I hope my American readers had a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday! I hope everyone else had a happy and safe Thursday.
Today we find out what Celestia and Discord were up to while Twilight and company were trying to re-imprison him in his stone prison, exploring the past and Celestia's psyche.
[Dark] • 11,700 words
Princess Celestia is a paradigm of virtue. Calm and benevolent, she stands strong as the moral guide of all ponydom, its infallible protector and symbol of all that is good.
She is... isn’t she?
Discord knows the truth. And he will stop at nothing, absolutely nothing, to make Celestia see it too.
The truth is never clear. Fear, however, is not so hard to find.
Hit the break for a chat with Mystic, and links to Dancing on Silver Strings out on the ponynet. And don't forget to grab your own ebook over at the Downloads page!
Where do you live?
Adelaide, Australia. A dull little city clinging to the coast that is relentlessly assaulted by heat waves and freezing winters. Bipolar Australian weather is always fun.
What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)
I am a full time student at university studying a double degree of law and international studies. When I am not slaving away in front of textbooks, I work for more hours than I should at a bookstore. In other words, pretty much everything I do in life revolves around words!
How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?
Ha. Now that is an embarrassing story for me, haha. I was actually introduced to it by my best friend sometime in September last year. When he told me that he had watched the first two episodes of a show called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I promptly made more grossly inappropriate remarks about his sexuality than I care to admit. In other words, I was generally a terrible and judgemental human being, haha.
However, his consistent needling to finally get me to watch an episode paid off when I sat down incredibly bored one night and decided to see what the fuss was about––if for no other reason than to pay him out more, but this time with authority.
Of course, the universe can have a very strange sense of humour when it decides to teach people valuable lessons, and this was a perfect example.
I loved it. Despite these two episodes being... ah... well they certainly are pilot episodes for a kid's show, that's for sure, the characters captivated me. I think it was the moment when Twilight realises that the Elements of Harmony aren't some mystical artifacts but rather her and her friends––the part when her eyes literally light up... Oh man. It was just faaantastic. When the second episode ended, I clicked on episode three without thinking, wanting only to keep watching the characters who had me enraptured with their colourful and vibrant personalities.
As it was loading (crappy Australian internet for you), I realised what I had done and why. I sat back, shook my head, swore, and then I sent an apology to my friend. I haven't looked back since.
It was something that carried with it an important lesson for me, one that I am glad to have learned!
And plus, all the best stories make me look like an idiot.
Do you have a favorite episode?
The pilot episodes. Definitely without a doubt. That's the power of nostalgia for you. Actually, now that I say that, I love a lot of the classics in season one. Episodes like "Winter Wrap Up", "Suited for Success" and "Dragonshy". They all have plenty of great character development, awesome songs and are all really heart warming/totally adorable.
Man... Season one was great.
Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?
This question... Hmm. Honestly, I am really kind of torn. I think I may have to admit that I am awfully cliché and say Twilight Sparkle. She is a fantastic character with depth, intelligence and humour. And she's a socially awkward nerd learning to become not so socially awkward! It's like my life!
No, but seriously, Twilight is a great character.
As far as the fandom is concerned, I would have to say Rainbow Dash starts to creep up the list. Why? I will tell you when I work it out myself!
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I was out running one day, and the thought crossed my mind that I needed an account name for the host of pony related sites that demanded I had one. I decided that I wanted something that could fit within a high fantasy context while still sounding kinda 'pony'. I went through numerous candidates in my head, and by the time I got home, that was the one I hated the least, haha.
Now my name is something that I hate, but I wouldn't change it for the world!
Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?
Before November of last year when I wrote my first pony fanfiction, I had never written a story in my life! I really wanted to contribute to the fandom in some capacity, though, and I knew that I couldn't draw or make music to save myself. With this in mind, it was clear that writing was the only possible avenue for me to do this. So after some thought, I figured rather eloquently, "Why the hell not?!" After all, I had always wanted to write a story. I had gotten a couple of pages into one once before giving up, so I decided to give it another shot and see where it went.
A year and well over 300,000 words later, I think it's safe to say I love writing!
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Or studying or working? A few things, really. I love music. While I can't play an instrument other than a smidgen of piano and drums, I listen to more EDM than any healthy person should.
