R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

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Your Questions Answered, Part I

You all asked such interesting questions, and as usual I blathered way too much giving the answers, so I'm pasting them here with cut-tags -- the ones I've got done so far, at least. Thanks to everyone who's participated!

From jessanndi:

1) What do you like about the country you live in?
I appreciate the moral and spiritual freedoms that my country grants me (at present, anyway). I like its multicultural diversity and its readiness to allow such diversity to flourish -- even though that sometimes gets interpreted by others (and even among ourselves) as a lack of national identity or pride. I am proud of our relatively low crime rates and general economic stability. After going to the UK I also came to appreciate that we have nice, wide, straight roads that follow fairly direct routes, even in the countryside -- driving in the UK is beautifully picturesque, but it seems to take so long to get anywhere!

2) What makes you 'jump up and down' happy?
Really good things happening to people I love. Surprise gifts of books that I've read and enjoyed but don't yet own, or an unread new book by an author whose work I adore. Talented friends writing wonderful new fics or drawing fan art based on my own work -- there's nothing more thrilling and flattering, when it's done by someone whose abilities I trust.

3) If you could meet J.K. Rowling, what would you say/do?
I would beg her not to kill Snape in Book Seven. Or worse, to have him turn out to be on Voldemort's side after all -- but I genuinely don't think she's going to do the latter, so the no-killing thing takes priority.

From seemag:

1) If you had to give one piece of advice about how to develop and write an OC, what would you say?
If the story (or part of the story) you want to tell simply can't be told using one or more of the existing canon characters, then go ahead with an OC. But remember that your OC has to earn the reader's interest and sympathies, and those sympathies can be easily lost, so you need to develop that character carefully and use him/her judiciously.

2) When you sit down to write, do you have an ending or beginning in mind? Or do you just write and go where the 'muse' takes you?
I usually have some idea of how a fic will begin and/or end when I start writing it, but it's often hazy and subject to change without notice. Generally what inspires me is more of a big nebulous Idea, and possibly one or two key scenes in the fic. Everything else just happens as I'm writing. (In fact, it's usually the best stuff that happens that way.)

3) Who is your favorite character to write for and why?
Fic-wise? That's a really tough choice. I love all my muses for different reasons. And, of course, my opinion on this changes as I go from fandom to fandom. *looks at list of fics to date* Nope, I honestly can't choose.

From yahtzee63:

1) If you had to drive cross-country (i.e., for a few days) in a car with any one character from "Alias" besides Weiss, who would it be and why? (And no, nobody's private plane/personal strike force/etc. can get you out of the drive.)
Actually, I wouldn't have picked Weiss anyway. It'd be a comfortable chatty sort of drive with him, but not really enlightening or interesting. I'd be tempted to say Jack, but there's no way he'd tell me anything personal, so I'd have to say Irina. Irina's very capable and efficient, so we'd definitely arrive at our destination, but she's also warm and personable, so she would probably talk to me along the way and there would be a chance of finding out something fascinating about her.

2) Which character in HP do you consider most likely to someday betray Harry?
Oh, my. Hm. I hate to say this, but I think the Twins might turn on him, or at least let him down at a point where he's hoping to count on them. Right now they seem so focused on their business and their own goals, and especially on their perpetual ambition of Having Fun, they don't seem to really care about anyone or anything else. Of course, it would be more interesting if the Twins ended up divided by their loyalty to Harry or lack thereof. In which case I would opt for Fred as the traitor, because George is usually the one who displays more sympathy toward, or at least awareness of, other people's needs and feelings.

3) Which childhood memory is most likely to make you laugh out loud?
Any one of a hundred witty things said by my brother Mark, whose deadpan delivery and split-second timing make him one of the funniest people I know.

From sannalim:

1) What book (that you think I am not likely to have read already) would you most recommend to me, and why?
It's quite possible that you've read this one already, but when I think of your interest in organic chemistry, and knowing also that like me you believe in intelligent design, Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe strikes me something you might really enjoy. I'm not even scientifically minded, so half of what he was talking about went straight over my head, but it still made enough sense to blow me away. It's been a few years since I read it, but IIRC he talks a lot about the structure of proteins, too…

On the fiction side of things, you liked the Lord Peter books, so I know you enjoy mysteries and whimsical heroes: have you read any of Margery Allingham's Campion books? If not, I'd recommend starting with The Fear Sign (a.k.a. Sweet Danger) and reading through The Fashion In Shrouds and Traitor's Purse -- they form a sort of trilogy within the series, akin to the Harriet Vane books in the LPW series. I really like Amanda.

2) If Harry Potter Books 6 and 7 do not contain information that absolutely prevents the existence of Maud Moody and the major plot points of the story you have written for her and Snape, will you do post-Book-6 and post-Book-7 revisions of D&L to make it canon-compatible?
I doubt I'll have to do that, seeing as TPMA and PR take place during Year Five, which we already have written up for us in OotP and therefore isn't likely to change. So it would mostly involve changes to IWS, which I'd be open to doing if I thought it was worthwhile. If something really radical happens to affect the plot and characters, however, like George turning traitor (or getting killed) in Book Six, I'd probably just throw up my hands and forget about it.

