|Fandoms:||Buffy the Vampire Slayer|
|URL:||Author site at Bugger This; nwhepcat@LJ|
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I got into BtVS fiction mainly via http://www.allaboutspike.com, so I was pretty Spike-centric at first. Spuffy, then Spander (see, I always liked Xander too!), then some Spangel, but not much Spawn (except friendship—as a teacher, the underage thing squicked me big-time). But I kept reading references to this “Xander author” nwhepcat by authors I really admired. Plus, I’m a former Pacific Northwest resident myself, though decidedly unhep, so I loved the name. I finally dipped a toe into “Lilac City” one evening when... I was feeling not-quite-depressed but close enough. When I surfaced after being swept along into this wonderful, complex, humane story, I felt inspired to pick myself up, stiffen my spine, and get back to being of some use in the world—inspired by her Xander and how he builds himself a new life after the fall of Sunnydale. He may try to bury himself as a manager of a market in Spokane, but goodness and courage and character will out, despite his own intentions. Fiction is its own justification, but for those of us who are perhaps overly fond of things having deeper meaning, I’ll just say that this story gave me something I really, really needed at an important moment . . . and I didn’t even realize it was happening, because I was so caught up in the events and characters.
From there, I blazed through the rest of her website, trying hard to pace myself so that I could enjoy each “first time” as a special and separate event . . . but it wasn’t easy to go slow. She’s obviously well-known for and brilliant at writing Xander and Faith. She can make you understand and like Anya and Riley. She’s also created some of the most vital and appealing original characters I’ve encountered: Jenny Grimaldi, inspired by that snippet of the young ball-player in “Chosen,” holds a special place of honor in my heart, as does the completely different but equally real and appealing young New Zealand runner Kallie—first appearing in “This Little Light” and joining Jenny, introduced in the story named for her, in “Xander’s Slayers.”
I’ve mentioned how well she writes Faith—how about Faith and Willow? How about a perfect character study which reveals so much about both of these oh-so-different women and also, as an apparently casual aside, helps you understand why art really matters? Try “Annunciation.” It is exquisitely perfect.
I said I had trouble with Dawn and sex? Not a grown-up Dawn confronting her problematical origins with the help of the Xander we all knew he could be. Great Oz, too. Read “Indeliable.”
Want to get to know a Wes who manages to get baby Connor away safely and learns about the joys and worst possible heartaches of fatherhood? You need to read “What Gets Left Behind” and its sequel “Three Fathers.” It will break your heart, and you won’t be able to stop reading it.
And in the current “Keeper of the Book,” she’s brought together Wes and Xander and Spike and a touch of Willow and Giles and perhaps the most fully developed Anne, guardian of the shelter kids—and again, the voices and the characters and the plotting all come together just exactly right. I love a great Wes-centric story that still gets Spike just the way I love him, even as a minor character.The problem is that I can’t really identify just one or two of her stories as my favorites—if asked, I’d always have to say, “The one she’s writing now,” because each one is original, distinctive, and real. Not to mention superbly written! I’m going to quote a bit more from my thank-you note to her: “You have a style which is so beautifully effortless that it is invisible--that is to say, the heart and soul of the story comes through without the reader being distracted by the thought, ‘I'm reading a really well-done story here!’ precisely because it IS so well done. And you use that craft to tell stories that have meaning and substance, as well as/not merely fantastic plotting. (I keep alternating the words ‘craft’ and ‘gift’ as I write this sentence because I don't want to minimize either your talent or your skill.)” 
- Postcards from a Kerouac Summer. Xander's post-graduation roadtrip, told in drabbles (2003)
- This Little Light. Original Slayer; written for the When the Clock Strikes challenge (2003)
- Lilac City. Xander/Faith post-'Chosen' (2004)
- Indelible Xander/Dawn post-'Chosen' (2005)
- 2005 comments by Cindershadow