I also love sport. I am a competitor by nature; I love to fight, and I love to win. I love to push my own limits as far as they can go. I take my sport very seriously and have competed at higher levels in quite a few sports ranging from swimming to cycling. My current passion, however, is karate, something that I train for religiously.
I also like to read the news and complain about the sorry state of affairs in Australian politics. Good lord, that sounds so much worse than it did in my head...
Otherwise (though this rarely ever happens, haha), I like to play video games and hang out with my friends. Because friendship really IS magic!
Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?
Favourite author? Tolkien. Tolkien a thousand times over, haha. I adore Lord of the Rings so much, and it is easily the largest source of inspiration for my work. However, I have to give a shout out to Cormac McCarthy and his novel, The Road. That is a phenomenal story, and I tried my best to homage it with a ponyfied version. Didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped due to inexperience as a writer on my end, but it well and truly gave me the writing bug. Oh, George R.R Martin is climbing up that list of favourite authors pretty quickly as well.
As far as fanfiction is concerned, people like Kkat, Somber, Cold in Gardez and Shortskirtsandexplosions are also great sources of inspiration for me. A combination of epic stories, great writing (and in some cases admirable personalities) give me something to aspire towards, as silly as that may sound, haha.
It's always been a goal of mine since I started writing, one that is kept in the dark somewhere in the back of my mind, to have a story as good as some of theirs one day. Always set your sights high!
Stephen King believes that every author has an "ideal reader" - the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?
Oooh. Honestly, I don't really think I have an ideal reader per se. What I mean by that is that I write for myself first and foremost. I write because I have stories, characters or worlds in my head, and I want to put those on paper and make them real.
The part that comes afterward is hoping against hope that other people like them, too, haha. If they do then I am ecstatic. If they don't then I am a saaad pony. :(
But seriously, I guess my ideal reader is someone who has a crazy imagination like myself and who loves fantasy/sci-fi. Anyone who bothers to invest a little time and read one of my stories is pretty ideal to me, though. The joy is in the sharing the words!
Actually, now that I think about it, I am constantly paranoid about how Sessalisk reacts to my stories (After all, she probably reads them the most out of anyone!), so perhaps she is my ideal reader... Oh lord.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?
I am fairly sure this point has been repeated to death a thousand times over, but I will reiterate it again because it is so true: write! Write and write and write and then write some more. Also read. The more you write and the more you read, the more you will learn and the better you will become.
Also, make sure to write what you love and are passionate about. If you don't love what you are writing, then chances are other people won't enjoy reading it. You need to pour adoration and more time and effort than seems reasonable into (good) stories, and you can't do that if you aren't passionate about what you are writing.
Oh, and make sure to never give up as well, haha. There will be moments when you won't feel motivated, or when people hand out criticism your way, or even times that when you do put fingers to keys nothing seems to be working, and everything that does come out resembles a trainwreck more than a story, but trust me when I say those moments pass, and inspiration will return. The most important thing is to never lose sight of why you are writing. Because that's the thing that will keep you coming back and enjoying it.
Finally, listen to advice. I know criticism can feel terrible, but suck it up, nod your head, and ask, 'how can I do better?' There are a ton of amazing people out there who can help give you pointers in the right direction, so make sure to grab those opportunities with both hands and never let go. I probably would have given up a long time ago if I hadn't listened to the advice given to me. It helped me improve to levels I never would have dreamed possible, and that keeps me motivated like nothing else.
What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)
To begin with I plan extensively. All of my stories begin with an idea that I let fester in the dark depths of my imagination for weeks or sometimes even months. Dancing on Silver Strings was a little unusual in the sense that it only took me two weeks from conception through to the completion of a first draft. Still, after penning out a dot-pointed version of all the events in the story, I will start work on the simultaneously wonderful and dreaded first draft. To do that, I switch off the internet, put on headphones, pump my body full of caffeine, and just try to write as much as I possibly can. I will pause every couple of hours, exercise to failure, and then keep going!
I try to write things as quickly as possible, and it normally only takes me a few days to put out a 10k+ word draft (I have no life) (Also, this is assuming that I don't have uni work bearing down on me like a tidal wave, because at this point it can take significantly longer). After that, it's straight off to my Jedi Master/sensei/editor/friend, Sessalisk (a.k.a. the person responsible for helping me slowly transform my stories from what they were when I first started to what they are now), and she dissects the draft and offers me general structural advice in any capacity where it is necessary.
