Welcome to the newest series brought to you by The Collective, in which I interview your favorite fanfic writers and ask them 5 simple questions. Recently, I’ve been trying to work out how to promote transformative works and find out a little bit about some of the best authors writing your favorite ships. What better way to learn about these creative minds than from the writers themselves? This week, we start off the series with Emiliana Darling, who has penned and podficed 29 works on AO3 and one of my favorite Stucky series, Building From The Ground Up (read my review here). Emiliana was kind enough to listen to and then actually answer the ramblings of this fangirl, and I am so excited to share her insights. The comments are honest and telling of a writer who loves her trade, regardless of payment or fame. Enjoy and, if you’re feeling so inclined, check out the podfics she’s done. They’re lovely.
xoxo The Collectiva Diva
Want your favorite writer to answer 5 questions? Let me know over on Twitter @collectivadiva
1.) What/Who inspired you to write fanfiction?
The first time I ever wrote fanfiction was in 2002 – back in the days of Geocities and fanshrines, when Fanfiction.Net still allowed stories with an NC-17 rating and wild Harry Potter ship war fanatics roamed the earth. It was only a year or so after I had discovered fandom for the first time: I was 12 years old, utterly obsessive about the media I loved, and had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Arguably, a lot of different factors contributed to my decision to write my first (utterly terrible, oh god, thank heavens that username has been lost to the ages) fanfic: a desire to understand the source material better by engaging with it more, frenetic devotion to my favourite ships – the list goes on.
More than anything else, though, I think it was old school Harry Potter fandom that made me want to write my own fanfiction rather than just reading other peoples’ stuff; that made me think “hey, this is something I can do.”
Harry Potter fandom was so big – so impossibly, unbelievably big – that it was full to the brim with every kind of fanfiction under the sun. To my mind at the time, Harry Potter fandom was endless: you could find every kind of story written at any kind of talent level if you spent enough time looking. It was an overwhelming environment, but also an unbelievably encouraging one for a fledgling author to be in.
2.) What do you look for when you read fanfiction? Are you reading anything now? What is it and why do you like it?
For me, the thing that I always look for when I read fanfiction is and always will be nuanced depictions of characters and their relationships with each other. I will happily read the most clichéd, trope-ridden, unoriginal fic with a gigantic grin on my face and genuinely be on the edge of my seat if the author really makes an effort to get into the characters’ heads.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that I want people to write characters in the exact same way I see them in my own head, though: my favourite fanfics are the ones that take the characters I love and have them react to situations in ways that I never would’ve imagined myself but still rings so true to who those characters are. Those are the stories that I bookmark and read over and over like some kind of obsessive creeper, gently stroking the side of my laptop and whispering “yes, yeees” like some sort of female, nerdy, less murderous Gollum.
The downside of this is that I have a pretty low tolerance for what I see as characters acting OOC. It’s not something I would ever complain about to the author themself, but it does mean that I tend to abuse the back button quite a lot when I’m cruising for new fics to read!
3.) What is the favourite piece you’ve written and where can readers find it?
It’s a funny thing, but my ‘favourite’ and ‘least favourite’ stories I’ve ever written tend to fluctuate wildly depending on which fandom I’m in, what’s going on in my life, and how long it’s been since I posted them.
(One thing is for certain, however: immediately before and after I post a fanfic, I always – always – think that it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written in my entire life. Every single time. If you’ve ever read a story of mine and liked it, I can absolutely guarantee that I have sat in front of my computer staring dismally at it in Microsoft Word thinking “this is the biggest piece of garbage I have ever churned out” over and over again. As soon as the fic’s been up for a few days? “Hey, this is actually pretty good!” It’s all part of the process.)
At the moment I think that my favourite piece that I’ve ever written is probably “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”, which is the first in a three-part Bucky/Steve series called Building From the Ground Up. It’s probably the least well-known of the series but it’s definitely my favourite, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s a story I wrote because I just… really wanted to read it. As a result, it’s a fic that makes me really happy because it’s exactly what I wanted. (I probably should not admit to how many times I’ve listened to my own podfic version of it because it’s probably weird edging on super uncool.)
4.) Are you working on anything now and, if so, can you tell us a little bit about it? Fandom? Pairing? Plot points?
Yes, I am working on something now – two things, in fact! (Both of them are in Captain America fandom.)
The first fic I’m writing takes place in a world in which Bucky didn’t fall from the train and Howard managed to find Steve’s ship after only a few months of looking. It’s Peggy POV and largely focuses on the evolving dynamic that emerges between herself and Bucky after the two of them are sent on a mission while Steve is being thawed out. It will eventually lead to Steve/Bucky/Peggy and is currently 10,500 words long – although there’s quiiiite a bit more left to go. (I’ve taken to calling it “Peggy and Bucky’s magical roadtrip of friendship and discovery” on my tumblr).
The second fic I’m writing is a much more straightforward “feelings and sexytimes!” Steve/Bucky fic that takes place a little over a year after the events of The Winter Soldier. The basic premise is that Bucky starts to get an inkling of just how not good Steve was before Bucky came back into his life, and he… doesn’t quite know how to handle that information. It’s currently 7,500 words but it much closer to being complete.
5.) Any advice for aspiring fanfiction writers?
My first piece of advice is to share the things you write with other people. Even if you think it’s crap, even if you’re not writing in your first language, even if you don’t think anyone else in the universe could possibly be interested in what you’re writing about. When you share a story with other people, their perspectives and interpretations change it: you appreciate the things they really liked, learn from the things they respond poorly to, and generally develop and grow a lot better as a writer.
There’s no way I could be one of those writers who spends years and years writing secret stories that they hide away and never show anyone: I’d burn myself out right away, abandon everything I was working on, and spend the rest of my life thinking that anything I’d ever written was crap. Other peoples’ impressions and feedback can be super integral to the writing process and that’s okay.
My second piece of advice is to write what you want to read. If you’re trying to write a story because you think that other people will like it and you just want to get lots of kudos/comments? Then you’re not going to feel passionately enough about it to keep writing even when you hit a rough patch. Feedback is incredible, but don’t write solely for other people: the pieces that you love the best will always be the ones that you wrote with your own enjoyment in mind.
Thank you so much for asking me to appear on the Collective, and thank you to anyone who took the time to read my responses!
No, thank you, Emiliana! Questions for the writer? Ask them in the comments below.