Essential Snarry Reader Interview with kai

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Essential Snarry Reader Interview with kai
Interviewer: Aubrem
Interviewee: kai
Date(s): January 4, 2005
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Harry Potter
External Links: interview is here; reference link
Russian translation of this interview
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.


In 2005, kai was interviewed for Essential Snarry Reader.

Some Excerpts

Although I'm a bit of an on-line dinosaur (got my first email account in 1984) and am a veteran of USENET, I didn't truly get involved in on-line fandom until around 1995 and didn't actually write any fanfic until 1998.

Before that, there were many TV shows and movies and books that I loved and squeed over with friends, and played endless "What if?" games with plots and characters and scenarios. I'd known in a kind of vague way that fanfic and cons existed, but I never went to any cons or sought out any fans in RL except those who were already in my immediate circle. Sort of the "Did you see last night's episode of X?" around the water cooler type of experience.

Then, in 1995, somehow I stumbled upon a ST: Voyager fanfic archive and, for whatever reason--probably because I hated my job at the time and was frustrated with RL--I got completely hooked. Three cheers for escapism! All these glorious and varied stories about characters I loved to watch on the show, all available with the click of a mouse, for free! Until that time, I'd only read original fiction and erotica on the various USENET groups; I'd never dipped my toe into fanfic.

From that point on, one thing just led to another as I followed links to new mailing lists, archives, pairings, fandoms, and kinks. Although, to be fair, roaming around the* hierarchies on USENET had exposed me to pretty much every sexual kink under the sun by that point! :-) I started watching shows 'fannishly'...taking more careful notice of canon, paying greater attention to nuance and to multiple interpretations of episodes, I began to follow discussions that other fans had about shows, pairings, etc. Generally, I just lurked and scarfed fanfic.

In 1997, I followed a convoluted trail of links, stumbled into Sentinel fandom and for whatever fateful reason, I delurked. I began participating in discussions, sharing tapes, making friends on-line, going to cons, and ultimately, trying my hand at writing some fanfiction of my own.

By that point, it had been over 17 years since I'd written any fiction. I'd written non-fiction professionally, but after high school, I stopped writing fiction entirely, mainly because 1) it was too much work, 2) there was no audience yes, I'm one of those people who only writes to post! and 3) my creative energies got drawn off in other directions (i.e. visual arts).

With Sentinel fandom, however, for the first time in ages, I found that there were some stories I wanted to tell. Since there was a ready-made audience for them, I decided to take a crack at the fanfic thing. And, so, here I am!
I had been becoming disenchanted with my primary fandom, Highlander, for quite a while, and had started looking around for another universe to explore. I'd read quite a few HP stories at that point, but nothing especially grabbed me.

Then, some time in early 2002, a friend of mine lent me all of her HP books. I scarfed them all in a couple of days, finally saw the potential, then went looking for fanfic archives. For quite a while, I read primarily Harry/Draco, but the tone of fannish interaction in that portion of HP fandom and the focus on adolescent characters, simply were not to my taste.

Somehow I followed a trail of links (yes, this is a theme for me!) to a cache of fanfic that focused on adult characters, mainly Snape, if I recall correctly. From there, I found some mailing lists, mickeym twisted my arm until I got an LJ, and from that point on, there was no turning back!

The HP universe has everything that I like both as a fan and a writer.

As a fan, there are a wealth of canon details to obsess over, a complicated storyline, interesting and complex characters, speculative elements (notice how all my fandoms contain some element of science fiction or fantasy!) and a lot of unanswered questions that are likely to stay unanswered by JKR.

As a writer, the HP universe is a gigantic playground! It offers the space to ask every type of "What if?" question, be it cultural, technical, historical, concerning character-development, plot, you name it, you can ask it or try it out in the HP universe! Given my focus, as a writer, on telling stories, floating theories (via fiction rather than essays), and exploring various themes, HP is my idea of a perfect fandom. The universe offers a solid scaffolding upon which to build, but at the same time, it doesn't overly restrict your imagination.

