Friday, August 3, 2012

BillyColt's This Nearly Was Mine

The Octavia-Vinyl pairing has been done, as the saying goes, to death. Today's Vault entry is a refreshing take on the subgenre, from the outside looking in.

[Shipping][Tragedy] • 12,700 words
Stoic. Calm. Unflappable. And above all, Professional. These are attributes that the pianist Frederic Horseshoepin likes to pride himself on.

But sometimes it's difficult to stay professional. Frederic finds it difficult to maintain a veneer of stoicism when he has to deal with his own feelings. What can he do when he's in love with a mare that he cannot hope to have?

Hit the break for a chat with BillyColt, and links to This Nearly Was Mine out around the ponynet. There's ebooks, too, you know, over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I live in a quiet little suburb in Southern California.

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

I'm a full-time student, double majoring in music performance and, most recently, accounting. I get a few odd chorus and musical theatre jobs, though mostly I sing in a church choir.

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

A guy I chat with on instant messages has a habit of yammering on about whatever anime it is he's watching at that time. One time, however, he starts rambling about this show. That actually isn't what made me start watching the show - I never did take viewing recommendations from him. But I saw it come up on a message board and a discussion came up around it - most of the people were saying that the show was actually pretty good, but there was one idiot who flew into a rage every time someone posted a pony picture. That made me interested. Then I looked up the show and found that one of the episodes had a song based on a Stephen Sondheim piece (Rarity's Dressmaking Song), and that's what did it. Watched an episode, then I watched another episode, and you get the drift.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Hm, that's a little tricky. I like a lot of them, including Party of One, A Canterlot Wedding (both parts), Hearts & Hooves Day, Lesson Zero... obviously I'm not very decisive with favorites.

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)?

Rarity, I think. She's a fun little spin on the typical "prissy fashionista girly character" archetype. Art and fanfiction and memes makes things a bit more muddled when you bring in peoples' headcanons (which I invariably ignore) and background ponies, which I admit I have a soft spot for. I think with fanon stuff Derpy might be my favorite.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I decided I wanted to use a new handle for my stuff in the MLP fandom, so I just tried to come up with something. I forget what my exact thought process was, but "sounds like billygoat" came up. One person in the comments of my story wondered if it were a Billy Joel reference. I kinda wish.

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

I used to take part in forum roleplays, and I'd attempted writing a few other stories, none of which got all that far. My first thing I put a substantial amount of work into was a sort of fic inspired by things that annoyed me about the Inheritance books. Amusing, but not a whole lot happened. This fandom was the first place where I seriously tried writing something, starting with Bedtime Story.

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

Oh, the usual things for a nerd. Video games, movies, the occasional comic book. Mostly, however, I listen to and practice music.

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

My two favorite books are Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart and The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. I love both of those books for their ability to combine humor with suspense and even a real depth of thought and beauty. I heartily recommend both of them, the former as a shining example of a work of fantasy that isn't stuck in Tolkien knock-offland.

GK Chesterton is one of my favorite writers, able to mix witty insight, humor, philosophy, and a wonderful use of the English language. A wonderful poet, too. Consider this stanza:

In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold
But I am come to autumn
When all the leaves are gold

Other authors who've stuck out in my mind are Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and I've always had a soft spot for JK Rowling's sense of humor ("It unscrews the other way"). I'm also a fan of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

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?

You know, it's funny, every time I glanced at these interviews I thought the question was "Stephen King believes that every author should be an 'ideal reader.'" Well, I dunno about that. I just enjoy seeing what people have to say about my story, and I particularly like to see the general reactions that my stories get. For example, one of my stories dabbles in a non-linear narrative, so it's fun to see the readers get curious and start speculating. Or another one of my stories that almost-constantly teases the leads getting together has a lot of comments rooting for the "ship." With This Nearly Was Mine I had a lot of interesting comments concerning how I handled the characters and how depressing readers found it. I was a little surprised at how many people found it as sad as they did, partly because I was aiming more for "melancholy" than "depressing" and partly because I consider myself more of a comedy writer.

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

I'm not good at advice. I can't really say anything other than "consider if this is really a story that you want other people to see" and "please, oh please make sure your thing has functioning English. Capitalization and punctuation and all those sorts of things."

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

I get an idea and I write things down. I have other people look at it, and if there's something I or someone else finds that's a problem, I fix it. I am not terribly good at planning or revising, but I'm trying to improve.

What inspired you to write This Nearly Was Mine?

Well, the central idea - Frederic is in love with Octavia, but she's with Vinyl Scratch - came from the (sadly now-deleted) Ask Frederic tumblr. I thought it'd be a good setup for a story to ship Frederic and Octavia, which I was all too willing to do in the torrent of Vinyltavia shipfics. Funnily enough that isn't what ended up happening.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing This Nearly Was Mine?

I really didn't plan the story very well. When I first started I had intended for the story to be much longer (it's better that it's as short as it is, as going longer would have messed up the musical chapter titles) and I wasn't sure whether or not I would have Frederic get the girl in the end (an editor's comment made up my mind on that). I faced some of my usual problems in regards to pacing, description, setting, and not drowning the reader in dialogue. Some of these things were more successful than others.

On top of that there were other things I wanted to be careful with - characterization, interactions, trying to keep from having Frederic come off as an obsessive creep, keeping it from becoming a deluge of petty angst. Throughout the writing process, Octavia's characterization was the thing that I had the most trouble with, mainly the concern that she came off as too clueless or careless. I think I could have done better on that. Also problems with tone - for a story that aims to be melancholy there are a few out-of-place gags.

But I think the biggest problem with the story is that, due to the lack of planning it doesn't really have a very cohesive structure to it. Perhaps it can get away with that on account of it being a slice-of-life fic, but, well, I dunno.

When you set out to write This Nearly Was Mine, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Like I said, I mainly wanted to write a Fredtavia thing (ironic, given how the story ends). But I think that there are three main themes: The first is about coming to grips with not being able to get what you want. The second is about being honest with yourself about how you feel. The third is Octavia's line about how sometimes we need to hurt so that we can grow, which is pretty much ripped right out of The Fantasticks.

Where can readers drop you a line?

I have my tumblr at I can also be reached via my account on FIMFiction, and by email at

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you for this interview. Also, I've got more stories and story updates on the way, so please read my stuff.

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