Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday Coffee Talk/ Oct.1: Author, Victoria Janssen

Visiting this morning at TCT is a woman I had the good fortune to meet this past year at RWA. A prolific writer with a brilliant imagination, our chat this moring may well reveal the partial secret to her success!  Until I became a writer, it did not occur to me how many authors are avid--talking seriously avid--fans of the DR WHO series. Huge.  I am in reverant awe of those who embrace the sci-fi/fantasy world. The results of their labor is fascinating! Could I write it myself? Well, its my mantra to 'never, say never', but this one would be a real challenge I think, for me.

Inspiration-no matter what you do-can come from a variety of places, experiences, dreams. And thats a big part of what TCT is all about! So, pass those danish and sip your coffee while we find out more about Victoria!  Then we can pick her brain a bit more! Buuuwahahaha~

My name is Victoria and I am a Dr. Who fan.

If you've never seen the show, it began on the BBC in 1963 and continued until 1989, with a series of different actors in the lead role. The show was revived on BBC One in 2005.

No, I'm not British. I never watched the show as a child, so I don't have the excuse of having grown up with it. I saw my first episode as a young teenager, at a science fiction convention, and promptly fell in love, even though I barely had any idea of what was going on in the story. It didn't matter, because that story was about an outsider. Outsider stories always get to me.

I'm an outsider. Really, we all are, in one way or another. But I was especially an outsider as a kid, because I liked to be alone and to make up stories. I could entertain myself for hours by telling myself stories. To other kids, that made me a little weird. So watching a show about the ultimate outsider, a character who's exiled from his entire planet, resonated powerfully with me. Even more so because the Doctor – you might refer to him as "Dr. Who," but he's never called that, it's not his name – the Doctor is an outsider who wins. Better still, he shares his winning with other outsiders, usually human companions who stand in for the audience and refract a sense of wonder.

I was obsessed with Dr. Who all throughout high school and college, and for some time after. I memorized swathes of data about all the episodes I'd seen and many I hadn't because they weren't available. I read about the show and went to absurd lengths to see new episodes, in the days when my family did not own a vcr. Basic elements of the series live in my bones and blood, part of my intellectual makeup, and can't help but influence what I write.

It wasn't just the Doctor I loved, it was his companions, the whole long string of them: how they found the Doctor, why they went with them, what they left behind, how they departed and why. A lot of what I know about characterization I learned from Dr. Who, especially how to create tension from a disparate cast of characters. And thematically, the show influenced me even more, or perhaps it only revealed to me one the major themes of my writing: outsiders making families with each other. Outsiders winning.

Victoria Janssen
MOONLIGHT MISTRESS, December 2009 from Harlequin Spice.
THE DUCHESS, HER MAID, THE GROOM AND THEIR LOVER, December 2008 from Harlequin Spice.

This is a great topic, because its two-fold, one we're talking sci-fi/fantasy--which is working its way again into mainstream with the resurgence of SteamPunk. And secondly, talking about  being an outsider...something that everyone has experienced at some point in their lives. I think especially as a writer, this is a common thread we share.
What about you? Do you love sci-fi/fantasy? What are your  fav books, movies, authors?  What have you learned about yourself from these influences, or perhaps other "outsider" moments in your life?



Ms Menozzi said...

Ohhhh... Doctor Who! I love this show! However, unlike you, I did grow up watching it - it was on PBS at the time.

I love all forms of fiction (except, perhaps, for mysteries. They frustrate me. LOL!). I think I've grown to write stories about outsiders in one form or another, or as an author friend pointed out, I write about "broken people becoming whole - or trying to."

My influences come from every aspect of my life - the music I listen to, the books I read, the films I watch, the people I know. Yes, I said it. The people I know - my family, friends, even my students and coworkers influence what I write. I watch how people interact and draw on that.

And this brings me to my final point: What I've learned about myself through all of these things. I suppose I've learned that we're all imperfect beings, and I'm no better or worse than anyone else. I've learned the need to own up to my own faults, and to try to keep from pointing out someone else's flaws even when they're blaring out at me in one form or another.

Because we've all been outsiders at some time in our lives, and we're all trying to become whole. :)

(I apologize if I've rambled on too much. Feel free to delete if you want.) ;)

Victoria Janssen said...

I'm wondering how many Who fans will come out of the closet now....

Definitely my reading affects my writing, probably a lot more than my television watching, because I don't watch that much tv relative to most of my friends. But I think the shows I watched when I was young have lingered in my subconscious.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Ms Menozzi
I dont think you've rambled at all! Thanks for pointing these things out. I think I'm still learning to find that balance in my life--if I ever do ;) Although I have to say that I have come to realize that I don't mind sometimes being the 'outsider.' Does that make sense?

A. M.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Good morning Victoria,
you know thats an interesting thought...I know what influences and inspires me know to a certain degree--but I wonder influences linger...that unknowingly influence.

I do remember literally running home after school when I was in late gradeschool, maybe early middle school so I wouldnt miss Dark Shadows--that show fascinated me. I read a lot of Alfred Hitchcock as well at that age, as well as Rod Serling's Twilight Zone--yeah, there is a great deal of influence in my writing there--of things not being what they appear to be--

Good discussion!

Victoria Janssen said...

I think one learns a lot of basic plot elements from television - genre television in particular has a range of patterns that we begin to learn, which I think helps with genre books as well.

Anonymous said...

I love sci-fi/fantasy - but it took me years to understand it. LOL

My outsider moments when I was a kid consisted of my venturing out to sit by myself upon a wall or a roof and just . . . ponder. Everything - anything, let my mind wander or contemplate why things were the way they were – the Earth, stars, planets . . . I could spend hours with my head in the clouds.

I miss those quiet times.

Victoria Janssen said...

The only time I really get "quiet time" anymore is when I'm walking from one place to another. And it isn't actually very private, since I live in a city. But I do roam in my head a little, then.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we sport that "vacant" look in our eyes when we mentally roam . . .

Cecile Smutty Hussy said...

I am sorry that I missed this post today. It just came up on my blog roll now... at 9:27 pm. Strange! My apologizes...

And I am not sure if I have much to input on this. I have not read many sci-fi books. Hubby loves to watch the sci-fi channel though. If that counts for anything.
Well, it is late and I wanted to come in and apology!
I hope you all had a great day though!
Ms. A! Hope you have a great Friday!
Don't forget to peek over at my place tomorrow... another giveaway!

Amanda McIntyre said...

what is that saying ..."All those who wander are not lost"

one of my favorites;))

Thank you Victoria for wandering over to House of Muse for a chat today ;)

yes I did notice that blogger is really slow these days in sending posts through the mail! that happened to me last week.

Good night everyone!