November 16, 2011

Tanja's Interview with belladonnacullen about her fic 'There is a Light'

This was 1987; before the Internet, before Twitter, before Facebook – this was back when it was still possible for people not to know about things: big things - like bands, and little things - like G-spots. AH, ExB, with some other parings along the way.
Twilight - Rated: M - English - Romance/Angst - Chapters: 22 - Words: 152,131 - Reviews: 4228 - Updated: 10-21-11 - Published: 5-23-11 - Bella & Edward - 

Think back a few years: before you were able to let everyone know every single thing you were doing at right this moment via Twitter. Before you actually had to write down "friends" birthday in your calender because Facebook was still "TheFacebook" and only available to University students. Think back to a time before Skype made it possible to call friends and family abroad. Before Google and Wikipedia made your life a lot easier. A time when you still had to use dial-up internet. Before emails or mobile phones. 

Have you arrived in the '80 yet? Remember when info wasn't just available with a mouse click but you had to rely on books, tv, mags, newspapers and friends. 

And this is where There is a Light takes us.

The story is about Bella telling her young daughter the story of how she became a fan of the band The Masens in 1987 and how she came to love the lead singer, Edward Masen, in a time were keeping in contact with someone on the road wasn't that easy. It is told in first person and starts in the present. Flashbacks take you with her through the last 24 years.

But this is not necessarily a love story. And it's NOT a groupie story. It is a story about growing up, about learning from mistakes, about heartbreak. About misunderstandings and things not always been the way they seem at first.

And I bet all of you will be sitting on the edge of your seat wanting to find out more about just who the father of Little One is.

Let's see what the author has to tell us.


What was it that gave you the 'spark' for your story? Was it a picture? A moment or event? Can you remember the initial inspiration?
There were a few things that all came together before I started really writing There is a Light… One night I was in the car with my daughter and we were listening to The Smiths together.  She’d never heard them before, or maybe she had, but she’d never really taken an interest in them before.  She started asking me about all about them, and when she found out that I listened to them when I was a teenager, she started asking about my life back then as well.  I explained how much they’d meant to me and she told me that she loved them the most of all too, just like me.  It was such a sweet thing to say.  That night after I put her to bed I wrote the prologue for TiaL, even though I had no real idea what the story was about.

I began putting together this basic idea for a story about a girl and a rock star, and about how it felt to grow up in the 80’s. It was part me, part silly teenaged fantasy… just something fun to write.

It wasn’t until I was standing along side the red carpet at the Water for Elephants premiere and Rob was coming down the line, that I thought to myself, “He’s a total rock star.”  Ta-dah… the idea for my story turned into fanfiction.  I suddenly realized that I was about to write some weird Smiths/Twilight fanfic.  I didn’t think anyone would read it, except maybe Fiction Freak95.

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?
Sometimes music helps get me into the right mood, but really, that’s all the method I’ve got.  I have to wait until after my daughter’s in bed for the night, and then I sit on the couch with my laptop and maybe some wine, (or coffee if I know it’s going to be a long night).  The Mr. is usually watching T.V. in the background.  Sometimes I’m also hanging out on facebook or Twitter and writing in spurts. 

I can’t explain how my stories get written, really.  Sometimes a line just comes to me at the most unlikely moment and an entire story or chapter can be built around it.  I can’t predict when it will happen.  Actually, it happens a lot while I’m commuting.  I’ve gotten good at writing in traffic.

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?
There is a Light is a story about enduring love.  It’s told in flashbacks, as a mother tells her daughter the story of each of the loves of her life. It’s the story of how a girl finds her way to becoming a strong, independent woman.  It’s the story of how her daughter was conceived.  Oddly enough, it all begins with the question, “Do you know The Masens?”

Seth Clearwater asks Bella if she knows The Masens one winter morning in her junior year of high school, back in 1987. At that point in time, Seth and Jacob are skaters, Bella is a loner, and Edward Masen is the much older, enigmatic front man of the alterna-punk rock band, The Masens. Little did they know that their lives would all intertwine into one story that began that day and didn’t end until the “present day” - sometime in the late fall of 2011. 

This story is told by jumping around in time, the way that a person might look back and remember their own life. As you read, you’re forced to try to piece things together, and through that process a mystery unfolds.  One of the key ideas in There is a Light is that there are some things that you can never really know… how that boy felt about you in junior year, why that other boy broke up with you, what the hell all the hype around The Masens is about.  In the story, the reader doesn’t know, either.  It kind of puts you right there in the plot.

