Terrouge E-zine Archives
A Discussion with Highwing
On writing, the ROC, fanfiction and the future.
Lucy: First off, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Or should I say, suggesting that we interview you?
highwing: You're most welcome! I wouldn't have missed it for the world!
highwing: Same applies to my funeral.
Lucy: From the beginning, then. What first got you interested in writing?
highwing: The ability to tell stories that could be created entirely on my own, without needing anyone else involved.
highwing: My, that sounds introverted and anti-social, doesn't it?
Lucy: It does! But we understand.
Lucy: Was there any particular moment you remember where you thought 'I can do this!' or became particularly interested in one form or other of literature and writing?
highwing: Not as such. Until around the 10th grade, I was certain I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up …
Lucy: Really? And are you a marine biologist, or a professional writer, or something totally different?
highwing: Writing always just came naturally to me, and was something I was always pretty good at without having to sweat it too much.
highwing: So, when I was bitten by the writer's bug in high school, I already pretty much had the tools at my disposal.
highwing: I'm still deciding what I want to be when I grow up.
Lucy: I think most of us are.
Lucy: What got you interested in Redwall, and writing Redwall fanfiction or stories?
highwing: I'd always been interested in animal/anthropomorphic stories, long before I'd ever heard the terms "anthropomorphic" and "furry," and long before BJ had even published his first Redwall novel.
highwing: When I discovered the series in 1995 ("The Bellmaker" had just come out), it really struck me as the kind of animal story I might write myself.
highwing: And so I did!
Lucy: Very good! From there did you discover the ROC as a natural extension of writing fanfiction, or were you told of the ROC by someone else?
highwing: I was over at a friend's house in 1998, and spent a few minutes poking around online while he was busy tending to something else. I wasn't online at home yet myself, so my Internet access was limited.
highwing: I did a search for "Redwall," and one site which came up was the Redwall Fanfiction Board.
highwing: I'd already completed my first Redwall novel, "The Crimson Badger," and I was like, "AH!!! Others are doing the same thing I am!!!"
Lucy: Hah! Was that a pleasant surprise to find you weren't alone – writing is a pretty lonely thing to do most of the time – or was it a bit of a disappointment?
highwing: More a surprise than anything else, because even back then there was SO MUCH of it. Literally thousands of entries, encompassing scores or hundreds of stories.
highwing: Abbot Alf's board was massive.
Lucy: It's quite amazing how one author's idea can be taken by hundreds or thousands of others and expanded in such a manner.
Lucy: Look at fanfiction.net – full of stories for almost every famous novel, TV show or movie. It's interesting how Redwall really boomed for those early years.
highwing: Yes, those who talk about how much the ROC has tapered off in recent years perhaps don't realize just how booming it was at its peak.
Lucy: Over the years as a fanfiction writer on the RFF and other boards similar, have you seen any marked change in the type of fanfiction written? For instance, have the ROC authors improved, or changed?
highwing: Well, of course the ones who stuck around for the long haul have improved, as one would naturally expect.
highwing: But I don't think I would've hung around if there hadn't been a few outstanding fanfic authors even back then who caught my fancy.
Lucy: Have you seen any of those authors who you would expect to become published literary figures in the future?
highwing: Well, Mitya, of course. Also a certain DB, who's let me preview some of his original fiction. He's destined for publication for sure.
highwing: There are others I could mention, but I don't want anyone to feel slighted, so I think I'll stop with those two for now.
Lucy: Interesting. Over the years I've spent online, I've been through several communities and I've found the ROC community to have a certain difference in the quality of writing, the people it attracts and the way people improve within their ROC work.
Lucy: I've often wondered how many of the writers on the ROC will become the future Jacques or Pratchett themselves.
highwing: *waves wing*
highwing: Hoping to become one here!
Lucy: Good! For yourself, do you have other areas of writing apart from Redwall that you find most engaging or likely to become publishable?
highwing: Well, obviously I don't expect to ever have any of my fanfiction published, even if I did put as much work into the two Urthblood novels as I would have into an original novel …
highwing: But I'd written two original novels before discovering Redwall, and have written a third since, and I have very high hopes for the latter.
Lucy: It's an interesting situation with fanfiction, in that many people feel as passionately about their authorship in fanfiction as they do in their own writing. How hard is it for you to look at your Urthblood novels and know you'll get very little recognition outside the ROC for the amount of effort you put into them?
highwing: Um … I really wasn't thinking of that at the time.
highwing: Now you've gone and ruined it for me!!!
Lucy: Haha, sorry!
highwing: Wanna hear the story behind the first Urthblood novel?
highwing: I basically wrote it to keep myself sane.
highwing: (I will leave the effectiveness of this strategy for others to judge.)
Lucy: (Duly noted.)
highwing: I was working at a job I wasn't overly thrilled with, and so to keep myself going and have something to look forward to during my breaks, I wrote most of "TCB" there.
highwing: That's why it took so long to write Most of it was done in short bursts of anywhere for to minutes a day.
highwing: The rest of the time, I didn't touch it.
Lucy: Wow. How hard or easy was it for you to drop out of work at lunch breaks and bury yourself into another world?
highwing: Not hard at all. While I didn't write it except at work, I thought about it a lot outside work, and had usually framed exactly what I wanted to write for that day when I sat down to write it.
