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JAN 13: Mind the Gap...

Good morning to the fabulous author erastes, writer of quality, best-selling homoerotic fiction, Director of the Erotic Authors' Association and Blogger Extraordinaire on Speak Its name, The Macaronis and Unusual Historicals, amongst many other appearances.

Erastes' website is HERE

And - THRILL!! - in 2009 I'm proud to share with Erastes a spot in the
I DO anthology,
where all sales proceeds are going to Lambda, and which we will continue to PIMP SHAMELESSLY because of its superb content and equally delightful charitable objectives LOL.

So... today?
Where was Erastes learning her craft before a successful career in her chosen genre?
Learn about her leap of faith - her life-changing experience - the "drug" she left behind in her brave, yet ultimately rewarding leap from fanfic to ...TODAY. And her encouragement to others who want to follow.

Bridging the Gap or

There aren't many moments that I can pinpoint as being "lifechanging" but discovering fanfic was one of them.

Many m/m writers are ex-fanficcers, which may or may not be a surprise to some. I'm certainly one, and I'll always be grateful to fanfic. I can't see a day coming where I'll deny my fanfic roots. (Most notably because if I tried, someone will point out an article like this one!)

I discovered fanfic in July 2003. I couldn't believe that I'd never heard of it before. I found it entirely by accident, while surfing for news about the latest Harry Potter book and film, any gossip about Severus Snape, who was a bit of crush for me at the time. I stumbled, completely accidentally, across a site called the Snape Fuh-Q-Fest which is no longer running, but is beautifully archived. I sat there with my chin on the floor. Here were stories of ... Severus Snape fucking every single other character in the Potter universe. I hastily skipped stories of elf and gnome sex and clicked on with another character I quite liked - Lucius Malfoy and from that moment my life changed forever.

The story was Clandestine by the gorgeously talented Chaos Rose and is part of an arc concerning Snape, Lucius and Evan Rosier. To anyone who doesn't know the fandom it will be less than interesting, but to me, who had, due to JK Rowling's cardboard cut-out characterisation never really considered Lucius Malfoy as anything other than a Snidely Whiplash villain, it was a complete eyeopener. It - without rippling the canon at all - fleshed out the characters, gave them motivations that I had never considered before. It explored their pasts that JKR had not yet explained, it made them three dimensional, it made them human.

I read everything in the arc, and then everything else I could find with Snape and Lucius. I was obsessed and within a week I was writing my first fanfic, a story that is now buried very deep never to be seen again - a 66k word novel about Lucius, and what he was doing during Order of the Phoenix when he wasn't on the page. It was pretty dire. It had a big fat Mary Sue in it for a start, because I hadn't heard the term Mary Sue at that point, didn't know that it was a rookie mistake, but I was completely obsessed, inspiration adrenaline coming out of every pore. I couldn't sleep, hardly ate, all I did was write.

When I'd finished it, I sat back and thought - "wow! that was FUN!" But within a very few hours I started to feel a little unsettled. What good was it? It wasn't as if I could sell it anywhere, and I'd only had one person read it. So, I wondered if I could convert it somehow, change Lucius into a Victorian gentleman perhaps - but although I tried, it didn't work. But I'd caught the bug. I wanted that buzz again, and so I wrote Standish instead. It's true that Rafe Goshawk probably does have a little of "my idea of Lucius Malfoy" in him. He's rich and arrogant with a big .... HOUSE... but it's just about there that the comparison stops.

Although I knew at that point that I wanted to continue to write gay historical fiction, I stayed in fanfiction for another three years, it was a wonderful "nursery slope" for me, and I learned so much. From role playing I learned about dialogue (something that I felt was missing in Standish) and pacing, and how to know how a character would react to anything that was thrown at him, and I got feedback - instant feedback from readers which can become something of a drug. While I wrote many many fanfics during this time, and thousands of words of roleplaying, I was also chipping away at writing, getting on with the second novel, and starting to get my name known by submitting--and being hugely lucky by having them accepted--short stories to various anthologies.

By 2006 I had a bit of a quandary. I was two "personalities." I was Underlucius who wrote fanfiction but I was also Erastes who by 2006 had finally sold Standish. I hadn't entirely lost my taste for fanfiction, but I realised that I was going to have to make a decision to stop being Underlucius and be Erastes full-time. It was harder to do than I expected, to be honest, as I'd made so many good friends in fandom, and I miss some of them even now. Quite a few of them followed me over to the new Livejournal, I'm happy to say, and it gives me a warm feeling when I hear from them, these people who were there right from the beginning.

Another scary thing about stepping into the original fiction world is that you are kind of flying without a net, as it were. No longer can you post your stories online to be commented on by all and sundry, you can't share more than little snippets, and it's a little lonely. I have to be honest and say that I missed the instant gratification of the comments on my writing, but then I discovered that with original fiction, you got other perks. Author's copies. MONEY. And best of all, you got letters and emails from people you didn't know, people who'd read your book and loved it. Gay men, gay women, straight women and yes, even straight men. If someone had told me, in July 2003, that stuff like that would be happening to me by 2006, I'd have laughed at them.

So, basically, if you are writing fanfiction and have always said to yourself "I could write as well as xxxx" then have a GO. It's an ideal time to try it. When I first started out, Ellora's Cave were still very small (they wanted Standish as their FIRST m/m novel, if you can believe that, looking at their catalogue now) and most of the publishers who specialise in m/m weren't even born yet - and that's only five years ago. Just imagine what it could be like in another five years?

