September 27, 2010

WayWords with MasenVixen, authors of Stranger Than Fiction

As our series of Author on Author interviews continues, Myg of Osa Bella interviews the duo MasenVixen, authors of Stranger Than Fiction. Stay tuned because they have their interview with a favorite author in the works. Thank you to Myg and MasenVixen for giving us another insightful, funny, unique interview.

Myg: First of all, HOLY GOD IN HEAVEN I love Stranger than Fiction!

Masen: omg you’re so cute. heeee :)

Myg: Confession: I really haven't read any fan fiction yet, because I didn't want to rip anybody off while I was writing my own. But then one day my good friend TexasKatherine emailed me and said I had to read this. I resisted, sort of, but I couldn’t not look after the enthusiastic recommendation she gave you, so I peeked and found certain lemons that I bookmarked and returned to. Over. And over. And over. Until I’d pretty much memorized them.

I began reading from the beginning in preparation for this interview and am just so very in love with the tale you’ve crafted here. I adore how you’ve let Bella go on after Edward’s obvious fuck up in New Moon. I am all for a grown up Bella character, and your idea of having her process her pain by writing Dusk just kills me. It makes so much sense.

So let me start with the obvious question, what inspired this premise?

Masen: I introduced V to fic when I found out she was reading the saga. I had read several alt-New Moon fics and those storylines really appealed to me. Then one night V and I got to chatting about how we thought we could write one. Both of us wanted Bella to have an opportunity to be on more equal footing with Edward. Though the entirety of the plot is a true collaboration, the basic premise of StF -- Bella writing Twilight as a work of fiction -- was actually something I had thought up a few weeks prior to floating the fic-writing idea to V. I had even written a very early version of the current chapter 1. When I sent her the draft of the first chapter, I was so worried she was going to freak out like "Woah, M, I was just kidding around about that fic-writing thing" but she jumped right in and the rest is history.

Vixen: Yes, it's been amazing. I finished the saga in mid-November, and we were writing StF by the end of that week. M and I had remarkably similar opinions on the books, so we've never really disagreed on the vision for our story.

Myg: Sounds like you two were made for each other. I’m really interested to know how you actually write as a team--I mean, how do you decide who will write what? What’s the process?

Masen: The process is pretty much the same each chapter. Most chapters consist of around 3 or 4 scenes. We outline the chapter together over gchat and then divide the chapter up by scene. It's kind of amazing that we always seem to agree on who should write what. My favorite example of this is the chapter where Edward reads Dusk. I was, for some reason, extremely intimidated by the prospect of writing a "book-within-a-book" but V found it came really naturally for her. So the last section of that chapter alternates between the two of us -- she wrote all the "Dusk" passages first and I filled in the parts in between. (PS, We both write EPOV and BPOV equally, which surprises a lot of people. V usually writes Jake, though. She channels him perfectly and tolerates him more than I do).

Then, the most important part of the whole process is editing. And the thing about the editing is that we each have total and complete veto power. There is nothing sacred, no line you can write that isn't up for getting scrapped if the other person isn't loving it. So, we both have big girl panties on and an agreement to not have hurt feelings when your "omgijusthadthisincredibleplotbunny" idea gets shot down. I can't imagine doing this with anyone else.

Vixen: Truth. As usual, I agree with everything M just said.

Myg: That's amazing. It's difficult to have someone else shit-can something you write, I know. I'm also blown away by how the voice is so consistent for both points of views. I'd think it would be difficult to do that with two different writers. Impressive! (Think Darth Vader voice.)

Vixen: Aww, thank you bb:) Like M said, it helps that we ruthlessly edit each other's work. Half of our gdoc comments to each other are things like "I don't think Edward would say this," or "That's not really what Bella would think, is it?"

Masen: Or more accurately, "I struck this b/c it makes Edward sound like a whiny pussy."

Vixen: Ok, seriously cannot get the image of a talking vagina out of my head now.

Myg: Speaking of, okay, not exactly, but... you have an incredible gift for making sex scorch in text, and I find this really difficult to achieve. The details in your lemons just kill me dead, especially in the EPOV. How do you like writing lemons? Do you have any particular way you approach this?

