Hatstand Express Interview with Kate Nuernberg

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Hatstand Express Interview with Kate Nuernberg
Interviewer:
Interviewee: Kate Nuernberg
Date(s): 1990
Medium: print
Fandom(s): The Professionals
External Links:
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Contents

In 1990, Kate Nuernberg was interviewed for The Hatstand Express #22.

There were 58 questions.

For others in this series, see Hatstand Interview Series.

Excerpts

How did you get involved in these characters?

I was involved in Star Wars fandom at the time and I didn't want to know about anything else. But a friend of mine was writing "With a Little Help from My Friends", and she kept showing it to me for my advice. I wasn't much interested. When I was at her house one weekend, I picked up one of the novelizations to help stave off a bit of boredom. It didn't help alter my point of view. Then I was put in front of a TV. set and told to watch. Since she and her roommate were busy

getting hooked, I didn't have a chance. It's hard to resist when there are few other topics of conversation. And I liked the depth of involvement between the characters, the idea that CI5 uses methods that do not always bear close scrutiny, the theme running through the show that life's a bitch and then you die -- but there are those who can hold onto their humanity and sanity long enough to protect most of us from that. The plots were often interesting and sometimes difficult to anticipate.

What character is your favorite?

Doyle. He seems easier to get to know (no howls from the audience, please), at least on the surface. He is easier for me to empathize with. (We'll not have any personal comments on my character based on that statement.) In my opinion (stress that) his character has more range, especially to someone who is just starting to watch (which of course I was when I formed my opinion). You have to dig deeper for Bodie. On the surface, he was just too threatening for me to go for as a favorite.

On a more truthful note, I simply loved the look of Doyle's battered face and chipped tooth.

I do not always like Doyle in fan fiction.

Who has the prettiest eyes? The best bum? The most packed crotch?

I don't really think about Bodie and Doyle in these terms. Personally, I like Bodie's eyebrow and his pout. And I like Doyle's cheekbone and his teeth. Call me kinky.

What was it about Bodie and Doyle that made you first pick up a pen and write about them?

I had always "dabbled" at writing whatever fandom I was in (and long before fandom existed for me. I actually started with Leave It to Beaver plots when I was but a child! I liked Wally.)

But I had just begun really writing (and finishing) stories in the Star Wars universe. I found that I liked finishing stories.

I was just new to B&D and had to fit them into all the "usual" plots that I used each time that I fell for a new protagonist. You know, the sort of things you dream up while you'revacuuming. I had the urge to make my daydreams a bit more permanent, and scribbled down a few of them strictly as vignettes. (I was being lazy — no beginnings, no ends, no explanations, just "favorite scenes.") While I was writing, I got an idea for a loose framework, and "The Invention of Gunpowder" was born. After that, it was just like an addiction.

What was your first reaction to the idea of B/D?

Negative. I have a prejudice for straight stories. If there were more straight stories in this fandom, I might never have read a slash story. I'm not sorry I did. Some of the best stories in this fandom are slash, and I would hate to have missed them. (I love a good historical.)

What was the first B/D story you wrote? Have you read it since? What do you think of it now after writing the characters for several years?

The first and only B/D story I ever wrote was "Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth." I did it when a non-slash friend said "I will if you will." (She never did.) I think it rings false because I never quite believed in the situation. I'd like to rewrite it now and take the slash out, just to see what would happen. Or leave the slash in and write a sequel. Or give better reasons for the sex scene. I'm not sure Doyle would react to Richard the way he did and then turn around and bed Bodie. Sorry, what was the question? My first B&D story, period, was "The Invention of Gunpowder." I still like it, wrote a "middle" story for it, -and would someday like to finish the trilogy.

Of the stories you have written, which do you think is the best?

"Victims of the Vines." Because it is the most emotional. Most of the characters go through a psychological wringer here, and I am a glutton for that sort of vicarious punishment. Also, I love the confrontation between Cowley and Ray. I think it is the best Cowley I have written.

Do you ever go back and reread what you have written? What is your opinion of your own past material?

Writing a continuous universe, I have to go back and reread. But mostly it's to find a fact or a train of thought or a specific scene. Immodestly, I like my old stories and sometimes am pleasantly surprised at a turn of phrase or description I've forgotten.

Which character do you find it easier to write?

When I first started to write, Doyle was much easier. I kept leaving Bodie out. Now Bodie is easier and Doyle is harder. Perhaps because I am writing so much Neighborhood and his directions/motives aren't always clear.

Is writing, today, easier than when you first began?

No. It was more of a game then. Scribble it down and show it to a few friends. Dream of having people read it and like it. Now I am compulsive about it, partly because my personality has changed and partly because I feel a responsibility to respond to the people who enjoy my work. I hope it doesn't sound too egotistical, but the approval of friends and peers is like a drug I can't stop using.