It takes a little longer to find your place in original fiction land, and yes - it can be every bit as wanky as fandom, and the leap is scary. But give it a go. You don't have to let go with both hands straight away, and I am sure you'll find it as rewarding as I have.


Follow this month with Clare (yes, it's all about the MEEEE...):

Week 2 :
Jan 09 : ravensilver describes the creativity of independent manga publishing - and the challenges...
Jan 10 : kitzheng talks about Kink...
Jan 11 : chrissy munder shares the struggles of writing, NC17 penguins and mantyhose...
Jan 12 : 1more_sickpuppy bares her soul about confessing her love for m/m fiction...

Jan 01 : the Cheeky Cherubs welcome us to 2009 with a pithy verse or two and the threat of piercings...
Jan 02 : sweet, sexy fiction from lilzazu, all about the perennially tricky problem of a sticky shift...
Jan 03 : excellent editing tips for all authors who ever wondered whether to be cruel to be kind to their prose, hosted by jolilightner...
Jan 04 : Clare pimps the fabulous I DO anthology, now available in ebook and all proceeds to Lambda...
Jan 05 : abstractrx ponders the changing role of Romance and its reflection of - or on?! - the society around it...
Jan 06 : FREE FICTION from me and my friends!
Jan 07 : Jordan Castillo Price discusses what tempts us to try out a new author...
Jan 08 : Clare rambles on about perceived plagiarism and posts excerpts of her Torquere titles...

Want to grab a day to pimp, pose or pontificate? Comment HERE!!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 13th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
I identify with so much of this, having come from fanfiction myself. It was true for me also, that fanfiction was a blast of fresh, stimulating, exciting air that provoked me (i) to start writing again after some time away, and (ii) to expose it online!

I still wrote original fiction at that time, but that's when I started moving over into specifically m/m. I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to make the change back. I know I started to get restless with fanfiction: although I still love reading and (occasionally) writing it, I started to find it restrictive as an author. Especially with the lack of villains (!) and both original characters and motive. So I started up an original fiction website and posted some short fiction. And yes, the first thing I noticed was the lack of feedback! LOL But when someone *did* respond, it was heady stuff.

The things I've noted most about Bridging that Gap are * less immediate feedback, particularly hard if you're writing a novel * the fact you may never have a piece of work published, and not necessarily because of its quality * the courage to submit in the first place as a newbie all over again! * to cope with rejection AND acceptances, keeping your spirits either up or properly grounded * the different standards expected of your writing style (and that's both good and bad!) * the 'politics' of the industry, in what they expect to see and will 'buy', as opposed to what you want to sell...

etc etc

But you're right, the rewards are astonishingly good. Not necessarily financially (at least not yet, for me) but as far as self-esteem and personal satisfaction goes.

Now I *am* getting pretentious...LOL

Great post, thanks!
Jan. 14th, 2009 12:14 pm (UTC)
One thing that I loved about fanfic was not having to waste too much time introducing a character. After all - I only need to write "Lucius Malfoy swept in," and that's it. Whereas if in an original book, i write "Robert Allwood marched in," you pretty much have your reader thinking "oh, yeah?"

And of course using another person's world made it easier to create plot without having to world-build.

Yes - the rejections and so forth are hard to deal with in original-land - but hopefully the small network one builds around one (thanks god for the interwebz because it would be horrible to write a book without blogging) will be a great support base. And is, in my case, definitely.
Jan. 14th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
Lovely post.

Erastes, you know I identify with so much of what you say. Different fandom, but very similar experiences. (Although you as a Mary Sue? Gaaarn!)

I still dabble in fanfic partly because it gives me freedom to do daft things, to experiment with settings or styles. Partly because it's just such fun.
Jan. 14th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
With me I think it was too much of an addiction--I fear that if I went back to it I'd not come out again, and also JKR deliberately closed a lot of the fanfic outlets, killing off characters - I didn't have the heart to write heart broken Lucius over and over again.

Yes, Violetta her name was. She even had violet eyes. Long auburn hair in corkscrew type curls. She was the heir of Slytherin. oh the shame...
Jan. 13th, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
The description of your journey is quite interesting. Congratulations on making the transition so successfully.
Jan. 14th, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's been a fun ride!
Jan. 13th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
This is a very interesting post, Erastes. Thanks for sharing your journey. I suspect it's similar for more than a few of us. I know it strikes a chord with me, too. It's always nice to see established authors encouraging newer writers. Ours is a small genre, but a growing one, and more talented writers can only be a good thing. Congrats on the I Do anthology. The message is long overdue, IMO, and the cause a great one to support.
Jan. 14th, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks regarding the I DO antho, too!
Jan. 13th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
I've come at this the wrong way round, I think. I started reading m/m and have recently discovered slash!

Great post though. It's interesting to see just how many m/m authors came from a background of fanfic.
Jan. 14th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
What I should have said was that I didn't even know of the existence of gay erotica - or rather, that I might enjoy it, and believe me, I had NOTHING like a sheltered upbringing.

I think I can safely say that most of the m/m writers came from fanfic and even some non m/m ones such as Naomi Novik too.

Thank you - i'm glad you liked it!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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