Masen: Wow, that is incredibly gratifying to hear because, honestly, I do not see myself as a lemon writer. They are painstaking for me. I like them when I reread them later, but by the time I've finished writing a lemon, it does absolutely nothing for me in the turn-on department. I will say they are getting easier and I think part of the reason I found them so grueling at first is because the early lemons in our story were rife with a lot of angst or subtext. They are more freeflowing when the are a bit fluffier. Also, lemons, as a rule, are hard to "divvy up" except by orgasm. So... it's literally like: "how about you take the finger-bang and I'll do the doggy?"

Vixen: I'm laughing out loud as I read M's response. I love writing angst and have found the fluffier lemons much harder to write. And that, my friends, is why we make a good team. :)

Myg: I'll say! Did you know where this story would end when you began? Do you know now?

Masen: Yes and yes, but I mean that in a big-picture sense. We knew where the characters would end up, but not every detail and circumstance surrounding them getting there. Still, though some smaller details evolved over time, almost all of the major milestones along the way were worked out before we started writing. (E.g., their "first time" was one of the first scenes we planned weeks before we ever posted and it changed hardly at all from the original concept.) We rework the outline together regularly to account for changes in tone or plot that just happen naturally when your characters evolve. One major example of this is that our original outline had Edward, in a particularly bad bout of self-loathing during his time away, having a very brief physical encounter with Tanya. It made sense to us at the time but pretty early into the story we realized "We can't write this. Edward doesn't do this. It's just not him."

Myg: I know this is your first fic. What motivated you to write a fic in the first place?

Masen: It was an impulsive idea that just came at the right time for both of us. I had a new baby and V had some stressors in her life that made writing something of an outlet that we both needed. I think as a working mom and wife sometimes you feel like you spend your life doing things for other people and writing is truly something I just get to do for *me*. We both really needed that when this all began. It's also brought us closer as friends. We were friends in school and have always been close, but this took things to a new level. BRB snotsobbing.

Vixen: I'd been dealing with some high-stress stuff in real life, and reading the saga allowed me to chill out and escape reality for the first time in months. I was so disappointed when I finished Breaking Dawn, both because I didn't like the book itself and because it was *over*. Writing StF allowed me to spend more time with the characters that I loved and had proven to be such a great distraction. Mainly, though, I love M -- a lot. I was thrilled that she'd want to write with me and wouldn't have dreamed of turning her down.

Myg: In my interview, LolaShoes asked me about funny writing quirks, and I never thought about it until she asked, but I do have a few, the strangest being spontaneously talking to myself in character dialogue (don't ask). Lo writes all her lemons with her eyes closed. Do either of you have any strange writing quirks?

Masen: HAHAHA I had no idea Lola wrote her lemons with her eyes closed. I must try this! Hmmm, the only "quirk" I can think of has to do with writing EPOV -- especially early on. Our Edward is seriously angsty and when I write him, my whole body tenses up. Like, I clench my jaw and hunch my shoulders. The first EPOV I ever wrote was our Prologue and that took me about 30 minutes of whole-body simul-clench.

Vixen: No real quirks for me, although I do get my best ideas in the shower. BTW, M, remind me why we haven't written shower sex yet?

Masen: Um, um, um....

Myg: I hate criticizing Twilight publicly because I'm afraid people will take it personally, but I'm wondering, what are your feelings about Twilight, the story? How about as a pop culture phenomenon (I’m thinking about the fandom itself here)?

Masen: Thank God I have absolutely NO qualms about criticizing Twilight publicly. Haha. I think Stephenie Meyer created this incredible world -- these magnetic characters who just get under your skin and into your consciousness -- but then she just disappointed me in the plot department. I hated the last two thirds of Breaking Dawn. I hated parts of New Moon. But, even so, I was a slave to the characters (ok, Edward) for reasons that I still don't fully understand. Maybe the critics are right and I'm just a predictable consumer of a romantic formula but I don't think there's any doubting there's something deeper going on with Twilight. When I was reading the saga, even when I was making dinner, working out, etc., I was thinking about it. As far as the fandom goes, I think it's cool to know I'm not alone -- that the story struck such a chord with so many people. This is the first "fandom" I've been involved with so I can't make a comparison but I'm pretty impressed with how smart and fun everyone is. (I think the fic-fandom is probably a smaller subset of the Twi-fandom as a whole but it's all I know.)

