Friday, October 12, 2012

Autumn Wind's A Drop of Sunlight: The Becoming of Sun Brandisher

When did ponies become ponies, and not just, yannow, horses? How did their civilization begin? Today you find out!

[Slice-of-Life] • 3,700 words
Long before the coming of the Princesses and the Modern Age, long before the coming of Discord and the Chaotic Age, and long even before the three breeds moved apart, the Age of Separation, there was the first age: The Age of Grazing.

The Age of Grazing was the birth and childhood of the world, where ponies made many discoveries that would one day shape the future of Equestria and its sister lands. Behind every great discovery was a bewildered pony, marveling at a mystery of the world.

This is the tale of one such pony. From mouth to mouth and quill to quill, from whinny to word and from neigh to notes, his name has been transformed and altered, but today, now that his tale has been immortalized in a thousand history books, he is known as Sun Brandisher.

Hit the break for a chat with Autumn Wind, and links to A Drop of Sunlight all around the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own copy in ebook format over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I'm a resident of Montreal, Canada.

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

I'm presently studying in Software Engineering.

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

I first heard about it when memes started to pop up all around the net, early on. I didn't pay much attention to it at first, shrugging it off as "It's just the internet folk being silly," until one day, a friend changed all of that. A long time female online friend of mine basically told me that I should give the show a look, as it was surprisingly good. I had some doubts after episode one, but I could see that there was some potential, and figured I'd wait and see a few slice of life episodes until I stopped watching. Halfway through "Applebuck Season"... well let's just say that's how this brony came to be. (I then binged the entire season 1 over the course of a single weekend.)

Do you have a favorite episode?

I'd say I enjoyed "Dragonshy" a lot, what with the scaredy Fluttershy antics and her heroic stand at the end. I also really like "Lesson Zero". Twilight's increasingly zany expressions and actions, and the goofy battle for Smarty Pants give me a good chuckle. I think it's a pretty enjoyable episode overall, except that scene when Twilight goes OCD on the cupcakes. That one makes me cringe every time.

"Cutie Mark Chronicles" and "Dragon Quest" are also quite enjoyable, I really like getting to know what makes our beloved characters "tick."

Finally, I owe a bit of a shoutout to "The Best Night Ever" for having what I consider the best musical number in the series. (That is, "At The Gala".)

Of course, given that I'm already standing on a soapbox, I'd like to give a "special" shout out to my unfavorite, my most detested episode, "Secret of My Excess".

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)?

As far as the lead characters go, I'd have to declare Twilight my favorite, for her inquisitive yet awkward demeanor, and of course, her pure adorkableness. Fluttershy is a close second, I'm a sucker for shy cuties.

I'm also quite fond of Sweetie Belle, as far as supporting characters are concerned. Her occasional goofy reasonings and tendency to be a walking, talking dictionary make me smile. That, and she's adorable.

Finally, I felt Gilda and Prince Blueblood both made for very good antagonists, bringing in a good element of conflict and confrontation.

Where fandom materials are concerned, I'd say I particularly enjoy some writers' view of Lyra and Bonbon, as a quirky, excitable pony and her beleaguered but caring mate. (I don't particularly enjoy the whole "human enthusiast" concept, that being said.)

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Autumn Wind is a pen name and character named I've developed for the fandom. I figured it'd be best to have something that sounded like an actual pony name. I searched a while to find something associated to any of my hobbies, but with gaming and computers being somewhat odd to associate to ponies, I judged best to expand to more abstract issues. After looking through a bunch of pony names, the idea came to me to go with my favorite aspect of nature, the fall, and make a decent name out of that, to build up an interesting name, and later associated OC.

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

I've thrown about some ideas before, but I've never really had the drive to write until I picked up the fanfiction pen with Friendship is Magic. I've had some successes in high school assignments, but overall, it's never been much of a thing for me until I found this fandom.

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

I'm a gamer at heart, and a Nintendo fan, particularly. I also like myself a good board game and the occasional tabletop RPG. Finally, I'll admit to spending unhealthy amounts of time lurking around the internet.

Obviously, I also read fanfiction. A lot of fanfiction.