I personally don't think I've changed much as a writer. I don't work at it the way other fannish writers do, writers I respect greatly because they can and do learn and change and grow.

I read a lot about how to write (they say that "research" is the best procrastinating tool a writer has). This is not always good. Sometimes it makes me think too much, instead of doing on a gut level. And frankly, I learn a lot from editing other people's work. I have to look at how writers do things, how they express themselves, and really examine whether I want to make a change because it's not the way I would write it. It makes me much more aware of my own writing and the different ways there are to solve problems. And I love the dialogue with writers who explain to me why they've done something when I want to change it.

Where does your inspiration come from? If friends suggest stories they would like to see, do you often do the story?

I feel a little awkward answering some of these questions because my entire body of work consists of seventeen stories, twelve of which belong to Mr. Doyle's Neighborhood. That went through a long, involved permutation that started with being bored with housework and deciding to put Ray into a situation where he'd have to do it and I could daydream. I get ideas for the Neighborhood from thinking about where the characters have to head next. The plot grows out of the overall character development. Otherwise, inspiration is bits and pieces of the sum total of whatever I am, have done, am doing, watch, read, etc.

There are a lot of stories cooking in my feeble brain that I don't have time to write, so I don't really respond to suggestions from friends. However, I love to discuss the Neighborhood and listen to others' opinions and ideas — and sift through it for what I like.

I'm currently editing a letterzine, Cold Fish and Stale Chips, full of story fragments, strange ideas, and unfinished thoughts. I love writing for this, because I can scribble down an idea, yet stop when the muse deserts me. I get feedback as well.

It's the best (and worst) of all possible worlds, because I am not driven to finish an idea just because I want people's reactions on it.

Do you find writing original characters to be more satisfying? Do you ever find yourself constrained by the existing definitions of Bodie and Doyle, by the need to keep the characters identifiable as Bodie and Doyle?

I like writing original characters. They're fun because they're my own. But I don't have a compulsion to write the way some people do: the only reason I write is because I like Bodie and Doyle. And I like them the way I perceive them to be in the episodes. Part of the fun of writing, then, is the discipline it takes to keep them in character, and I don't consider it to be a constraint.

I must admit to a strong prejudice in favor of Evan Dowling and Susan Harrison. This is because they are continuing, and I have to get to know them better than the occasional character who just pops up. It's a real delight when I l^arn something new about them.

Did you ever have trouble doing sex scenes? Do you enjoy writing, reading them?

I feel that the extent to which a sex scene should be used, and detailed, is determined by other elements in the story. A sex scene should "belong," flow from what has already been written, and accomplish something that can not be accomplished anywhere else in the story. In this way, it is natural and no harder, or easier, to write than anything else. The physical aspect of it should be planned, much like a fight scene (but not sound like a technical manual), and this would be the "difficult" part.

I don't write sex scenes often, but they are just as satisfying as completing any other well-conceived part of the story. As with any scene, I enjoy reading a well-written sex scene, but usually the whole story has more to do with my enjoyment.

What do you hate to see done to the characters? Is there a type of story you hate? Have you ever written a story in which you've done what you hate to a character?

Ooooh! A chance to climb on my soapbox.

It's a matter of degree. I don't hate much. I dislike seeing B&D being "mushy" or "sloppy" almost to the exclusion of anything else happening in the story. I hate seeing either Bodie or Doyle being physically brutalized, especially by the other. I don't believe these men are vicious or uncaring with each other, for whatever reason. And I don't enjoy watching B&D being victimized by others, either. I like reality in a story and I don't believe in universal sweetness and light, but gratuitous brutality is (by definition) unnecessary and not entertainment. (I do like a good hurt/comfort, however. It's a matter of degree and intent.)

I have never written a story like this (I don't think) and hope others do not see this sort of thing in my stories.

Why do you write?

I write because I'm a fan. I don't have anything to say, and feel no compunction to write otherwise, though I've always enjoyed it. I write because there are only so many filmed episodes of The Professionals and I want to see more. I write because I have a roommate and friends who bug me about it. I write because I want to see what happens next.

Do you see the "/" relationship in the shows themselves? Or is it only hinted at? Or is B/D simply wishful thinking, an alternate universe?

I prefer not to see the slash relationship in the aired episodes. Any B/D I read is strictly alternate universe.

I consider myself to be a straight writer. I think I would write a slash story if my characters led me to it, but so far they have not. I would not, and have not, hesitated to include homosexuals or bisexuals in a story.