Vixen: I loved Twilight--and by Twilight, I mean Edward and (gasp!) Jake. Even after all the amazing fic and lemons I've read, Stephenie Meyer's Edward still does wonderful things to my insides. I never had the hots for Jake, but I always thought he was a true friend to Bella and a genuinely good guy even when she put him through hell. My biggest complaint with the saga was with Bella herself. I thought she was one-dimensional, and despite four books written almost completely from her perspective, I never felt like we got a good sense of who she was (aside from being hopelessly in love with Edward). With regard to the pop culture phenomenon, I try not to judge. Occasionally I see people/merchandise/etc. that I giggle at, and then I remember that I write Twilight fanfiction. Sigh.

Myg: Are either of you married or in a relationship, and if so, how do your SOs feel about Stranger than Fiction?

Masen: Yes -- I'm married. My husband is very supportive of the whole thing. I remember when I initially told him I was reading fic I was all embarrassed but he was *thrilled* to find out I was into smut. He really encouraged me to take a creative writing course and he is so happy that I was able to do something so fulfilling after identifying that as an area of interest. But it does take up a lot of time and there have been times when we've had arguments about it. He doesn't read it, but listens politely when I force him to read a sweet review or blog rec. He's pretty awesome, ngl. Also, my hubs and V's hubs are friends, and when we all get together they feed off of each other and give us a lot of shit. It's the price we pay.

Vixen: Mr. V's been very supportive; he loves that I write/read smut and is very proud that our story has resonated with so many people. He's read tidbits of StF and was pretty stoked to find that he'd inspired a lemon or two. There have been times, though, when he's accused me of spending too much time writing fic, and he was almost always right.

Masen: Note she said "ALMOST."

Myg: Have there been any reader reactions to Stranger Than Fiction that have surprised you?

Vixen: I didn't anticipate that so many people would be mortified at the idea of Bella having sex with someone other than Edward. Bella and Edward might belong together, sure, but the premise of our story is that Edward left her in New Moon and never came back. We thought it was totally reasonable in those circumstances for Bella to move on, or at least try to seek the normal human life that Edward said he wanted her to have. A lot didn't see it that way; some readers didn't believe that Bella could ever enjoy sex with another man, and other people avoided reading our story after hearing there was a non-canon lemon.

Masen: I echo what V said. The term "wussperv" was not in my vocabulary when we started writing. But mostly I have been shocked and totally blown away by the way this whole concept has resonated with people. It made sense to me and V of course, but one reviewer (CrookedArm23) once told us "I didn't know I was looking for this story until I found it." It was one of the best sentiments ever. I love that!

I was also surprised that there were some very strong reactions to the way we wrote Bella and Edward's "first time." The response was mostly positive and of course I knew we were taking a bit of a risk there, but several reviewers seemed honestly distraught. We had a few people say things like "[a]fter six years couldn't he have waited 30 minutes to get her to the meadow?!!" And I just thought, "Really? There are how many thousands of fics out there and you really feel like you need to read Bella-and-Edward-in-the-meadow again?"

Myg: Do you ever want to junk-punch reviewers who call your Bella a whore/drunk/bitch whatever? Or is that just me? (I actually don't know if you get reviews like that, but I do, and it just makes me a little...touchy.) Also, what does "wussperv" actually refer to? Someone who can't tolerate any sex outside of Edward/Bella?

Masen: I don't know the technical parameters of wusspervdom but I know they have a hard time with non-canon E or B lemons, seeing Edward in pain, and I think also angst in general. As for your first question, yeah, we get those reviews and yeah they are annoying but mostly because I'm like, hello? How many fics show Edward as a complete manwhore and we all *suhwoooon* but Bella has to wear a chastity belt till Edward comes along to pop her cherry or else she's a slut?? Does not compute. But truthfully I think most of our readers get it and appreciate having a grown-up Bella with a bit a backbone take Edward to task. It's really the whole reason we wrote the story so if it's not your bag, this isn't the right fic for you.

Vixen: To be honest, those reviews don't bother me much. We took some risks with our story, so it's inevitable that some people wouldn't like our characters. That said, we got one review that said only, "I hate your Bella." The review came after a pivotal chapter where Bella took Edward to task for leaving her in New Moon, and the sentiment behind the review blew me away. I mean, who wouldn't be pissed if a guy left without a trace, was gone for six years, and then snuck in your bedroom window one night with a raging hard-on?

Myg: Has writing StF made you want to write more fiction, fan fiction or otherwise?

Masen: Yes! Writing StF has made me realize I love writing and that it satisfied a creative outlet I've been missing since college. I have no delusions of grandeur and I know it will most likely always be just a hobby, but it's something I plan to continue doing indefinitely. At the moment, I can't speculate about what that will be after StF ends. I'll probably cry in my Cap'n Crunch for a week and then open a new gdoc and see what happens.