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

I'll say that, in all honesty, I don't read all that much in the way of novels. As far as fanfictions go, I'm quite fond of Sagebrush and Blue Thrush.

As far as favorites go, just to name a few:
An Apple Alone by Blue Thrush
In Her Majesty's Royal Service and its sequel From Canterlot With Love by Sagebrush
In a Tavern, Down by the River by Lysis
Background Pony by shortskirtsandexplosions
A Sweet Taste of Cake by The Descendant

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?

Comically enough, I have to admit I am absolutely not my ideal reader. I tend to write stuff that plays quite a bit with canon, not so much changing as imagining and expanding. As a reader, on the other hoof, I tend to favor fics that stick close to canon. There are a few of my fics, A Drop of Sunlight included, which I have happily written but would most likely overlook instantly were I to come across them as a reader.

I'd say my ideal reader is someone who enjoys exploring scenarios and posits, and someone I'll feel challenged writing for. I'd love a reader who'll pick up on the occasional subtle nuances I slip in, metaphors, dramatic echoes and all.

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

Don't try to force things. Let the characters speak for themselves. Ask not "How could I have this happen?" but rather "What would happen?" There is such a thing as trying too hard.

It's often better to figure out the beginning and the end, and let the simple logic of character personality and causality drive the plot to the ending, instead of trying to force everything on a set of tracks.

Take some time to read other fics, it might give you ideas, and help you see how others do things well, so you know what works and what doesn't.

Most of all, put a lot of care in the presentation, not just the content. Pacing, descriptions, formatting and grammar are all extremely important to making an important story.

Don't rush things, take your time. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

Finally, check the credits to get the spellings right. Applejack doesn't have a space. Apple Bloom has one. It's Rarity, not Rareity, and it's Pinkie, not Pinky. When in doubt, check the wiki.

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

When an idea strikes me, I start writing it out as I go. Generally, if I find I get quickly stuck, I take a break and see if it comes later. I've scrapped many ideas because they didn't "flow" naturally.

I've got quite a good reader base at Equestria Daily's #equestrianstudy IRC channel, so in addition to running my writings by my close friends as I write, I usually run it by some helpful folk there. (Thanks guys!)

Whenever I've got a chapter finished, I run it by a handful of good acquaintances I've made in the fandom, who help me figure out if I've missed anything. If I did, I fix it and repeat the process until I'm satisfied, at which point I submit it for publication and start up on the next chapter.

What inspired you to write A Drop of Sunlight: The Becoming of Sun Brandisher?

When I first saw "Hearth's Warming Eve", I got curious about Equestria's past, namely the more distant past. I thought for a while as to what could make an interesting fic there, and the idea of prehistorical ponies came to me.

From there, I wondered what exactly would be a big event for ponies, and the idea of the first cutie mark came up to me. Fire was an obvious one, as it's more or less the first thing a civilization needs to discover to take a step up.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing A Drop of Sunlight?

As a matter of fact, I'd say A Drop of Sunlight was probably the easiest fic I've written up to now. The inspiration came plentifully, and I didn't struggle much, if at all.

I can't say the same of my other works, and especially not my current work in progress, The Garden Beyond. I tend to have periods of high inspiration, where I'll write entire chapters in a single sitting, and long droughts where I'm pretty much unable to write anything.

I'd say generally, getting motivated is the biggest issue for me.

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

Mostly what Equestria was like before ponies became Little Ponies, and how the actions of a single pony can lead to the birth of an entire civilization.

Where can readers drop you a line?

I hang out a lot at Equestria Daily's #equestrianstudy IRC channel, and I'm always open to getting PMs on FIMFiction. I'm also easy to reach at, and I make a point of trying to answer every respectful email I get.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

4I'm thankful for this interview, and it makes me happy that you chose A Drop of Sunlight out of my entire body of work, as it's a work I'm quite proud of. I'd also like to thank my precious beta readers and editor, and everyone who's taken a moment to read and comment on my stories. You guys are what makes it worth writing in the first place.

Feel free to drop me a message, everypony, I'm always happy to get some mail!