Friday, March 9, 2012

CoffeeGrunt's Allegrezza

This week we have one of the best-known Octavia/Vinyl Scratch shipfics in the fandom, only recently completed. The title is Italian for 'joy', which should give you an idea of how this melodious story goes; impressively, the story's pages on EqD and FIMFic are the first Google results for the word!

[Shipping] • 47,500 words
Octavia is a high-class pony. Fine alcohol is her wont, and uncouthness her intense chagrin. Such is her surprise to find herself lumbered with an insufferable oaf of a DJ pony. However, sometimes these situations work themselves into a satisfactory ultimatum all the same.

Hit the break for an interview with CoffeeGrunt, and links to Allegrezza online - and don't forget to grab an ebook copy from the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I live in a small town on the very edge of the pregnancy bump that is East Anglia. This being in Britain of course. Great Yarmouth, although Trading Standards are filing a court claim to change it to Yarmouth. Unemployment blackspot, heavily into a youth weed culture, all round spiffing place to live.

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

At this moment in time, I’m taking a two-year BTEC in Electronic Engineering. It’s exactly as fun as it sounds, very heavily into the theory side, because that costs the college less from its slashed budget. Trained as an Electrician for a year, but couldn’t get the work to back it up. I plan on collecting qualifications in various fields like posies of flowers. Eventually something’s gotta give.

As far as work, I’ve got a job at a local Electricals firm that deals in TVs and the like. It’s the only one still making a profit right now, so that’s a lovely bonus to have job security - especially as other chains are slashing staff like a bad remake of Psycho.

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

I stumbled across it on KnowYourMeme, after a hiatus of a few months. This was... late February, maybe even March. I basically saw My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic, sitting staring at me from atop the most visited bar with that adorable gif of Dash waving her face from side to side with her tongue lolling out.

Yeah, sat around for a while, staring, poking, and generally wtf-ing. Eventually cottoned onto the fact that what I had here was most definitely not a troll. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t even a meme, memes burn out and die in months - this was only getting bigger!

So... I took the plunge. Watched an ep, and the cliffhanger made me feel obligated to watch another. I caught myself smiling, giggling, even cracking up at some parts. “Baked Bads” is still such a hilarious turn-of-phrase to me.

I think it was Look Before You Sleep that sealed the deal. I finished watching the absolutely delicious way they took two characters, and played them off each other in a believable way for comedy value. I sat there, and said to myself, “They just made a girly, pink-pony sleepover both entertaining... and freaking hilarious!”

I, of course, watched an episode of some pony from an era no-one cared about. Sweetie Belle’s Gumdrop Surprise, or something. Just for posterity’s sake, to make sure I hadn’t grown Oestrogen glands.

Around the point the mice voice acting it spoke the absolutely stellar line, “Let me knock. I’m a really good knocker,” I gave up all hope in it ever being enjoyable, then watched the next three episodes up to Winter Wrap Up, to cleanse myself.

Do you have a favorite episode? [Editor’s note: at the time of this interview, Hearts and Hooves Daywas the most recent aired episode.]

Oh God, what a question. Hmmm, I dunno. Party of One was just adorable, and getting to see Pinkie’s VA do voicing that wasn’t persistently cheery was amazing. Then again, I did absolutely love Read It and Weep, and The Last Roundup - even without our beloved Derpy - was just chock full of absolutely side-splitting moments.

But then again, I am a sucker for a Rarity episode. I just love her division between Success and Generosity, it makes her so compelling to watch her try and take the high road out of situations. I know I’m gunna get shot, because I can’t remember the episode name, but it’s the one with “Becoming Popular” in it. The ending sequence was why I love her. She’s pompous, a fair bit pretentious, too. But she always pulls through for her friends in the end.

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)?

Hmmm, Rarity is still holding up there, for the reasons I mentioned in the last question. Not to say that Pinkie isn’t hotly contesting that space, because Pinkie always manages to make me laugh. And then, the Adorkable Twilight does claw her way just behind the two, and then Dash, Fluttershy, then AJ. I don’t dislike AJ, I just feel she’s the dull apple in a vibrant fruit salad.

As far as fanon? Not including my own? Well... I do love LyraBon, they’re that quintessential, adorable couple. Obviously, in my fanon, it’s Octy and Vinyl. I can’t create and write two characters without getting attached to them to some degree. You’ve gotta think their thoughts, adopt their passions, beliefs and adoration. A writer who doesn’t feel for their own characters is like a thin chef, evidently he’s not too thrilled about what he’s serving up, either.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

It’s been around for... about six years. First my Hotmail, then it just became my username on everything. Never made it famous, but I was still the only CoffeeGrunt on the internet. That made it far more unique than even my real name, and after I made my DeviantArt account, and started to write pony. Well, I think it’s safe to say I have some level of fame and notoriety now.

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

I wrote a thousand-word essay for my English GCSE. Other than that, no. I never had anyone to write for, anywhere to write it on, and anything to write. Ponies managed to supply the answer to all three, in mountain-loads.

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

Gaming, I run weekly TF2 matches, although we’re considering opening the floor to other games as well. Skyrim, and any FPS that can pull you into the moment, make you believe it’s meaningful.

