator pitch. Say you're in an elevator with a prospective
reader for 2 minutes – what would you tell them about the story?
This question cracks me up. You’re going to make me finally rewrite my horrible story description on FFn. An elevator speech also requires me to sell myself, a skill I do not have. But here it goes:

She Gives Me Religion is a story about having faith in humankind. The story begins with a foul-mouth seminary student called in to the hospital to help a just widowed bride, still in her blood-splattered wedding gown. There is no UST. We see they are unmistakably connected, and within hours of meeting each other and are in bed together.

In many ways, Bella and Edward are cut from the same cloth. They are sensitive, caring, so very fractured, and trying to believe they are worthy of love. And yet, the have self-deprecating senses of humor and great hope. For all the reasons we want them to be together, we fear they will not make it.
At times, the story has angst, but there is humor; at times, despair, but then there is hope; at times it can leave you hot and bothered (read: lemon), but also feeling chilled.

She Gives Me Religion is a late in life coming of age story about two people learning how to love one another and themselves.

If you are looking for a romance where the characters are flawed, but have a core of goodness and strength, I hope you consider reading.
Do you want to read it now?
Should I mention the lemons again? I timed the speech. A little over a minute.

Do you picture particular actors for your characters, or are they someone
else entirely? If so, who?
With out a doubt, this story’s Edward is a Robward. I have to control myself so I don’t over do it with my Rob visuals. 

I hate to say this, but Kristen Stewart does not look like Bella in my mind. This has absolutely nothing to do with Kristen Stewart the actress. I think she is lovely and does a wonderful job performing the role of Bella.

Kate Middleton for those living behind a rock
After seeing the films and returning to the book, Rob replaced my imaginary Edward Cullen. But when I read Bella, my imaginary Bella remained. If I had to pick a well-known person who matches the Bella of my mind, I would have to say Kate Middleton comes very close. The size of her eyes, her hair, and that heart-shaped face mirrors what I imagined through Stephanie Meyers’ description.

It has been brought to my attention that Kate is tall whereas my Bella is not. So, a shorter Kate Middleton is my Bella.

Is the story all planned out or do you do it as a fly by the seat of your
pants thing?
It is planned out. Since I’m terrible at predicting how many chapters it will take to accomplish one scene, I use ‘units’ or ‘acts’ that are comprised of several scenes.

Sometimes the characters highjack the story as I’m improvising dialogue. Some of that high jacking hits the cutting room floor, but other times, they come up with some good stuff.

Do you have a Beta and would you like to give him/her a shoutout here?
I like to give credit to PaintedTeacherLady whenever I can. Being on the cusp of the fandom when this started, I found PTL through FFn. It was one stranger holding another stranger’s hand through the whole process. The story wouldn’t have happened with out her.

Please let me shout out more (awards music playing to drown out my speech). Orangeapeal, robsjenn, and Sunshine make up the team. They pre-read, beta, and help me with Seattle research. 

Sunshine is my face-to-face dear friend who is currently serving as my beta. It is a luxury to look at a chapter together, in the same room, while drinking wine.

Have you got any other projects going on? Any planned for the future?
I have a few story ideas rolling around in my head, but as a first time author, I do have that fear that this is my only story to tell.

What was it that brought you to Twilight fanfic?  What is it that has kept
you here (besides your own writing)
I needed some erotica after Breaking Dawn’s ‘Fade to Sad.’ Fan Fiction gave me M-rating I needed. The excellent writing and amazing friendships got me to stay. Sunshine turned me onto Twilight, I turned her onto Fan Fiction.

Do you have a background in writing?
Creative writing had always been a private activity. I do have a background in theatre, which has helped me immensely.  

I am a researcher for a living. For most of my career, I’ve researched bereavement, but I’m taking time off to study The Twilight Fandom. Several of my interests come full circle by writing this story.

Because of my research, I have plenty of dry writing experience.

