Friday, January 20, 2012

The Descendant's A Cup of Joe

Today we learn the past life of Canterlot's premiere doughnut pony, and how he's learned to cope with his loss. Military bronies take heed; this may strike a little close to home.

[Tragedy][Slice-of-Life] • 17,400 words
Pony Joe awakens before the dawn each morning, readies himself for his day, and then walks through Cantelot's cold and silent streets to his doughnut shop. Life has become pretty mundane for Joe, but as he serves his customers and chats with his regulars he realizes that he has come to rely on that repetition... he relies on it to keep from remembering. As a casual utterance by a new customer sends Joe into a spiral of haunting memories we learn about his life... and what he must give up if he wishes to move beyond his past.

Hit the break for an interview with The Descendant, which may well be our most loquacious yet, and links to A Cup of Joe around the interwebs - and don't forget that the Downloads page also has copies in your favorite ebook format.

Where do you live?

I live in the north east of the United States of America.

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

I am gainfully employed. I like my job but it simply doesn’t pay enough, so I’m trying to become an author.

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

I’ve been a life-long lover of animation. When I was a kid one of my dreams was that someday I’d be writing scripts for Disney. Well, that never happened, but I’ve stayed interested in animation my whole life. I’ve kept watch on all of the developments in the industry and the like.

When I saw that that animation was going to be a big part of the lineup of the new Hub network I researched who was doing what. When I saw that Ms. Faust was going to be doing a restart of My Little Pony I knew right away that it would be higher quality than the previous generations but it didn’t really register with me that it was anything I should actually sit down to watch.

It’s for little girls after all. Right?

So, I was home one day from work and I jumped on my elliptical trainer. I usually watch Fraggle Rock while I exercise but I must have missed the time or they had just switched up the schedules or something. So, the new version of My Little Pony starts and I grumble to myself but figure it’s just background noise while I exercise and I’ll be able to see what Ms. Faust and her team did with the show.

The episode was Dragonshy and as soon as I was off the trainer I was searching online for more information about the show. Within two weeks I had joined Equestria Forums and was in the prewriting for my first two stories, Heart of the Mountain and So Being What We Sow When We Sow.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Hmmm... how about we say it’s The Cutie Mark Chronicles. I love the back story we saw developed for each of the characters.

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)?

Based purely on canon it is Spike. The series does an excellent job of just letting him be a kid, something some series don’t do. I’ve never bought the idea that children are somehow useless to writers. I think that I’ve done enough with him in my stories to prove that he is capable of many things while still acting as a child acts and having the same fears, hopes, and faults. His relationship with Twilight is the most important in the series to me expressively because it is familial and not romantic. I really hope the series expands on it.

In fanon? Well, I’m not impressed by the way the fandom treats these characters, in all honesty. If we’re talking about my personal fanon then it’s Celestia.

I’ve always portrayed her in my stories as a loving mother figure. When we watch her in the series she’s always giving out advice and gently chiding Twilight and interacting with her little ponies in a manner that, at least is seems to me, bespeaks of an unspoken fondness and silent love.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I desperately wanted to be a “The” this time...

By choosing “The Descendant” it allows people to apply whatever meaning works for them. It’s like the raven I’ve been using for my avatar in the fandom. Every culture has some sort of interpretation of what a raven “means”, all of which are right. I wanted my pen name to be like that too.

Oh! There’s one other advantage. Draggle, who is now one of the moderators at Equestria Forums asked me who I was descended from. I, of course, replied, “Why, the ancestors!”

She replied, “Well, I’m descended from the ancestors too!”

I said that it was great to run into some lost family, and that I really needed to borrow some money.


To my horror it turned out that there was already a “The Descendant” on dA when I joined, so in a fit of worry I simply added “of KehAn” when I registered. I have no idea what it actually means. I then had people writing and commenting who addressed me as Keh’An. That sucked. So, I’ve just been asking everybody to call me T.D., and I hope that explains that mess.

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

I started writing when I was in junior high school.

I wrote (past-tense) for several fandoms in the past, most of which are now dead or ghostly shells of their former selves. I am also involved in a few others presently, some of which I’ve written stories in for nearly a decade.

Most of my stories in those other fandoms were utterly terrible.

I write Christmas and Easter plays for my church. They’ve always been well received. Then again, what are the parents going to do, “Boo!” their kids?