Also music. I love music, almost any music. If I can feel the care put into it, the multiple layers of intricate instrumentals and simmering vocals whirring away underneath like some fascinating clockwork machine, then I enjoy it. Hence why I love this fandom - so many damned awesome musicians!

‘Cept the rappers. Even pony can’t make me like post-Millenium rap. Sorry guys, just ain’t my thing, especially after a prominent one said in a Livestream that instrumental music should die. I mean, that’s like a sculptor setting fire to the Louvre because canvas is dead.

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

Published? Douglas Adams, read but a paragraph from anything he’s written, and it’s guaranteed to at least make you smile like a moron, but makes you feel like a genius for getting the joke out of his intricate wordplay. Fanfiction would have to be AVeryStrange, I just bloody love her characterisation ability.

Favourite story - series - would be the Bartimaeus trilogy. Simply amazing writing that no-one else appears to have heard of, it’s one of so very few books to have had me in tears at its culmination. Honestly, if you’re reading this, just...grab an EBook or PDF, and read it. Lovable humour, and amazing emotional scenes, bordering on being a bit bromantic at times.

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?

Alright for Kingy there to say...all he does is horror or suspense novels.

I still haven’t really nailed a style, and I doubt I ever will. I’m writing Shipping, Adventure, Grimdark, because I love switching up my style and keeping it interesting to write.

That, and my personality in general is kinda non-polarised. My taste in music, movies, reading and people are all fairly flexible. Hell, as long as it entertains or makes me happy, I’ll like it. That seems to carry through to my writing, although I appear to have more of a knack for RomCom.

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

Stop trying to write Fallout: Equestria. Honestly, halt your typing fingers, and think about it.

If you’re inexperienced, then writing something of that magnitude is just stupid. It’s like taking a day course in Electrics, then proceeding to wire the Empire State Building. You’ll find three things often happen:

* Characters become uninteresting, or fall into easily recognisable stereotypes to survive. Any emotion intended during a death scene will just collapse on its face as a result.

* Description suffers. You get too big and too vague, going all Tolkien about the roaming landscapes, then forgetting to mention the field the characters are walking through as a battle scene commences. Without thorough and lean setups, the reader is left confused.

* Suspension of disbelief. The best fics feel like canon. Stuff that only makes the most minor tweaks to the show, and thread it in such a way that you could imagine it happening just off camera while the mane six go about their antics. Tyrant Celestia levelling entire villages and fighting the New Lunar Republic does not do this.

Basically, start small, and intimate. That doesn’t mean shipping, just... maybe a bromance? Or “Friendshipping?” Take two colts, for example, and send them on a journey together... uhhh... Big Mac and Caramel are lost when the train to Appleloosa breaks down, and misadventures with local buffalo, coyotes, etc, etc develop as they wander back to the ol’ frontier village.

Just give them bronies some character development, bronies love character development. Take their favourite characters through some trials and tribulations, and pull them through scratched but not battered. Hell, weave in a little farcical comedy, a snappy descriptive style, and you might have a damned good fic, there.

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

I only have a couple of pre-readers, though I’m considering expanding, given how useful an extra load of eyes were during the Allegrezza Finale writing process.

Most of the time, though, I just rattle off a thousand words of something for practice, and give it a basic proof-read myself before I send it off. Depends what it is, short one-shots for dA don’t get the same treatment as established fic chapters, for example.

What inspired you to write Allegrezza?

Not really much, strangely enough. Each chapter sort of created the layout for the next. I wrote most of it with very little idea of an overarching plan. I had no intention of one, it was only meant to be a silly, little side fic!

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

The finale. Taking all my readers’ favourite pairing - and potentially their favourite fic pairing them - and wrapping it up in a superfluous, meaningful and flawless manner? Well, it turned out to be impossible, but I feel I came damned close.

There’s an awful lot in Allegrezza I want to edit, but I’m holding back. I’m simply going to move on, and hopefully, I can look back on it as my bedrock.

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

Lesbian horses are... funny?

Not really, it was just written to be... well, Allegrezza. Joyful and heartwarming. It didn’t start like that, but it soon evolved along that vein. A lot of fics need some tragedy or big event to yank characters together, I just wanted to create two characters the reader can tell are meant for each other. Make them interact in ways that the reader just sighs contentedly to read, and evolving it slowly and organically over time. I feel the results speak for themselves.

Where can readers drop you a line?

My DeviantArt profile - I think my writing on there is about double what you’ll find on EDaily, what with various Allegrezza side stories and the like. Plus, it’s the only place I can talk to each of my fans on a one-to-one basis. I prefer it to the more forum-esque layout other sites have.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Well, I suppose a massive thank you is in order, to all my readers. Cheesy and cliche, I know, but I wouldn’t have anywhere near this exposure if it weren’t for them. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising, and while I made people talk about my fic, it was only because they decided to wave it under their friends and fellow forumers noses that it ever got this far.

That, and the fact that I fully plan to follow Allegrezza up with something at least as good, if not a cartload better.

Oh, and that I am so very sorry for writing about four pages of reply here. My back actually aches from a combination of awkward Netbook-induced posture and typing, now.


  1. Great interview! Looking forward to reading it but I can't seem to find it on the downloads page.

    1. Wow, I am so sorry - the Downloads page has been fixed.