How about your creative self-confidence? By nature writers tend to be a
notoriously insecure lot so how are you finding the online writing
Self-confidence? None. Absolutely thin-skinned and overly sensitive. The ‘team’ I mentioned has talked me off the ledge a million times. I hope I’m getting better. 

Do you tell your friends and family that you're an online author with a
devoted following, or is this something that you tend to keep for yourself?
Eventually, I had to tell some of my friends. I dropped out of so many social activities; I think they were planning an intervention. Only a few of them know my penname and are allowed to read. The others ply me with wine so I’ll spill the beans on my penname. Really, I cannot condone my friends reading this level of smut. 

My family? That is a story for another time.

Is there a particular character in your story that you identify with the
I am Edward. 
I’m not a twenty-six year old hot, wealthy, man, but his insecurities and internal monologue are quite easy for me to write.

I wish I were Bella.
She has the patience and grace of a saint. She is my superego.

I aim to be Sue.
When I am at my very best, I hope there are glimpses of Sue that can come out of me. I draw in my inner Sue when I’m playing the role of teacher or mentor.

There are touches of me in all of the characters.

Which RL author(s) inspires you?
Particularly for this story, I draw from David Eggars’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
John Irving’s, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Wally Lamb’s, She’s Come Undone
And the filmmaker, Frank Capra

Did any FF authors inspire you? What was it that had you reading FF and
thinking "I could do this"?
I never read anyone and thought, “I could do this.” You might have heard of a little story titled MotU. I adore that story and pay homage to it in SGMR in small ways. Waiting for updates, I spent a lot of time considering the many paths Icy could take in the story. I do this in films, too; as soon as it starts, I focus on how it could end. At some point I thought, ‘Damn it, you would love to control your own story, write your own.” So, I did. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring fanfic writer?
Boy, I don’t know if I have enough experience to share. With that said, I’ll tell you what has worked for me. When I started, I made myself two promises, I even wrote them down. 1- As long as one person reads, you will continue to write and finish this story. 2-Keep your head down, write the story you intend to write, and hope you find an audience who will like it. Don’t let the reaction shake you, no matter what that might be.
The only time I’ve found myself in trouble is when I deviated from the second promise. It takes a lot of confidence to avoid being shaken by others’ opinions. 

Give us a Random Fact about yourself?
I used to tap dance. For years, I tap danced and even taught. I should go back to it. Great exercise. 

If you could have 15 minutes with anyone alive or dead real or fictional
who would it be and what would you say to them?
My fun answer: I want to have a beer with Rob.
My real answer: I’d like to see my parents again. 

What is your FanFic Pet peeve?
I do not have one. Not a single one. I’m so impressed by all of these folks putting themselves out there, I hope people dance in whatever way they want. I find all of it inspiring.

What is your Fandom Pet peeve?
I wouldn’t say I have a Fandom Pet peeve; however, since I’m researching The Fandom, I could give you give you many more thoughts than you care to hear. In short, I think it is unfortunate that, as women, we are generally brought up to be non-confrontational. Instead of saying, “Did you mean x? Because that hurt my feelings,” we are more likely to get twenty people to gang up against someone. Having a primarily female fan base communicating through social media networks, where our information about others is limited, sets the stage for some very hurtful behavior.

I wish we were all just a little more sensitive to others feelings.
The good news? Women relate through talk. We can build amazing, life long friendships simply by chatting online.

Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for interviewing me, this has been a lot of fun. I also want to thank my readers. I know taking a risk on a first time author, writing a story that has religion in the title, isn’t easy. But I swear I have the most wonderful group of readers/reviewers the fandom has to offer. I am a lucky woman. 


1 comment:

Debbie in S. Florida said...

I so enjoyed this interview. It's always interesting getting to know the people behind the stories. While I haven't started SGMR--YET!--I definitely plan to, and it only makes me want to read it more after reading this interview. She sounds like a really nice person, and I can't wait to see what else she writes in the future.

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