Friday, December 7, 2012

Guesswork's Daylight Burning

Today's Vault entry is a little dark, and puts just a touch of a science-fiction spin on the Equestria we know. The idea of the Nightmare - not Nightmare Moon herself, but a third-party corrupting force - is one of the most interesting things in the fandom, to me.

[Adventure][Dark] • 66,500 words
"It's so nice to see you again!" said the thing that was not Celestia. "Oh yes, I know who you are, Twilight Sparkle. I had a taste of your magic the first time we met. Mortals forget things so easily, I find. Allow me to refresh your memory: you tried to kill me. But you failed, Twilight Sparkle. You only mostly killed me. And I guess that makes you one very unlucky little pony."

Hit the break for a talk with Guesswork, and links to Daylight Burning out on the ponynet. Don't forget to grab your own ebook copies over at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, aka Paradise, but now reside in Sacramento, CA. Smoggy, trafficky, and everybody here is from somewhere else. The city certainly earns its reputation as a "mini-LA." The fact that nobody likes it, though, is an instant conversation piece, so it's not too hard to meet people.

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

I'm trained as a history college professor, although I've been working with emotionally-disturbed and foster children for years. It doesn't pay very much, but it's definitely fulfilling. Right now I'm working admin for a tutoring company, although I definitely want to transition to higher education eventually.

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

I found out about it from Memebase, but it was months before curiosity got the better of me and I actually watched any episodes. The thing that finally pushed me over the edge was the sexy/bitchy Rarity vid, which showcased the fantastic animation-style of the show, not to mention some of Rarity's better assets. I realized I was a fan when I watched "The Ticket Master", which has some pretty funny jokes, and is a great second episode for season 1.

Do you have a favorite episode?

Everypony and their cousin says "Lesson Zero", "Rainboom", or "Party of One", so I'll just put those aside. I think the most consistently funny episode of either season is "Putting Your Hoof Down". There's hardly a single groaner in the episode, and Iron Will is one of the funniest one-shot supporting characters of the entire show. Plus, Fluttershy is awesomely cute the entire time, and of course there's that scene with the faux-3D animation. A winner, all around. A few others are the Gabby Gums episode, "Hurricane Fluttershy", and "Family Appreciation Day".

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)?

My favorite character on the show is Luna. She's got the immortal beauty of Celestia, plus a dark streak that makes her seem vulnerable. Luna is easily the most eligible bachelorette in Equestria. Octavia is best background pony, Derpy+Doctor is best couple, and grown-up Spike (in all his incarnations) is best fanfiction character.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

Well, "guesswork" is what a historian does, isn't it?

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

I started writing fiction in fourth-grade (not well, obviously!). If I have any skill to speak of now, it's thanks to my mom and my ninth-grade English teacher. Being a gamemaster for ten years of table-top RPGs has been an extremely good way to practice world-building and dialogue. Hopefully, I can eventually get my original sci-fi series published outside of the pony fandom, although I might have to wait until my forties before I have anything truly profound to say about life and the world.

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

I have played many thousands of hours of video-games in the past, although these days, they have lost some of their luster. I'm not very social, but I have a number of close friends with similar interests in Sacramento. I love singing and playing the piano, reading sci-fi and murder-mystery novels, listening to NPR and reading the news (NOT watching it on TV, since it's so incredibly obnoxious), movies, media of all types, really. I love my quiet, private, little life.

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

Orson Scott Card is a little pretentious, but he gets away with it because he's a genius with a sharp eye for human nature. Michael Connelly is not only extremely good at driving a mystery forward clue-by-clue, but he's a master of efficient description and conservation of detail. If you want to know how to write a book that doesn't wander around forever and can get to the gosh darned point already, he's your man.

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 ideal reader has a curiosity for medicine, history, science, philosophy, military strategy, and psychology. It's a lot to put on a person, but I have found time and time again that if you have faith in your audience, they will rise to whatever challenge.

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

DO NOT OVER-EMOTE. Drama is about people trying to HOLD BACK their emotions. Anger, rage, jealousy, sadness, despair, even joy, are much better expressed in a single glance or a terse sentence than a whole page of body-language and fist-shaking. If your characters are storming around, throwing their hooves in the air and shouting, then it's not drama anymore. It's MELODRAMA. So keep the emotions bubbling just under the surface. A cold stare is a powerful thing.

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

I edit the crap out of everything I write. If you read something I've written, you can guarantee that it's the fifteenth or twentieth draft, and that is no exaggeration. If there is any quality in my stories, then this is the reason. There is no shortcut to this particular process. When a story is under-edited, it is PAINFULLY obvious. I should add that I have the help of a few generous prereaders, who are hell of a lot better than I am at testing continuity, catching typos, etc.

What inspired you to write Daylight Burning?

I love playing with metaphysical combat, and I knew it would be easy to turn the girls into superheroes and place them in some serious danger. Above all, I wanted to write a gritty fantasy drama in the style of the Dark Knight Trilogy, The Matrix, X-Men, Spider-Man, Avengers, etc, with homages to the older Justice League, Batman-Superman Adventures cartoons, DBZ, and Naruto. This is one reason you won't see a lot of cursing or overt gore in any of my tales, despite the life-and-death stakes.

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

Every single chapter was an agonizing process. Edit after edit, weeks of second-guessing, dozens and dozens of pages deleted and cannibalized. My prereader actually rejected my first ending entirely, thank goodness, forcing me back to the drawing board to work out the Failsafe idea (originally, and it makes me embarassed to say this, Twilight was supposed to take Luna's horn and become an alicorn herself). Make no mistake, writing is a time-consuming and difficult task. But of course, it's worth it.

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

There are no unwounded soldiers in war.

Where can readers drop you a line? Please feel free to write. I read every single letter, and often multiple times, out loud, to my mother so that she can be proud of me. No, not that last part. But yes, every letter.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you for reading Daylight Burning. I can't believe I actually finished it. Your support has meant everything, and was often the only thing that kept me determined to write the ending, despite life getting all crazy a few times. Love and tolerance, everypony!

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