Do you picture particular actors for your characters, or are they someone else entirely? If so, who?
I really do see Edward and Bella as Rob Pattinson and Kristin Stewart, although Rob’s older than he is in real life for much of the story. Sometimes in my mind, he kind of morphs with a much younger Morrissey. I’ve had a bunch of readers say they see my Edward more as Jonathan Rhys Meyers. I’d be okay with that.

I think Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Esme in TiaL are all kind of similar to the Twilight actors in my mind. 

Seth and Jacob are NOTHING like the Twilight actors, though.  Anyone reading TiaL knows this Seth is no BooBoo.  And, well, Taylor Lautner just doesn’t have the edge necessary to play this version of Jacob.  I’m not sure who I’d cast in their roles, but any casting would be years in the future, lol.

Is the story all planned out or do you do it as a fly by the seat of your pants thing?
I could never fly by the seat of my pants with this one. Because the story weaves back and forth over twenty-four years, it had to be planned out in advance.  I always leave wiggle rooms for scenes that just pop into my head, but the basic storyline had to remain the same from the very first chapter.  After all, I started the story at the end.

There was one point at the very end where I realized that I had more time to fill than I realized. It was the only point in writing this where I felt like I’d really fucked up.  Thank god, my beta helped me wiggle out of that situation.

Do you have a Beta and would you like to give him/her a shoutout here?
Um, yes!  MaryJaneStew, aka SereneIn NC is my beta. She’s amazing!  She works with my annoyingly tight schedule and she has this way of editing not just for grammatical correctness, but she pays attention to making it sound right.  I will forever miss our Thursday nights when we’d break out the wine and G-chat about all of my mistakes.

I also want to give a shout out to my pre-reader: KikiTheDreamer. She challenged me the whole way through this story.  She really made me think about what I was writing and why.  Between the two of them I couldn’t have had a better team.

Have you got any other projects going on? Any planned for the future?
After I finish a fic, I always have little one shots/future-takes dancing around in my head.  Right now, I’m just trying to finish those off so that I can move on.

I’ve got another little story tentatively called Bare Naked Bella in the works.  It’s something light and sexy so that I can hopefully detox from all of the angst in TiaL.

What was it that brought you to Twilight fanfic? What is it that has kept you here (besides your own writing)
Well, I started writing my first fanfic before I even knew what fanfic was. I wanted to keep the Twilight saga going, so when I’d lie down at night trying to get my baby daughter to go to sleep, I’d daydream about scenes that could have happened in the books.  Eventually I started writing those daydreams down.

At one point my husband kind of informed me that I was writing fanfiction. I had no idea what he was talking about and actually Googled it, then found I started posting chapters a couple days after that. 

What’s kept me here, though, is the amazing people I’ve met. I’ve gotten to know some of the funniest, sassiest, most outrageous and intelligent women ever over the past two years.  They are a constant in my life.

Do you have a background in writing?
I was an undergraduate English major. I wrote pretty awful stuff back then.  It sounded poetic but made no sense.  After that I did way too much non-fiction writing for work. It just about killed everything creative inside of me.  It wasn’t until I read Twilight that I was inspired to make up a story of my own again.  So I guess it took about fifteen years for all the stuff I learned in college to kick in.

How about your creative self-confidence? By nature writers tend to be a notoriously insecure lot so how are you finding the online writing experience?
I love writing on-line! It’s taken a while for me and my family to finally accept that this is my hobby. It’s what I do on the side.  I think the whole process is so much fun – from the writing to the reviews and everything in between. Actually, the writing might be the most painful part.

I am insecure, though. I think every time I’d send a chapter of TiaL off to my beta I’d attach a note that said something like, “I don’t know how I feel about this one. It might be terrible.” At one point, she was like, “I think I’d get nervous if you sent me a chapter and said that you were super confident about it.”

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?
It’s kind of funny… I kept it to myself for a very long time.  My friends had an idea that I dabbled in fanfiction, but we never really talked about it – at all.  Then, this summer, I posted the chapter where we find out who Little One’s father is minutes before I left for vacation.