Vixen: Yep. I'd never written anything for fun and had classified myself as a "non-creative" person, but I've loved this experience. Like M, I have no idea what I'll write next. I'll probably sit on my ass and drink wine until a great idea strikes, or until M pings me on gchat and tells me about hers.

Myg: I really hate to ask, but do you know when StF will end? How many more chapters? How many more weeks?

Masen: Wish we could give you a calendar with dates for each update but life is just too messy right now to give a specific timeline for our posts. But we're planning on 3 more chapters before the snotsobbing commences. The next chapter is pretty much done so that will be up soon!

Myg: Who are some of your favorite books/authors (not fanfic)?

Masen: The handful of top favorites that come to mind right now are: The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood), Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris), The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) Atonement (Ian McEwan) Jane Eyre (Bronte), Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov), and The Hunger Games series (Suzanne Collins). I also have a thing for Classical literature -- Ovid's Metamorphoses is one my favorite books of all time. When I met hubs I used to read him Petrarch's lyric over the phone. (cue: "awwwwwww"s)

Vixen: Not surprisingly, we share some favorites. Mine are: The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood), The Hunger Games series (Collins), The Road (McCarthy), Native Son (Wright), and Warriors Don't Cry (Beals).

Myg: Are there any authors (fanfic or not) who have influenced you as writers?

Masen: I've always been really open about the fact that LolaShoes' "My Yes, My No" is my favorite fic of all time. It's the story that made me realize the part of the saga that dissatisfied me the most was the reunion in New Moon. Lola's been a big supporter and is now a prereader and is unquestionably a big influence. She knows you don't have to rely on gimmicks to tell a good story as long as you know your characters inside and out. We really do try to make sure every plot turn, line of dialogue, etc. makes sense for our versions of the characters. I also absolutely love TaraSueMe's triology (Ts/TD/TT) and her ability to tell a captivating story without wasting words. She also has such a definite beginning and end and she knows exactly where she's heading when she starts. I think one of the most important skills in writing a fic is knowing when to wrap it up. That time is coming soon for us. *sniff!* Finally, I absolutely adore The Blessing and the Curse by The_Black_Arrow. My writing style is frankly nothing like hers, but I'm amazed by her gift for imagery and description and it's something I'm continually trying to improve.

Vixen: To the writers and stories M has named, I'd add's "Tropic of Virgo." It is, without a doubt, my favorite fic. She weaves poetry, song lyrics, and captivating prose together to create one of the most beautiful stories and some of the most lovable characters I've ever read in fic or otherwise. Thank God I didn't read it before we started writing StF, because ToV is so brilliant I would never have had the guts to try something on my own.

Masen: ::Hangs head in shame:: I am a ridiculously faily fic reader now that we've started writing. I haven't read ToV yet because I fear I will throw my laptop into a sewer and rend my garments out of feelings of inadequacy.

Myg: Oh hell, I know the feeling. What would you tell aspiring fanfic writers about doing this?

Masen: I would tell them just go for it. It's such a rewarding way to interact with some amazing people and engage in a fulfilling creative outlet. I think it's smart to pre-write at least 1/3 to 1/2 of your story before you begin posting and I would definitely advise at least a bare-bones outline. Next I would say to make sure you're having fun and staying true to the story *you* set out to tell. Sometimes reviews and other feedback/twitter chatter can really get under your skin if you start losing perspective on that fact. Once that happens, you'll stop having fun and've missed the whole point.

Vixen: M's totally right; it can be easy to get wrapped up in this, to get stressed out about negative reviews, PMs that say "update soon," or whatever. If that happens, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and repeat after me: "It's Twilight fanfiction. It is not real life." If you have any interest at all in writing, you should do it! It's fun and can be totally anonymous, meaning that you can spread your creative wings and fly with absolutely no embarrassing repercussions. I also think (as I climb onto my soapbox) that writing smut can be one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself; harness your sexuality, bbs!

Myg: I am so totally with you on the lemon writing thing.

