Monday, December 5, 2011

Vanner's Carousel

There seems to be something about Rarity that draws interest into her backstory... and for some reason, it's usually sad. Today's Vault entry is another character study of Ponyville's resident white unicorn, exploring her relationship with her father.

[Tragedy] • 8,400 words
When Fluttershy asks Rarity where she learned to sew, she learns that remembering where you came from isn't always easy.

Hit the break to get some insight into Vanner's thoughts and process, and read Carousel on your favorite pony sites. Don't forget to check out the Downloads page for an eBook copy!

Where do you live?


What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)

IT and Medical Laboratory.

How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?

I’d seen the term “Brony” popping up on the Internet some time in April of 2010, but I couldn’t find anything in particular. I saw a post on a forum about MLP asking if adult men really liked this kind of thing. Being a bit of an animation junkie, I tuned in for the first two episodes and found myself hooked.

Do you have a favorite episode? [Editor’s note: at the time of this interview, the most recent aired episode was The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well.]

Suited for Success. Rarity is the best pony after all.

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)?

Canon only, I’d have to consider my two favorite ponies to be Rarity and Cheerilee. Rarity started off as an annoying drama queen, but quickly grew into someone with serious underlying psychological problems. And that’s just what you can gather from the show. Cheerilee is great because she reminds me of a teacher I had when I was in school. She’s dedicated to education and willing to make you suffer for acting the fool.

Including general fanon consensus, that expands to Lyra and BonBon. Lyra and BonBon, as depicted in artwork and stories are just such an adorable couple. Their colors compliment each other so well, and there is so much art of them just being together.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Funny thing that. The Gyspy Vanner is a type of draft horse with beautiful feathering around the hooves, and luxuriously silky mane and tail. They’re probably the most beautiful horses in the world. My pen name is a bit of a play on that, as in real life, I have a shaved head, though I’m otherwise fuzzy.

Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?

I first started writing my own stories when I was nine. Simple stories to be sure, but I was never a good enough artist to make much of anything by drawing. I’ve always felt the need to create, and traditional arts likes paints or sculpting never appealed to me. Writing has always been easy and cheap. I’ve drifted in and out of writing for years at a time, but I keep coming back to it. It just happens to be something that I can share with other people.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I am a gamer, both in the electronic and the tabletop sense. Gaming offers a unique look at how people think and function, no matter the medium. I suppose in that regard, I’m also a hobbyist sociologist.

Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?

My favorite published author is Kurt Vonnegut. His stories border on the absurd and the insane, and frequently cross the line. He presents us with absurd and unreal situations, and they still somehow make sense in the end. My favorite story by him is Bluebeard, which discuss the irrelevancy of the artists that the main character was friends with.

My favorite novel is Watership Down. On the surface, it’s a story about bunnies trying to find their place in the world and making the best of a bad situation. Looking deeper, it’s a commentary on governments and their effects on the populace, and how people react to how their government treats them. Or maybe it’s just a bunny adventure.

My favorite fanfic author is probably Conner Cogsworth. His stories are consistently clever, and keep to the spirit of the show, even when going completely off the rails.

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?

The idea of the audience of one is not one that I subscribe to, because I don’t think there’s anyone out there that I feel like I’m writing to. While I do write for the entertainment of others, there’s no one person or ideal audience that I’m trying to reach.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?

My advice actually isn’t that helpful because the way I write doesn’t work for a lot of people. I do very little planning or character analysis before hand, and most of the time I just jump into the story as close to the ending as possible.

What advice I would give is what everyone will tell you: Start as close to the end as possible, and make every sentence count. There are times where you want to write awesome scenes or hilarious jokes, but they have nothing to do with the story you’re telling.

I guess that’s the other piece of advice I’d offer. It’s okay to leave things on the cutting room floor. Say you just spent an hour writing an epic fight, only to realize that your characters could have avoided the whole thing by going up another floor to their goal. Cut it out, and use it for another story. There’s very few ideas out there that aren’t worth salvaging for another project.

Other than that, get other like-minded authors to read your stories before you send them out into the world. People aren’t going to read the same story twice because you changed something. Places like the Pony Fiction Archive or /fic/ are invaluable for new writers because they are full of people willing to listen and help.

What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)

My typical writing process has actually changed in the past few months. First and foremost, I start out with an idea. A basic plot forms, and from there I think of two things: ending and beginning. The ending is way more important than the beginning because you can bring readers in anywhere in the story and still bring about comprehension. The ending is where you leave your readers, and you don’t get another chance after that.

From there, I decide what how I want my characters to be. Given that I write a lot of original characters, it’s important to make sure that your characters are, if not likable, then at least realistic and interesting to read about.

Next I think of a few scenes that I want to include in the piece and write outlines from that. Usually these are action scenes or moments of choice for the characters, so they’re pivotal plot pieces. I fill in the rest with setting and character building.

I pass off my work to prereaders from Ponychan who then tear my piece apart and berate me for doing things that drive them nuts. Then I rewrite, and they complain some more.

I used to just throw things out there willy-nilly. While I’m a strong enough writer to do that, my stories are much better now that I have people who aren’t afraid to tell me that I’m writing like a jerk.

What inspired you to write Carousel?

I really don’t know. I woke up one morning with the idea and it wouldn’t stop bugging me until I wrote it down. After a few drafts, I changed several parts of it, and it all just coalesced into the story that I wanted it to be.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Carousel?

Not really. One of the things I’ve always prided myself was that I never leave a story hanging. I’ve had a lot of failed starts over the years, and I have scrapped entire projects, but the pieces have come back stronger in other works than they did in the original.

When you set out to write Carousel, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Not really. I got lucky with the timing of it, as it came out Father’s Day weekend. Since it’s a story about a father, it went over really well.

I guess if I had a message, it would be to remember where you came from. Even if the past is painful, you can learn a lot from it, and you can appreciate that you are a product of your experiences.

Where can readers drop you a line?

I can be reached at

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The fandom has made me glad to pick up the pen again and start writing. The kind words from people who enjoyed my stories have inspired me to help others in their quest for good fiction. I’ve met some fantastic people, and read some incredible stories. I’m glad a cartoon about ponies could bring me here. I’ve had a lot of Internet friends over the years, and this is probably the nicest community I’ve had the pleasure of being part of.

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