We were up in this cabin in the woods in upstate New York with a couple other families and my cell phone was going insane: Tweets, emails, facebook messages, texts.  Everyone was looking at me kind of funny, like, what are you? A drug dealer?  I don’t know what they thought. So, I came clean.  I explained that I’d just posted a kind of big chapter on-line. I showed them the Twitter feed. I don’t know if they were impressed, but they were definitely surprised.

Is there a particular character in your story that you identify with the most?
The obvious answer is Bella. I grew up on Long Island (more in the 90’s than in the 80’s, though). I was obsessed with The Smiths. I felt like an outsider a lot and I hung out with skaters and punks and Goths. Not to mention that we’ve all had at least one gay boyfriend, right? That’s where the similarities begin and end, though.

Lot’s of people have asked me if this is autobiographical. I wish! I mean, I really do wish.  An affair with a rock star? Being a famous author? I’ll take it, lol.

Which RL author(s) inspires you?
As far as published authors, I’m still in love with YA literature and I love Suzanne Collins and Cassandra Clare.  And, well, I was an English major, so I love classics: Kundera, Allende, Nabakov… I love Audrey Neffineger, oh and The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy might just be my favorite novel, ever.

Did any FF authors inspire you? What was it that had you reading FF and thinking "I could do this"?
The fanfic authors that inspire me are all my friends: Fiction Freak95, troublefollows1017, Jaime Arkin.

Like I mentioned above, I started writing fanfiction before I’d ever read any other fanfiction. I think the first fic I read was The List by LaraACullen.  It actually had me thinking that I had a lot of work to do and maybe I shouldn’t be writing online at all.  Then I read Wide Awake and realized that I could actually go a lot farther with fic than I had been, and that I should just go for it and make my chapters much, much longer, lol. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring fanfic writer?
I’d say that if you’re serious about writing, you should write every day. It’s worthwhile, even if you just end up writing crap. Just keep at it. Keep trying.  You can write pages and pages of useless drabble before a little gem just falls from your fingertips. You really do get better the more you write.

I’d also say to write for yourself; don’t write for reviews. You’ll be happier, because it won’t matter if you get 20 reviews or 200 per chapter, you’ll still be glad those words are on the page. It makes it more fun.

Oh, and get yourself a beta!

Give us a Random Fact about yourself?
My husband and I decided to move in together after hanging out for just two and a half days.  I moved from New York City to the Arizona desert to be with him. That was in 1999.  We’ve been together ever since.

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?
I’d spend the extra fifteen minutes hanging out with my daughter. She’d probably want to play secret agent.

What is your FanFic Pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is when people take fanfiction too seriously. People get all bent out of shape and up in arms about something that’s supposed to be fun.  Take a deep breath, remember it’s not real life, and move on! If it upsets you that much, really, please move on. 

What is your Fandom Pet peeve?
I can’t stand when people get so wound up in the Twilight actors’ personal lives. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Rob and I think that he’s really cute with Kristin, but all the speculation, and the deconstructing each and every glance and touch and appearance, and the need to have them live out an HEA… it’s a little nuts. No, strike that, it’s a lot nuts.

Anything else you would like to add?
I wish I had more time and could respond to each and every review that I’ve received.  I want people to know how grateful that I am that they took a chance and took the time to read what I’ve written.

I’m humbled that so many people wrote to say that TiaL has touched them.  I’ve heard from people that suffer from bipolar disorder, or have loved ones with bipolar disorder. Thankfully most wrote to say thank you for such a touching and accurate portrayal.  I’ve heard from die-hard Smiths fans. I’ve heard from people that grew up in the 80’s, and people that grew up on Long Island. I’ve heard from people that have had affairs with rock stars! Thank you all for sharing!

I’ve also heard from people that just loved my story a lot.  People made friends reading this fic. I made friends writing this fic.  It became much bigger than I ever dreamed. I really thought no one was going to read it – especially after writing about four solid chapters that just focused on Bella, Seth and Jacob listening to some weird punk band a long time ago.  So, I’m awed.  Thank You!


1 comment:

Malleigh said...

This was the story I will always connect with Summer '11. It struck a chord with me as it summed up many if the things I felt I had missed by finishing high school in the 1960's, or 30 years too early. I hope belladonna and her daughter will continue their collaboration.
The Fandom would do well to adopt the approach toward FanFic stories and the actors we visualize as being characters, not people. (My Edward is Craig Kilborn.)

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