3) What is Simon's favourite book? Nicholas's?
It changes from week to week, but right now Simon really loves The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and asks for it nearly every night. Nicholas is developing a taste for fairy tales, particularly if they have knights, dragons, and/or giants in them. He really liked it when I read him Thurber's The 13 Clocks, one or two chapters a day over the course of a week.

From ravensnape:

1) How long have you been writing?
I started writing for my own pleasure at the age of eight, but only really got off the ground when I started using my parents' typewriter at twelve. So… twenty-two years.

2) What suggestions do you have for someone who is considering writing their own fic?
First, develop a firm understanding of the basics of writing -- spelling, grammar, composition -- and learn to write prose that readers can appreciate and enjoy, not just struggle through or put up with. Read and re-read fiction written by your favourite pro authors, and see how they do it.

Next, make sure you are thoroughly familiar and comfortable with the canon you're going to write about -- the world, the characters, the mood and feel of the books/show/movie involved. As much as possible, try to keep the style and content of your fic recognizably in tune with canon, or at least show that you can do so before you start bending and breaking the "rules" -- otherwise, the canon-savvy reader won't follow you where you want to go.

Where possible, use canon characters to tell your story; and if you're going to introduce OC's, beware of making them too prominent or otherwise "showy" in relation to the canon characters. Keep unusual traits or talents in your OC's to a minimum, and remember that ultimately the fandom is interested in what you have to say about the canon character(s) involved, not your OC.

3) Morality and real life aside -- sleep with Severus? Why?

Nope. He has greasy hair, which is a huge turn-off; and he's a deeply unhappy and self-occupied individual with, I suspect, very little awareness (or perhaps just indifference) when it comes to pleasing another person or making himself vulnerable to them. That would be something he'd have to learn, over a considerable period of time, and I'm not patient (or besotted) enough to teach it to him.

From loriel_eris:

1) If you could spend an hour with anyone (anytime), who would it be? (A real person)
I'm going to assume the answer "Jesus Christ" is too obvious. Off the top of my head, right now, I'd say Priscilla. I'd like to ask her a whole lot of questions about the early church, and her ministry with her husband Aquila, and their friendship with the apostle Paul.

2) What do you do (job wise)?
I used to be a typesetter/graphic designer for a stationery printing firm. Now I'm a homeworker, looking after my two preschool-aged sons and doing occasional graphic stuff for a local promotional products business.

3) Are you happy with your life?
Entirely. To the point that I sometimes feel guilty about it, and think that a) I so do not deserve this -- why me, Lord?; and b) boy, do I have a lot of responsibility to live up to.

From Marcy:

1) What I've always wondered is, How do you find the time? It seems there are people who know how to keep house smoothly and easily and people like me who struggle for hours without much to show for it. I suspect you keep house instinctively well, for you have time for myriad blogging/writing/church activities. So the real question is, what does a typical day look like for you, with special attention paid to mundane tasks such as laundry and picking up after the kids.

Well, today my youngest son woke me up around 7:45 a.m. (I'm still stunned that my children are sleeping this late -- it can't possibly last), so I cuddled with him and Nicholas for a while while my husband was in the shower, and then got them both some breakfast.

While the boys were eating their Rice Krispies, I checked my e-mail and wrote an LJ entry (this meme, in fact), then made myself some breakfast as well. After breakfast, we all got dressed and headed outside for an hour so the kids could work off some steam and get some sunshine.

When we came back from the park, I checked e-mail again, cleaned the bathroom (though it was an interesting challenge keeping Simon from playing in the toilet as I was scrubbing it), and read the boys some books until it was time to make lunch.

After lunch (bologna and cheese sandwiches for the boys, last night's leftover spaghetti for me) I put Simon to bed for his nap, while Nicholas watched Arthur on TV -- hurray, Mommy Time! I puttered around on the computer for the next hour and a half, checking on Nicholas and changing the channel to Little Bear and Caillou every half hour as required, until Simon woke up. (Yes, I use preschool TV as a babysitter. I am unworthy of the name of Mother. But I know exactly what he's watching, and he's not allowed to watch TV at any other time. Nor, generally, on weekends.)

The laundry baskets were overflowing (I have two in our bedroom, one for lights and one for darks/colours, so the laundry gets sorted as soon as it becomes dirty), so I lugged them downstairs and threw the first load in. Then I read books to the boys, let them make puppets out of a couple of paper bags, and roughhoused with them a bit, occasionally stopping to check e-mail (because I have to know what's come in, even if I haven't time to do anything about it), until it was time to make dinner. Fortunately for me, I'd thawed some chopped cooked turkey, so dinner should have been easy… if only I had a clue of what to do with the turkey.

