Objects of Lust: An Interview with AJ Hall

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Objects of Lust: An Interview with AJ Hall
Interviewer: uncredited
Interviewee: AJ Hall
Date(s): September 7, 2002
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Harry Potter
External Links: interview is here; reference link
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Objects of Lust: An Interview with AJ Hall was conducted in 2002 for Zendom.

The Introduction

""Lust Over Pendle" is the fic which is quietly taking Harry Potter fandom -- and others -- by storm. It's a tale of tabloid journalists, paparazzi with souls, sweet romances and Muggles of various occupations and outlook.

It's about family, and how your relatives will, inevitably, drive you insane.

Oh, and there's a plot to destroy the world. But that's beside the point.

It's a mystery, a comedy, a romance and a bloody good read."

Some Excerpts

Lust Over Pendle started life as a short story that got the bit between its teeth and bolted for the hills. I was toying with the idea of a slash story where you never got to see the protagonists, only heard them discussed, and the idea of that happening by way of a newspaper expose seemed obvious.

Part of why I wanted to write a tabloid story is because of the bizarre (to me) prevalence of slash fics where (for example) Harry and Draco are waltzing round the floor at the Yule Ball or whatever in each other's arms and no-one raises an eyebrow; or everyone in the Gryffindor boys' dorm turns out to be in deeply committed pairings, and Oliver and Percy are around as a deeply committed older couple to give brotherly advice where needed. I happen to live in Manchester which has (after San Francisco and Sydney, I believe) the third highest gay population in the world and neither that concentration nor (unhappily) that tolerance is true even here, and even in 2002. To suggest it of being true in schools (heaven knows schoolkids are often some of the most socially reactionary people you ever meet) from 1991-1998 is, to me, more fantastic than the idea of Hogwarts itself. Still more so when people write Marauders era fic (the marauders are more-or-less my exact contemporaries) where similar things are happening. Male/male homesexuality was made legal in the UK between consenting male adults at all only in 1968 - that is, for people over 21, which is less than 10 years before the most sexually active years of Marauder-era fics. The 21 age of consent for male/male is also what was in force when Harry and co started school - I've lost track of precise dates when things changed but it only dropped to 18 in 1994 (the current point on the canonical timeline).

When I decided to have a gay relationship in the story I wanted to reflect the actual level of social tolerance, and real people's real problems given the era in which the fic is set. So obviously a tabloid like the Prophet would be interested in an outing story, and equally obviously the family fall-out would start from there. Hence chapter 1. But then I'd created Emily and Narcissa as they were, and it seemed a shame not to meet Draco and Neville after all that build up - so what were they all going to do?
I think we also have to touch on something I personally find rather unsavoury about JKR (whom normally I revere to the nth degree). That being: her association of certain physical characteristics with certain moral characteristics.

With no exceptions, blonds (or blondes) in JKR's works are bad news (rather interesting, actually, given she is one). Think Draco, Lucius, Narcissa [one brief glimpse, admittedly - in which we are told she had a nasty expression], Gilderoy Lockhart, Dudley Dursley, Petunia Dursley. Fleur Delacour is at best highly ambiguous, and the Veela (blonde to a woman) really have beaks (which reminds me of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Mellor's somewhat neurotic musings about what makes a woman a lesbian, come to think of it).

With one possible exception anyone who is at all plump in JKR's works is also bad news. Think Vernon Dursley, Dudley Dursley, Aunt Marge, Peter Pettigrew. The exception, of course is Neville (who is described, canonically as "fat little crybaby" [by Pansy], pudgy, round faced etc etc). I am aware that there is a fanfic school of thought which sees Neville as this generation's Wormtail. Almost certainly due to the negative associations with his physical type.
I was aware that the fandom automatically assumes any OC between 15 and 35 is an Mary Sue, and raises hackles accordingly, so she had to do something very un-Mary-Sue-like in a hurry as soon as she did appear. Rather rough, having to tell a character: "I'm sorry, but it's your duty in order to preserve my literary reputation to (1) make your opening appearance while commiting the fashion disaster of wearing trainers with a cotton dirndl skirt; and (2) lose your virginity to Dudley Dursley." But she rose womanfully to the occasion. Actually, if you run the classic Mary Sue tests (1. Does this character have special powers? 2.is this character a close relative of a protagonist? 3. Does this character use her special powers to save our heroes against all odds? 4. Does she have characteristics in common with the author? etc etc) I think Emily Longbottom's the real Mary Sue in LOP. Which shows how the whole concept can be misapplied, and deter fanfic writers from creating original characters who have a real role to play.
[regarding the title "Lust Over Pendle"]: It's a play on the title of a novel by Robert Neill about the Pendle Witches (who were real, by the way - I got rather disconcerted by one reader who believed I'd made the whole thing up. Actually, while I was researching it I discovered that of the Salmesbury Witches who were tried and acquitted at the same time as the Pendle Witches were condemned two shared my mother's maiden name.) In it, Jennet Device, who really did at the age of nine swear away the lives of her sister, brother, mother, grandmother and half the neighbours, is portrayed as a charming elfin child. At which point one realises that if a published author can get away with that one, rehabilitating Draco, whose only canonical crimes to date are making remarks in atrocious taste about Cedric Diggory, using bad language, and sneering in an unpleasant way, ought to be a shoo-in.