It also has a dynamic and diverse fannish community...places and people who support explorative fiction and radical "What if?" scenarios. Many other fandoms I've been in have become hide-bound over time, crystalizing into a kind of One True Interpretation, usually defended vociferously by a cadre of fans intent on squashing debate or deviance from that One Truth. This is one of the reasons that I became disenchanted with Highlander. Fortunately, HP is enormous enough that if one bit of the fandom starts to crystalize in ways that I find too restricting, it's easy enough to migrate over to another part that offers more freedom.

As to your question about characters, when I write, I tend to be more interested in the adult characters than the adolescents. When I do write about the adolescents, I prefer to "age them up". Mainly because, as a writer, I find that the sorts of stories I want to tell tend to deal with issues that confront adults. As an example, I don't especially find coming-of-age sorts of themes compelling to write about. Not that I won't ever write one! I've learned to never say never when it comes to fanfic!

As a reader, however, I will literally read (and enjoy) anything! My main constraints on reading fiction have less to do with pairings (I'm not an OTP sort of person) or genre, and so on, and more to do with available time.
I don't create formal outlines for fiction. Instead, I write down either the full scenes, or summaries of the scenes, in the approximate position where they would occur in the narrative (which might be different from where they would occur in the actual timeline of the story). Those are the milestones that I have to hit. Then, I figure out how I have to get from one milestone to the next. Since the milestones might be part of the plot arc, relationship arc (if there is one), or one (of several) character arcs, figuring out how to bridge milestones can be tricky. I often will revise, delete, or add a milestone if my original conception of it doesn't mesh well with the rest of the scenes.

I don't really have drafts, per se, because I'm always working on the entire story all at once. I don't work on one part and then set it aside to work on another part. Instead, I may write a scene that's 3/4 of the way into the story and immediately pop back to make an adjustment to the first three scenes because I need to change the lead-in conditions. Fortunately, I use a text editor that lets me view multiple chunks of the story all at once!

When the story is finished, spell-checked and ready to be sent to the beta, that, I suppose, is my first draft. This is one of the reasons why I can't really post WIPs to formal places. I never really know if I might have to alter something in a early part of the story in order to hit a later milestone (or a milestone I didn't realize needed to exist in the first place). I post snippets on my LJ since I consider it an informal venue, for people who like to see how stories undergo changes as they're being written. People who like that sort of thing can hang out and watch. People who don't enjoy that can wait until the 'official' version is posted.

As a side note, unexpected milestones--or unexpectedly complex milestones--are the most frequent reason that stories tend to 'grow' on me. I think it'll only take a few paragraphs to get from A to B, when suddenly, A.1, A.2, and A.3 appear in between, and I discover that A.2 requires 3000 words to make it happen. Many a friend of mine has heard a loud "ARGH!!!!" from my corner of cyberspace when that has happened!

Also, fiction writing for me is a social and interactive process. I almost never write fiction in a vacuum. In fact, I've only ever written the very shortest of stories without input from other people. Usually, I am sending various people snippets as I'm writing and I get good feedback/suggestions/reader reactions. before anything ever really gets 'committed' to the 'final' version. Those are frequently the same people who I've chatted with when developing the story idea, so they have some idea what I'm trying to accomplish and can give me a 'thumbs up'/'thumbs down' if I'm hitting my target or way off base.

That interaction is one of the most important factors that helps me narrow down the plot possibilities for a story. In addition, the message, or point that I'm trying to get across/"picture I'm trying to paint" will help narrow down the possibilities.

If I don't have a very good idea where the story is headed, where it will end, what needs to happen in it, I don't bother to write it down. I've tried the technique of "writing until you find the story" and it simply doesn't work for me. 100% of all the stories that I never finished were undertaken without a firm idea of what I was trying to say and what kind of plot/character/relationship arc was going to take place in the story. And for me, there's nothing that irritates me more than writing stuff that never gets posted!