The straight universe is simply what I see in the aired episodes. I am a fan of The Professionals for what it is, not what I can turn it into. The fun for me is staying as true to the characters that I see on screen as possible. (Of course, I am staying true to my interpretation as others are staying true to theirs.) If I want the characters to be different, or CI5 to be different, or for the action to take place in Hong Kong, then I am not writing Professionals. (Ah hah, you say, but Doyle never lived in Surbiton. That's true, but I am trying to take the character as I see him in the series an say "What if he did?" No different than saying "What if he's homosexual?" Maybe not. But being homosexual changes his character. What he lives does not.) If I liked a show where I felt the main characters were involved in a homosexual relationship, I'd write them that way.

I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this question. It makes me feel as if I have to defend my position. I don't.

The bottom line is, I like relationship stories. That is what this show is about for me.

You've written characters in other fandoms. What drew vou to B/D? What holds you?

See question #2 for what attracted me to these characters Quite frankly, a large part of what holds me in this fandom is the other fans.

There are a lot of good fandoms in this country and quite a few have what I like — interesting lead characters who have an interesting inter-relationship, believable plots (most of the time), actors who can act, and men who are' good lookers. But what got me here and keeps me here are friends who like to collect, discuss, write, draw, and who are all very nice people (and creative with it!). The fans I have met in this fandom are giving, loving, interesting people, and I love being with them and talking to them.

Of the stories you have read, which is your favorite?

There is a lot of good writing out there, and this wouldn't be a fair question if I didn't have an immediate answer. "Heat," by Lainie Stone. It creates an atmosphere that won't quit. It demands total involvement from all the characters and the reader. And it doesn't pretend to have any easy answers.

How have the stories that you read changed over time? Are they better? Is there more plot, more characterization?

It is difficult for me to answer this one, because I am getting a mish-mash of new and old stories from the library and it's not always possible to tell when a story was written (or who has written it). I think the authors I have been able to follow are showing a greater depth of characterization. But this is true of any good writer who has been in a particular fandom for a while. For obvious reasons, because you get to know your characters better, you want to try different things. A new writer in any fandom has to get the cliches out of her system. I know I did.

I think the straight fiction that I have been exposed to is definitely getting better.

How do stories in this fandom contrast with "/" stories in other fandoms?

I haven't read much, just a few stories in a universe here and there. I've read Starsky and Hutch, Harry and Johnny, Man from UNCLE, Riptide, Simon and Simon, and Star Trek. I have found, strictly by comparison, that B/D as written is the easiest to accept (with S/H).

Which hat do you prefer to wear — artist, editor, or author?

I like being an artist best. It is far more relaxing. I can spend as much or as little time as I want on a piece. The success of a piece of art is usually tangible and recognizable right away. I don't have to wonder if other people are going to like it. I like exploring new ideas and new media, even if it doesn't always show in the art that I sell. I love working on the layout of the zine and planning the graphic design of the pages, especially the poetry. It is a more private experience than the other two. I write when I want to tell a story. It is more compulsive and I can't stop when I think it is "good enough." I am more aware of my audience.

There are a lot of things I hate about editing a zine. I hate turning down people's stories because of one person's (my) opinion. I hate having to say I don't personally like someone's story when they have sweated over it just as much as I do mine. I hate not having the ability or the time to help new writers learn to express themselves a little bit better. I hate having to agonize over my comments because I truly do want to help and don't know if the other writer will understand what I'm trying to say or will welcome what I have to say.

I hate the sheer overwhelmed feeling you get when there is still more work to do than you have finished and there seems to be no end to it.

This is my least favorite job. And having said that, the fifth issue of British Takeaway will be out this fall. Because being an editor does have its moments.

How do you think you've grown as an artist?

I'm comfortable with different kinds of media now. When I first started, I worked in pencil in a very large format that had to be reduced to fit 8x11. I had to work large to get a likeness. I give great credit to Lori Chapek-Carleton for seeing whatever potential I had and working within my limitations.

I learned pen and ink in self-defense, then moved on to prismacolor. Now is the time for a new medium, as soon as I find the time (no excuse, Nuernberg). I feel I learn a lot by looking at other fan artists, especially in-the-flesh at cons.

One of my instructors said to me "Every time you pick up a pencil [pen, paintbrush, etc.] you are learning something. I feel there has been a great deal of give and take between my job as a graphic artist and my fannish pretensions at fine art.

I think I'm better at capturing likenesses now. I'd like to dabble in "telling a story" in the way that Suzan Lovett or Jean Kluge do so well. (Dabble? That's hard work!)

Would you like to turn pro?

NO! Writing is fun. It is a hobby, something I do when I choose (all deadlines for zines aside, I still decide to do it myself.) The only person I truly have to satisfy is myself, I can indulge in guilty pleasures, and quit when I want. I can write what I want, how want, and when I want. Period.