Fun stuff

  • Most interesting location you’ve lived a lemon:
    • Vixen: The fitting room at a sporting goods store. UNF.
    • Masen: The back of a car my parents were driving. o_O
    • Vixen: OMG, you're such a hoor. I'm totally telling your parents. On Facebook.
    • Masen: BAHAHAHA omg. Please. Maybe that will help me get my mother off fucking Facebook.
  • High School role: Cheerleader, Heather, Class Officer, Jock, Burn out, Geek, Other?
    • Vixen: Geek, without question.
    • Masen: Oh I was the Class Officer -- in Student Government and kind of bossy. Thank god I outgrew that shit.
    • Vixen: When did you outgrow that, exactly? BAHAHAHA ily.
    • Masen: ::birdflip::
  • Volvo or Truck?
    • Vixen: Jeep. No doors, no top.
    • Masen: I had an ex-boyfriend with a Volvo and that car was fucking powerful, dude. Don't hate the Volvo.
  • Favorite place to buy sexy underwear:
    • Masen: Nordstrom. Their intimates department is very feminine and not puke-your-guts-out pink like a certain establishment that shall remain nameless. (PS, saw a seriously nasty documentary about how that certain establishment would resell returned garments, even without tags, without washing them. BLECH.)
    • Vixen: At the risk of sounding like an uber-snob, I will say Paris. Mr. V and I went there last year on vacation and spent a whole day going from boutique to boutique buying lingerie. Best foreplay ever.
    • Masen: OMG. You are such a snob! Can I change my answer to "Nordstrom in Monaco"
  • Favorite guilty pleasures: Music (ie; Journey, not Radiohead):
    • Vixen: Air Supply.
    • Masen: BAHAHAHAHA Air Supply. *wheeze*
    • Vixen: Don't hate! Have you heard "Making Love out of Nothing at All?" That shit is poetry.
    • Masen: Michael Jackson. I know every word to every song from every era. #RIPMJ
  • Food:
    • Vixen: Movie popcorn.
    • Masen: Ice cream. As V will tell you, I refuse to eat anything except full sugar, full fat. Go big or go home.
  • TV:
    • Vixen: Beverly Hills 90210 (the original, of course). And on that note, someone please write me a 90210 fic with Edward as Dylan McKay. ::bats eyelashes::
    • Masen: Hoarders
  • Non-Twi movie:
    • Vixen: I'd say Dirty Dancing, but there's no guilt involved. (BTW, I trust that you've all seen this deleted scene. No? Go there NAO. There will be moaning, I promise. Dirty Dancing Deleted Scene As far as a "guilty" pleasure, it would be Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead. I love Josh Charles. So much.
    • Masen: Candyman. I love bad horror movies. But The Ring still keeps me up at night.
  • Non-Twi book:
    • Vixen: The Washingtonienne, by Jessica Cutler. Totally scandalous, surprisingly dirty, and perfect for anyone who's ever lived or worked in DC.
    • Masen: The Flowers in the Attic series. Yes, I might have reread them a few years ago (No, they aren't as good as you remember).
  • Favorite book as a child:
    • Vixen: Corduroy when I was really little, and then The Babysitters Club.
    • Masen: The Monster at the End of this Book
  • Anti-boner:
    • Vixen: Cell phone or Blackberry holsters. Necklaces on dudes.
    • Masen: Pleated pants. Inability to drive a stick shift. Small vocabulary.
  • Beer, wine, shots or coffee (choose as many as may apply)?
    • Vixen: Wine, shots, or coffee. Beer only if really drunk/really desperate, which I find happens less and less the older I get. ::sobs::
    • Masen: Sparkly white wine or full-bodied reds. And then cocktails - a vodka Gimlet is my current drink of choice.
  • Peas or carrots?
    • Vixen: Carrots.
    • Masen: Peas. Baby ones. Le Sur brand please.

Myg: When you read something you love as much as Stranger Than Fiction, you always wonder about the mind/minds that create it. I just adore this glimpse into who you both are and your amazing friendship and creative partnership. I feel like I want to cook you dinner and ask you a bazillion other questions about your personal lives now. Since I have a feeling you're not local, I guess I'll just say thanks tons and tons for taking the time to talk to me. I'll be sad when it's done but can't wait to see how it ends, and I'll be looking forward to reading more from you both in the future!

Check out MasenVixen's FanFiction page to see other stories.

1 comment:

  1. Squeeee ... my favourite fic writers all together!! Great interview. So fascinating to read about how MV write together, I have wondered about that a lot. It's all so seamless, I could never pick who wrote what. So sad that both StF and OB are nearing the end but knowing that you plan on writing more takes the edge off!
    P.S. Myg, when OB winds up and if you're looking for something to read - read ToV. I guarantee you will love it. xx
    Anna Faze


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