Lucy: Do you find it easy to shut out distractions and just focus on what you're writing, or does it take a few moments for you to really get into the groove?
highwing: It all depends.
Lucy: Can I ask about your current novel? Are you at a stage of sending it out to agents or publishers, or still editing?
highwing: I'm very happy with it the way it stands now, except for one fairly glaring continuity error that needs to be written out, and that the prose needs to be tightened up.
highwing: I've borrowed a friend's copy of "The Elements of Style" to help with that last part.
Lucy: Aha. Have you had anything officially published before, or is all this a first-time journey?
highwing: First time … and time's a-runnin' out!
highwing: If I don't hurry up and get off my tailfeathers, soon I'll be as old as BJ was when he published "Redwall!"
Lucy: Plenty of time for that, look at BJ now – still going strong!
highwing: True. He's an inspiration for us all!
Lucy: He is!
Lucy: Changing topic a little, what other 'fandoms' do you participate in?
highwing: Staying within the anthropomorphic, I'm a huge fan of the webcomic "Jack," and have worked with its creator Dave Hopkins on a couple of projects.
Lucy: What have you worked on there?
highwing: It's a rather unflinching comic, not at all for the squeamish, but I find it fascinating.
highwing: I'm the fiend behind the "Jack" playing cards. I also produced the "Chicks Deck" that features his Toony beauties.
highwing: Or Toony cuties – take your pick.
highwing: Outside the anthro/Redwall realm, I'm a huge Doctor Who fan …
highwing: Been reading Tolkien since high school …
highwing: Been watching Star Trek since there was only *one* Star Trek series …
highwing: And, of course, Star Wars.
Lucy: What is most fascinating for you when you're writing novels, fanfiction or other projects? What do you find the most enthralling or thought-provoking to write about?
highwing: As far as writing goes, it's just the process of telling stories and making them come alive that is so immensely satisfying.
highwing: Creating a world, populating it with your own characters, having their stories play out …
highwing: It can be immensely frustrating while you're doing it – don't let anyone kid you, writing is hard work – but the end result is usually worth the effort.
Lucy: Oh, writing is always hard work.
Lucy: Does it matter what story? Are there any stories you've read or thought of that you would never sit down to write yourself?
highwing: I'm not sure what you mean.
Lucy: Well, are there topics or characters that hold no interest for you, that you would not consider writing?
highwing: I'm sure there are many, but since they don't interest me, I've never given any thought to them.
Lucy: Haha, fair enough.
Lucy: So what do you see in the future, for your own writing and for the ROC?
highwing: I must say I'm impressed with how smoothly the transition between you and Zian seems to be going. January's issue was very good, and February's is shaping up to be fine too.
highwing: I think keeping Terrouge/Firebird going will play a big role in the future of the ROC, even if it *isn't* Redwall-specific anymore.
Lucy: Oh, thank you. I have to agree with you; Terrouge has a long-time legacy of Redwall focus and we do need to keep it going.
highwing: As for my own future – well, I've wanted to be a published author since my late high school days, so I'm hardly giving up on that dream anytime soon!
Lucy: Excellent! What's the next step for you there – final prose polishing and then queries?
highwing: Know any good agents?
Lucy: Haha, I'll have a think. There's a few on my list.
Lucy: It will be interesting to see where a number of ROC authors are in a couple of years.
Lucy: We have a great many very good writers – Mitya, as you mentioned, along with Flammable Pears, Geo Holms and many others. To have some of those authors published would be a fantastic boost to the ROC as well.
highwing: It's been interesting to watch their journeys so far. So many who were in middle or high school when I joined are now in college, or through college altogether.
Lucy: Definitely. I think that's one of the good things about sites such as Terrouge and the Vulpine Imperium – you can track a writer's progress through the years.
highwing: Geo fascinates me as a writer. Such a wonderfully unorthodox creative mind there.
Lucy: Most definitely.
highwing: And I really DO need to comment on FP's serial, don't I?
Lucy: You do! Because I do believe Pears will possibly become the future Jacques-Pratchett inheritor.
highwing: We shall see.
Lucy: We shall.
highwing: I've started reading Cairn's latest Vermin Badger novel, and he's shown great improvement as well.
highwing: He provides hope that it's never too late to follow your creative muse!
Lucy: Oh yes! Cairn is another great inspiration.
Lucy: And finally, who would you say are your greatest influences? If you were to tell a young up-and-coming writer to read and study another author's work, who would you name?
highwing: In my teen years, I cut my teeth on the classic SF writers – Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Niven, etc.
Lucy: All the great old names?
highwing: Then later I got into Herbert and Bester and a few others.
highwing: I just finished Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy, and was mightily impressed by that as well.
Lucy: Ah, Pullman. Another interesting writer.
highwing: And let's not forget Madeleine L'Engle.
highwing: Her "Wrinkle in Time" will always be an inspiration to me.
Lucy: Personally I prefer Le Guin.
Lucy: But I do love L'Engle's sci fi series.
highwing: Le Guin's good too.
highwing: There are so many. My advice would simply be to read as voraciously as you can, and over time you'll come to know which authors "do it" for you …
Lucy: Yes, that's always good advice. Writers have to be readers.
Lucy: Well, that's just about everything I've had down to ask you about. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
highwing: This was fun! When can we do it again?