Winter 2013 – 2014
For the first installment of Liz’s Pick (which accompanied the Winter 2013-2014 issue), I interviewed my dear friend and fellow fictioneer, Erica Barnes. Here’s what she had to say:
“The Runaway” is Erica’s third story published by NEAT. — that’s one for each issue so far! And it’s no mistake — Erica’s stories are full of emotion with clear arc, characters that we care about and get to know well, and beautiful prose in general. She knows what’s up as far as fiction goes.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I realized I had fun writing little universes, and in some cases, people enjoyed living in them. The decision probably became stronger when people started to comment more on my fanfiction, saying things such as “this was just what I needed,” or “it made me think.” At that point, it’s difficult not to feel the impact writing can have on someone. I may not be able to bring world peace, but I can make someone smile and take them on an adventure.
If you had to describe your writing style in one word, what would that word be?
When it comes to writing, what are your bad habits? (chewing on pens, never editing, starting too many projects at once, etc.) How do you combat these bad habits, if you have any?
I have no bad habits. I’m perfect.
Kidding. Instead of getting my thoughts on paper for the first draft, I edit as I go. Then, I normally skim through my next go-through because of that. I also start too many projects at once because there never feels like enough time to write all that I want to write.
What does your writing space look like right this second?
More cluttered than I would like it to be.
Outside of literature and books, where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. Movies, television shows, life. Video games are a big inspiration, too. They have practically become interactive movies. The storytelling and complex characters you find in some of them are incredible.
Which piece of your own writing is your favorite and why?
My last submission was one of my favorites, due to the fact that I got to play around with fantasy elements.
What is your favorite quote?
“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” –Eames (Inception)
Where can readers go to discover more of your work?
I’ve recently started putting my work on Fiction Press. There isn’t a lot, but I have my main Work in Progress currently on there. My friend suggested it would be a good way to get feedback before going into the heavy editing.
Related question: Would you mind weighing in on the fanfiction vs. “mainstream” fiction debate? Most writers, I think, feel that fanfiction is a lesser art, even though it can be just as lucrative (even more so) than some areas of literature (50 Shades, TV show tie-in novels, etc.). I feel like you would have some important things to articulate about this issue.
I think this is a very complicated subject because there are many different issues that have been discussed. I’ve never really been exposed to someone trashing it, so I hope this is a dying argument. The people I talk to swap stories about the good, the bad, and the ugly we find. The consensus normally is: if you liked the piece, you read it, and if you didn’t like it, you moved on to the next one.
Is it a lesser art? I certainly don’t think so. I was surprised to see some rather known authors were not fans of it, especially when I’ve always considered fanfiction a form of flattery. Then again, I also see their point. To them, it’s the very lucrative business you spoke of, and that’s all they see it as. People having the potential to take their work, think up a plot, stick their own character names to it, and make money. The two big authors that probably come to mind when you think of fanfictions turned money making books are, as you mentioned, 50 Shades, and then The Mortal Instruments series. Both had spectacularly large followings—thanks to the Twilight, and Harry Potter fans—and both are heavily weighed down by controversy because both were, in essence, taken from their respective fanfiction. Fanfiction based off someone’s original work. And that’s the kind of representation it gives to some authors and readers who are not aware of what fanfiction is. They think of them as works surrounded by controversy and ethical problems. Unless you write fanfiction for a television show, then you might be lucky enough to have some of the show writers and cast talk about it in interviews as a complete joke rather than a problem.
Thankfully, someone disliking something does not dictate whether it is classified as “true” art or not. No, not every fanfiction out there is going to be gold—be it because of writing or plot—but that’s subjective, and also expected since some of the writers simply do it as a hobby and form of expression, while others are just starting out and maybe do intend to try their hand at publishing a book later on.
The point is, I don’t care if it’s slash fiction or if the characters are drastically altered from where they came from, fanfiction is a legitimate form of writing. Fanfiction is, primarily, a way for the writer to share their love of something with other readers. Whether they want to fill in the blank a movie, video game, or show has left them pondering over, or they want to explore the romance of a particular couple they like, it’s all meant to be out of love and enjoyment for whatever they happen to be writing for. It’s never meant to be a Pulitzer winner or lucrative—we do it for free, and hope not to get a review so harsh we want to curl up into a ball with ice cream and wonder if we’ve wasted our time writing it in the first place.
I’ve read plenty of fanfictions out there that are of novel quality, and plenty that aren’t. Creating a masterpiece isn’t the point of fanfiction, though. Fanfiction has allowed me to meet people who love the same things I do, and have become some of my best friends. It’s allowed me to explore my story-telling abilities, and let them grow from what they used to be. I know it’s been like that for others as well. With the rise of works such as 50 Shades, it’s best for people not to lose sight of what fanfiction started out as, and still is. Love. Something I would think any writer of any genre could relate to.