From Scintillating to Educating
Hallo, guys and dolls. I hope you’re ready for another interview. As I’ll be focusing on getting ready for a few upcoming book fairs, this will likely be the last interview for a few months.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing A.G. Prentice. Prentice is a well-received fanfiction writer who is currently branching out into historical fiction. Continue reading for the whole interview. Enjoy!
RJ: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in writing?
PRENTICE: Hello. I’m a 38-year-old French woman living in Brittany with my husband and a cat. I’ve been writing for the past 30 years. I have chronic illnesses that often force me to stay quietly inside, so I started reading at age four and by the time I was eight, I had already devoured so many books that I needed to make up my own to fulfill my imagination.
RJ: Do you have a genre preference when you write, or is genre secondary to the particular story you want to tell?
PRENTICE: I’d say it is secondary, but it’s fairly safe to say that I favor the realistic genre, being a great admirer of Flaubert and Maupassant, especially the latter. I dabble also in anticipation, historical, and I made myself known with erotic romance.
RJ: You mentioned you write fanfic. Over the past few years, the fanfic scene has gained a good deal of momentum. What types of fanfic do you write and how has it been received?
PRENTICE: I started with a story for which I spent many hours of research for a very tepid reception. Well, I was unknown, my English still needed some improvement, and I didn’t have a regular beta back then (2006). What brought me into the limelight of the fandom was romance. I don’t have as many reviews as others, but Nights in White Satin is the most favorited and followed story of the Dr. Quinn fandom on fanfiction.net—and that despite it being rated M, which makes it invisible to people who merely go on the first page. That in itself says quite a lot. I also won the couple of fanfic challenges I wrote for, so one might say I’m doing okay as a writer. I’m just not as prolific as my ideas would need me to be.
RJ: Do you have a specific writing/editing process you go through, or are you more of a free-flow writer?
PRENTICE: I need at least a basic outline with a brief synopsis of each chapter, and I always keep several drafts handy. When I get an idea about a particular passage, I write it regardless of where I am in the story. When in my progression I arrive to that bit, I usually reword and build it up. Before I begin the writing process, I also create my characters’ bios, their psychological profile, I do research about the areas where the action takes place, and the era … accuracy is everything to me.
RJ: So far, you haven’t published any of your work. Is there any particular reason for this, or is your writing for a more personalized fan base?
PRENTICE: I guess it mostly comes down to my obsessive perfectionism, which doesn’t go along well with the constant flow of ideas. It’s one thing to post fanfiction for a fanbase who just wants to read about romance and happy ends. It’s quite another to do serious work. I think stories teach readers about life, love, responsibility … I want to entertain my potential readers, of course, but I also would like to make them think, or see stuff in a different light.
RJ: You mentioned you were working on a piece dealing with schizophrenia. Can you tell us a little more about this project?
PRENTICE: Well, at first it was simply the sub-plot of the first part of a Dr. Quinn fanfiction trilogy: How illnesses—such as down syndrome, schizophrenia, or antisocial personality disorder—were dealt with in various periods of history, especially in 19th century rural America. But since this particular community doesn’t care much about history of medicine or documentaries in general, I’ve decided to transfer my non-romance-based stories to entirely original characters and situations. The main character is still a female physician. I have acquired a few books on the history of female doctors in 19th century US and history of medicine across the world to help me with accuracy. I’m throwing in a bit of adventure, gender issues, feminism. And I’m considering making it happen in Europe, maybe France, so I can write in my mother tongue. Might be easier.
RJ: Writing about something like schizophrenia is no easy undertaking. How did you become interested in this topic, and what type of research has gone into it?
PRENTICE: I don’t care for easy. And I don’t care for prejudice. A girl I knew at school committed suicide because her Jehovah Witnesses parents turned their back to her and left her to fend for herself. And the oldest sibling of one of my roommates when I was in high school was showing the early signs/symptoms of schizophrenia when I spent the summer with their family in ’96. When later my roommate told me, I was greatly saddened, but not surprised, nor disgusted. I’ve suffered prejudice myself on various occasions, and sometimes for the silliest of “reasons,” so I could only imagine how ostracized people affected with mental illness/disabilities and their families felt.
More than writing, my true passion in life has been medicine. Since infancy I only wanted one thing: To become a doctor. Not just to find a cure for myself, but to be unlike so many doctors who poked at me and my fellow patients. I wanted my future patients to feel safe, to trust that I was doing my best to improve their quality of life because I cared, not because I was just doing some routine job. Guess that’s why Dr. Quinn and ER struck a chord with me rather than House MD or other medical TV series. In the end, I had to give up medical school because my parents couldn’t afford it, and I didn’t have enough money saved to get me through the first few months. So, I began writing stories with lady doctors as main characters. From this long-standing passion of mine, I kept the love of research, precision, accuracy—and for compassion toward my fellow humans.
RJ: When writing about subjects like mental health, is there a specific goal?
PRENTICE: Educate, enlighten, fight prejudice.
RJ: Are there any projects you’re working on that’s you like to discuss—whether it’s your upcoming website or any type of writing?
PRENTICE: Well, I’m thinking of creating a website that will feature my fanfictions for Dr. Quinn and explain how I’m going from this fandom to original work. I’d publish my original character’s bios, elements of historical background, explain medical terminology in layman terms … I also have two projects independent from medicine: one is a screenplay I wrote that I’m turning into a novel about being an autistic author, the second is a comedy of errors about stardom, vanity, and how the cult of appearance can spoil even the most genuine people and destroy what could have been a healthy relationship.
RJ: What advice would you give new authors?
- Be mindful of grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. Just because some best sellers look like they’ve been written by lazy, ignorant, dirty-minded people who probably never picked up a dictionary in their lives is no excuse for lowering your standards.
- Read more.
- Read about writing.
- Don’t fear rejection. You have no idea the amount of great stories that were rejected before ending at the bottom of a pile on an editor’s desk until they got pick up by chance.
- Don’t fear taking a good, hard look at yourself, too. If most people around you say your manuscript needs more work, then it probably does.
- Write the kind of story you would read with pleasure. It’s the best way to believe in your own work and convince an agent/editor to pick it up.
- Be careful with self-publishing.