Exploring writing

94 Aldea house 06

I have been missing in action for some time. I have also been missing on my personal blog so don’t take it to heart. I’ve simply had an incredibly busy year, with family holidays taking up an enormous amount of time and research into autism (my grandson is autistic) the rest. I’m back, with a resolution to do better. The picture at the top of this post is the house we are renovating in Portugal – the main reason for my absence.

And then I wondered what to start with. This is basically my ‘writing’ blog, so it had to be writing-related.

I recently came across a ‘meme’ in my personal blog which encouraged writers to answer 30 questions. exploring their writing. It was designed for the fanfiction writer and I think you were supposed to post an answer every day for a month. More and more, as I read other people’s replies, I realised that my answers would be totally different for my original writing and my fanfiction writing. This surprised and intrigued me and as I enjoy exploring my own and others’ creative process I have tweaked the meme so that my answers are in two parts.

1: How did you first get into writing fiction, and what was the first fiction you wrote? What do you think it was about the activity that pulled you in?

My very first effort at writing fiction was at the age of 5 when I wrote a play – a fairy story – which my mother scribed and produced with her Brownie pack for the entertainment of the village. I was not old enough for Brownies (there were no Rainbows then) but I was allowed to join in, as author. I think there is still a copy, probably in a box in Portugal, but all I can remember is that it concerned a fairy called Bluebell. I had imaginary friends who lived in the trees that lined our vicarage drive, so I must have extrapolated from that to a full-blown story. I believe the Brownies and the village enjoyed the tale.

But I’m not sure drama counts, or the numerous poems and plays I wrote from then on. I played with both drama and poetry on and off, sometimes for my own pleasure and sometimes (as an adult) for work – modelling writing for my classes. I didn’t really approach fiction (except in my head) until I got a word processor. Writing long texts in longhand never appealed. I think my first attempt was a ghost story based around a location and people I knew, and very vaguely inspired by a combination of a story about haunted ruins in Richmond, where my mother was living at the time, and other stories of monsters in TV shows. The story is still on my hard drive and might eventually be extensively edited and shared.

I loved the process of developing a plotline in my head, seeing it take shape and finding out where it would go. I loved meeting characters and found that characters I had created took on a life of their own and became very real to me. I loved researching the background for my story e,g, locations, history, travel, etc. As I said above, my early efforts were all in my head and had been ongoing all my life. The advent of the wordprocessor (and a touch typing course) into my life made a huge difference and my stories got more complex as a direct result. Then a PC, Windows, and my horizons expanded. I took an Arthurian legend story I’d written in response to my annoyance with the national curriculum approach to poetry, got it edited by a writer friend and started to play with the idea of publication, encouraged by my editor.

I ended up self-publishing for reasons that I have explored elsewhere and The Lord of Shalott, which predated some of my other stories but took longer to reach the public was my first ‘real’ work of fiction. (There were other shorter pieces that saw publication in online zines earlier but they were written later.) It’s fantasy, it references other writers (especially Tennyson) and it’s an m/m romance. My favourite topics (for reading) have always been fantasy (and sci-fi or speculative fiction), history, legend, and m/m romance. So it’s no surprise that those underpinned my first steps into the world of fiction writing.

For any new readers of this blog, the novella is available on

Amazon (UK)http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lord-Shalott-Jay-Mountney-ebook/dp/B00AD9OLC6

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Shalott-Jay-Mountney-ebook/dp/B00AD9OLC6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1448649545&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Lord+of+Shalott+by+Jay+Mountney

or Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/258487

shalott title final

As for the fanfiction part of my writing:

1: How did you first get into writing fanfic, and what was the first fandom you wrote for? What do you think it was about that fandom that pulled you in?

When my daughter told me about fanfiction in 2005 I was very excited. I had been ‘writing’ (or at least composing) fanfic in my head since I was quite young and had thought I was on my own, and perhaps slightly mad. Finding out that other people did this too was like coming home. She also took me to Connotations, a fanfic writer’s convention, the following year or possibly late that year. Meeting other fans and writers was a wonderful experience.

My earliest efforts (in my head) were (in order) as follows:

1. Age about 7 or 8. All new characters I met were at some point transported to the seventeenth century in what would now be called a crossover with Children of the New Forest. I think I might have managed the occasional Mary Sue, as well, and sometimes ventured further afield to join Swiss Family Robinsion.

2. Age about 9 or 10. Retelling/remixes of most of Georgette Heyer’s regency romances with a slash focus. My nine-year-old self must have picked up on the undeniably slashy subtext in Ms Heyer’s work. I had not, of course, heard of the term ‘slash’ and it probably wasn’t in use back then but Md Heyer’s cross-dressing characters must have inspired me.

3. Age about 16. A return to crossovers, this time with Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth as the ‘base station’ where other characters from other novels met, sometimes involving the Lord of the Rings characters and sometimes just using their world. (The world as built by Tolkien and my imagination – the films were a long way in the future.)

This pattern of mental composition continued, adding new books to the mix from time to time. I rarely used films because the ones I saw didn’t inspire me and I didn’t watch much TV – we didn’t watch it at boarding school, my family didn’t have TV until I was 16 and then once I went to uni at 17 I was without again, which continued till my daughter was about 4 and I was in my thirties. Someone took pity on us and gave us an old black and white set…

When I found out about fanfic some kind of floodgate opened in my head. The first story I read was set in Arthurian legend, which has always been one of my favourite fictional ‘verses’. I had been very angry at being asked to teach The Lady of Shalott to nine year olds with an emphasis on grammar, vocabulary and structure, ignoring the fact that the content (and vocabulary) was probably mystifying for many of them. That’s the National Curriculum for you. Anyway, a story had formed in my head as a kind of counter-attack and when I realised there was actually an Arthurian fandom I wrote my story for my daughter as a thank-you for introducing me to fanfic. I have since played with the story and self-published it as original fiction (see above) because of course the legends, and even Tennyson, are out of copyright. I love all kinds of Arthurian legend books and films and have done all my life; it wasn’t a stretch to find myself writing in the fandom. I have no idea how the fandom originally pulled me in – at some point as a child I must have decided that Camelot was the epitome of romance in the mediaeval sense of the word.

At virtually the same time, and also in response to my new discovery of this wonderful world, I wrote a short piece in Stargate SG1 because by now I was enjoying TV shows and I have always loved both fantasy and sci-fi. I particularly liked SG1 because of the exploration of the characters rather than a focus on technical details or special effects. I’d loved a lot of sci-fi, starting with John Wyndham’s books (we now have a large and possibly valuable collection of sci-fi novels) and then TV series like Dr Who and Blake’s 7 and films like Dark Star and Silent Running. So far as writing was concerned, SG1 just happened to be current when I discovered fandom as something I could join in.

So all of a sudden I had this new place to play, meet friends, enjoy reading and art, and discuss, write, etc. Daughter helped me open and navigate a LiveJournal account and the fandom world was my oyster. I still feel a sense of awe, privilege and excitement. I have remained firmly multi-fandom and whilst I sometimes add fandoms to my reading and writing list I never abandon any. However, my two ‘first fanfics’ reflect my lifelong love of both fantasy and sci-fi.

If anyone wants to join in the 30 day meme, let me know and I can give you the list of questions.

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