In the end I decided to try a recipe I got off FormulaZone that sounded pretty simple, not to mention foolproof -- I mean, who could object to chopped turkey in a pita with lettuce, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce? Except it was ew. And I do mean, EW. Too much mayo, too much cranberry -- all mixed together, it was disgusting. Definitely the worst meal I have served my husband in five years of marriage. I couldn't even finish mine.

After dinner the boys went outside with their Dad to play in the garden, so I had a bit of time to chat with some folks online. When the boys came back in, Nicholas wanted to play computer games on the Veggie Tales site, so I used that time to sweep the crumbs off the kitchen floor and tidy up the toys littering the house. A couple more books for Simon, and a fairy tale for Nicholas ("East of the Sun and West of the Moon", one of my favourites), and it's eight o'clock -- both boys in bed, house is quiet, and I'm free! Yay! Um, except for folding all that laundry. 'Scuse me…

One of the things I do that I didn't mention above is that I tend to tidy around the house as I go. If I see a task that needs doing and I can do it in less than thirty seconds -- picking up a piece of paper on the floor, folding a blanket, wiping a counter, putting a wayward toy back in the box -- I do it right away. When possible, I put it in its proper, final place, rather than in some temporary spot where I'm going to have to move it again. (Which is not to say that my computer desk doesn't have piles of unfiled papers on it, because I hate filing. I also, for the record, hate dusting, and don't do it nearly as often as I should.)

If that isn't a full answer to your question, I don't know what is, but by all means feel free to ask me for more info if you like! :)

2) Has your fanfiction ever been accused "stirring up love before it pleases" or otherwise being unchristianly sensual; and how did/would you answer such a charge?

Best. Question. Ever. No, seriously.

I have not yet had a Christian reader tell me -- at least, not directly -- that they felt themselves to be stumbled by reading my fiction. I've had a couple of lighthearted, teasing remarks along the lines of "Whooee, I wasn't expecting that from you!", but no serious complaints. I would certainly be open to hearing such concerns from my brothers and sisters in Christ, however, and willing to reconsider my thinking in the light of Scripture if someone is distressed by my approach and feels it to be unedifying or unbiblical.

If challenged to defend my current position on this issue, however, I'd say this: I don't think that Victorianism and Christianity are the same thing, or that prudery is the same as holiness. You would think, from reading some widely approved Christian fiction, that immediately upon salvation the sex drive is mystically transmuted into a desire for cavorting through sunlit fields of flowers, or hand-holding, or perhaps long meaningful Bible studies with the object of one's affections. And that just isn't the truth. It isn't reality. It isn't what any normal adult human being really feels in the presence of their beloved.

It isn't remotely like the way the Bible approaches the subject, either. The Song of Solomon definitely wouldn't make it past the editorial board of any evangelical Christian publisher I know: it's a good thing it's already in the Biblical canon. And what of those eye-poppingly graphic allegorical passages in the Prophets, where the Lord compares idolatrous Israel to an adulterous wife, and describes the nature of her wantonness in grotesque and explicit detail? One might say that just because God can get away with saying something doesn't mean that we fallen human beings can be trusted to show the same discernment, and I agree -- which is why I personally wouldn't feel comfortable being even as explicit as the Song of Solomon, let alone the Prophets. But does that mean it's ungodly to admit or treat the issue at all?

The fear seems to be that if we acknowledge the existence, much less the power, of sexual desire we're encouraging lust, and if we allow lust then we'll soon be endorsing fornication and adultery and who-knows-what, because it's all just one slippery slope. There may be some truth to that, but one might equally well say that one shouldn't acknowledge the existence of hunger, especially powerful hunger, because it leads to gluttony (which is also a sin, though you'd never know it from the behaviour of most Christians at a potluck dinner). One shouldn't describe, say, the taste of really good ice cream, because readers might be tempted to grab a spoon and wolf down a whole pint. To which I would say that it's the reader's responsibility before God to choose for themselves what kind of books and stories they can read in good conscience, and avoid ones that tempt them to sinful thoughts -- and that includes not just thoughts of lust, but also of things like avarice, bitterness, and hatred. The person wrestling with loneliness and sexual temptation is unwise to seek out passionate romances, agreed; but the obese Christian would also be foolish to pore endlessly over cookbooks, and the man or woman struggling against covetousness and discontent shouldn't read biographies describing the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Anyway, my feeling about the "sensuality" issue is that I do think sexual desire, in itself, is a normal and healthy appetite given us by God; and that to portray people honestly experiencing and facing that desire, then choosing to act in principled ways in spite of the power of such desire, is better than to gloss over the issue -- or worse substitute some saccharine, sanitized counterfeit that denies the reality of Christian living and makes it look insipid and ludicrous.

3) What's the current status of Knife?
A short answer, for once! The editor e-mailed me recently to say that she has read and enjoyed it, is looking at it again and will get back to me when she has time to write a proper reply. I am -- guardedly -- encouraged. Thanks for asking.

More questions and answers to come...
Tags: alias, fanfic, hp, interview, knife, memes, organization, philosophy, questions, rl, sex, snape, writing
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