I’ve submitted all of my plays and three full length books to publishers. They’ve all come back to me. The latest rejection was of a historical fiction novel. That came back in November. Hurts real bad.

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

I’m very active in my church, several local volunteer organizations, and some civic groups. I want to suggest to everyone who feels disconnected and alone that the best thing you can do is actually put yourself towards working with others to help others and grow something you are interested in. I’ve met a lot of the great people in my life in such organizations and while volunteering. I can’t imagine what my life would look like if I didn’t have volunteerism as a part of it.

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

My favorite author is probably Douglas Adams. A lot of people say that they see his influence in my stories, especially Super Amazing Rocket Sled of Awesome and Bailout. He wrote exactly the way it looks inside my brain. Everything is just running around screaming up there and every once in a while different strings of causality wrap around each other and it all coalesces as a single identifiable plot.

My favorite book is Watership Down. The reasons why would take up more space than the entirety of the rest of this interview combined.

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?

My Watchers on dA come pretty damn close! They are the most articulate, thoughtful, and clever readers that I have ever come across! I bet one of them could explain who I am writing for better than I could.

In general, I’m only writing the stories that are running around screaming in my own mind, so I guess that since I like stories that hint at something more without giving too much away (I love Tolkien for doing just that) and inspiring the imagination of the reader someone like that would be a great audience for me.

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

Plan. Plan, plan, plan. Know who your characters are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it. Know exactly what the plot of the story is, where it is going, and what it’s going to do when it gets there.

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

I prewrite maniacally. Each of my stories begins with a note card that has the working title on one side and the briefest of explanations of the plot. I have fifteen sitting here on my desk right now in a neat little stack.

I also have sheets of prewriting that go with each card. Reams of paper it seems at times. One story that I’ve been playing with since May has nineteen sheets of notes to go with it. A short one like Variables only had one side of a page, but before I begin writing I always know for fact all that is going to transpire with the plot. I might add stuff later, but I always have a firm foundation to begin with.

I continually revise as I am writing. Most of my stories are unidentifiable as their original form by the time I’m done. I am continually stopping when I write to go back and re-read what I’ve written from the beginning.

When I think I’m done, and I encourage everyone to do this, I not only re-read the story to check for errors but I also go back and read it aloud to myself to make sure it “sounds right”. If it doesn’t, well, yeah... it doesn’t.

What inspired you to write A Cup of Joe?

I do a lot of reading about military people, especially soldiers’ memoirs. I was struck by the stories of men who’d served and came back to civilian life. It’s especially poignant to me in memoirs from before we understood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the American Civil War most specifically.

I read one about a boy who went off to fight. He fought in some of the most horrific battles of the war. Places like Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, in Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg.

The day after he got back home, the very next day, he was back out there in his father’s field planting seeds. For the rest of his adult life he’d just begin crying at times, unstoppable big rolling tears.

When I read that I wanted to write a story about a soldier who tries to lead a normal quiet life. I chose Joe because I happen to like doughnuts.

I really, really, really appreciate all of the incredible feedback on the story I’ve gotten from veterans, people who are currently serving in the military, and family of those who are. That really means so much to me. I guess I came pretty close to getting it right, and I’m very grateful that I did.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing A Cup of Joe?

No, actually. Like its predecessor Tangled Up in Blues this story just came spilling out. Like that story this one actually went a lot longer than I had planned it to go. I guess that when a story that is properly planned and inspired begins being written it simply takes on a life of it’s own and wants to be made corporeal.

When you set out to write A Cup of Joe, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

We are the sum of the choices we make. For better or for worse, we are the end result of what we’ve done. You can’t change the past, you can only grow from it. Don’t blame yourself, you have to learn to let go. If you don’t then the past, which is supposed to be our companion, becomes our curse.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Feel free to leave me comments on my dA page or on my FIMFiction page! I’d love to hear from anybody about almost anything!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I just want to thank everyone. This fandom has been so good to me. I’ve been given so many new opportunities and I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’ve appreciated all of the praise and honest constructive criticism. You’re all awesome!


  1. And if you want more amazing work by Descendant, go check out The Somewhere Cycle. It's the first thing I ever read by him, and it's a brilliant and touching work that still resounds with me today. (And that's just volume 1!)

  2. The Descendant is easily one of the best writers this fandom has to offer. Just throwing that out there (again).

  3. I strongly encourage everyone to read his other stories, too. They´re all amazing.