After that, I churn out another draft, and provided things have been fixed up, then it's on to polishing my prose. This process can take up to another two or three drafts because I have a tendency to write description that makes perfect sense to me but is nonsensical or redundant to everyone else.
When that is eventually done, I tentatively call the story ready for posting, and that's where the real fun starts...
What inspired you to write Dancing on Silver Strings?
I really, really love arguing (unless it's on the internet in which case I stay as far away as possible, haha). I also love it when two very smart people go head to head in a battle of the minds, both parties trying to outwit or outfox the other. As such, the Celestia vs. Discord psychological battle has been an idea that I have kinda wanted to do for a very long time. They are such different characters at first glance, yet (in my headcanon at least), they are ultimately both schemers and master chess players, each with their own very different agendas. Those contrasts and similarities were something that I really wanted to explore.
That and it gave me another wonderful opportunity to work with the highly malleable magical dreamscapes that I am so fond of. SO much symbolism, haha. I love imagining landscapes and locations, and like all my projects, this story let my imagination go insane!
Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Dancing on Silver Strings?
Far too many, haha. When I was 12, my mother once told me after I pressured her into reading a story that I really loved that she didn't like it. Why? Because it was clear that the author was very young (the story was Eragon, for those interested). When I asked further, she said it was obvious that the author was trying to tackle themes that he had never really experienced properly for himself. Nor did he have the emotional maturity to begin describing those ideas realistically, and, as a result, it came across as immature and unconvincing (to the point of being melodramatic).
That has really stuck with me ever since, and it is something I am terrified of to this day.
Needless to say, my first draft was straying dangerously close to this kind of territory. There were a few scenes that hinted at Celestia's struggle with immortality and the concept of the death of her kingdom/those who she loves (to which Discord claimed that it didn't scare her as much as her own personal fear of death, thus she is far more vulnerable/insecure than she dares to admit). My problem was that this was moving into a life/death situation that I was struggling to deal with in a way that was as strong as the rest of the story.
At the end of the day, I cut it completely which was definitely to the story's benefit; it is a lot better now because of the changes that followed.
Also, one of the big challenges I faced was that this story was very 'micro constructed'. What I mean by that is all of the language is very, very deliberate, often with more than one possible intended meaning. This was because I wanted there to be plenty of evidence for both of my character's arguments––only some of it may be a little harder to find than others.
Oh, and my prose underwent a monstrous amount of work to make it as efficient as possible. SO many drafts!
When you set out to write Dancing on Silver Strings, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?
I talked earlier about the contrasts and similarities between Celestia and Discord, and I guess the idea that really drove me was that sometimes, the line between them can be a little blurrier than a quick glance may suggest. They both guide (read=manipulate) ponies, and they both do it to achieve certain results; whether this is moral or not was a question I wanted the reader to ponder. I never really wanted to provide a definitive answer, though, because I love to leave things open to reader interpretation, haha.
The other part came when thinking about perceptions of Celestia as a good and benevolent ruler. The idea of right and wrong having the potential to be subjective and the unintended (or sometimes not so unintended) consequences of power are ideas that fascinate me, and they really just felt like the natural themes to centre the story around.
And I love me a nice theme!
Where can readers drop you a line?
I check FIMFiction way too often on my iPad at uni, so that is definitely the fastest way to get in touch! I love to chat and meet new people, and as regulars to my page will know, if you comment or inbox me, chances are you will get sucked into a long and ultimately pointless conversation that will eventually degrade into posting image macros, haha.
The point is message me! I love to chat.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I love this fandom and I love writing, and I can't wait to see what the future holds. I have more crazy-epic ideas in my head than I can count, and I sharing them with everyone is something that I am really looking forward to.
Not too much else to say other than thank you so much to RBDash47 for inviting my work onto the blog, to everyone who has read any one of my stories/taken the time to leave feedback, rate, etc, and to all of the amazing people I have met in the fandom. You guys keep me coming back, so thank you!
And finally, a massive thank you to Sessalisk. I honestly wouldn't be writing if it wasn't for her help and guidance. I'm just sorry I couldn't make an inappropriate joke for you. :(
All the best! <3