Links to Joan’s stories online:
Who are you?
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your interests in general. You’ve mentioned your age online a few times, and we think you might be our most senior writer, as well as one of the most prolific.
Well, I'm a child of
the depression; recently widowed. I was married to my husband, Chuck for 46
years and have 3 children, 1 girl & 2 boys, and a gaggle of
grandchildren. I was born in
Interests: reading (constantly), writing B&B fanfiction, knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, walking.
What drew you to the Beauty and the Beast TV series?
I loved the romance of the series, and the fact that they weren't averse to treating the viewers as if they had a bit of intelligence by using classical music, poetry, and classical literature. Another big factor was the fact that V&C were in their 30's, not a couple of teenagers. It was very refreshing; I could relate to them. B&B is an adult fairy tale.
Why did you/do you feel the need to write about B&B?
See answer below, and I enjoy it.
Was writing something you had done before being involved with Beauty and the Beast or something that developed out of it?
I had never written a thing before I watched the third season and then was impelled to right what I felt was a terrible wrong. B&B inspired me to write. And I still seem to be righting that wrong . . . a lot.
How long have you been writing? If you started when you were a child/teenager, do you still have some of your work from that time? Did you share it with your friends then?
I've been writing since I watched
Who most influenced and/or encouraged your talent?
Alisa West was my guiding light when I first started to write. Still is, for that matter. She constantly encouraged me, corrected my bad grammar and punctuation, found the flaws in my stories, and encouraged me to send my first story to CABB. By posting said story, 'But Turned Aside to Sleep,' to CABB, Terri Milliman gave me a great deal of support. I believe it was the first SND story posted on CABB, and I was very hesitant about sending it to her because at that time CABB was strictly classic. But she liked it and put it up in the story section.
Joann Baca has continued to support me and to edit some of my 3S stories. Also, the many B&B fans who have written to say that they appreciated my work.
What training have you had for writing/literary techniques, and where, if it was formal training - or are you self-taught, working from instinct and lots of reading?
I'm strictly self-taught with a lot of input from Alisa West. The various punctuation and grammar sites on the internet were particularly helpful.
When you write:
Describe the space in which you do most of your writing.
In the living room I have a desk and bookcases filled with writing manuals, punctuation and grammar guides, and B&B trivia that I use. I work there in the evening before I go to bed. In the afternoon I work on my computer that's in my bedroom.
How do you work when you write - outline the story, start from an image, a word, an individual section... have an idea that tugs at your mind and practically writes itself...?
I am unable to work from an outline. Sometimes the start of a story is a 'what if' thought, other times a phrase from a song, a poem, or another story will start me thinking. Most of the time I never know where a story is going after I start it. Many stories write themselves.
Where do you start on a story... beginning, end or middle? Or does it just depend on the story?
Usually I start at the beginning and write the whole story. Then I work on it until I am satisfied with it, put it aside, and return to it sometime later when I find glaring mistakes and inconsistencies in it.
Some ideas just lend themselves to moment stories, and I like writing little snapshots of V&C's life together.
…or a more plot-oriented story?
I don't know. I don't seem to have too much control over whether it's a 'moment' or a plot-oriented story. They just seem to work out that way. And I find it very difficult to expand a 'moment' story into a longer tale.
Do you have endings in mind for works in progress when you start them or do you just let the stories go where they take you?
It varies. Sometimes I know the ending, but mostly, they seem to write themselves. If I try to force the story into a certain direction, it doesn't come as easily as usual.
Sometimes. But all I really want is a story that someone would like to read, and I'm not ashamed to have posted to the Internet.
Most of the time.
Do you ever end up with a story entirely different from the one you started, or maybe two or three spin-offs?
That's happened quite often. And I've had a few spin-offs.
Do your stories ever include some of your own life experiences? Have any of the characters you have created in a story been a reflection of yourself or someone you know? If so, to what extent?
Oh yeah. 'Things That Go Bump' was based on a happening from the first year of my marriage and happened exactly that way: I ended up on the floor. 'Six' is based on my parents’ courtship.
Just to write as enjoyable a story as possible. Also in my 3S stories Vincent is and always will be in love with Catherine, regardless of what happens in his life.
If you introduced especially painful developments, were they a priority in order to make the story eventful, hook the reader...?
A necessary part of the story.
How did you feel about making the characters suffer - it would make them or their determination stronger, eventually solve their problems...?
I guess I never really thought about it; it was necessary for the growth of their love.
I try to be as accurate as possible. The search engines on my computer are used frequently. I have an unpublished story set in the days of the mountain men. I immersed myself in that time, and I sincerely hope that I haven't got any of it wrong.
Keeping the time line accurate, not repeating myself, and consistency.
A completed story. I know how I feel when a story is partially posted, and I have to wait weeks or months for the rest of it.
You say you're basically a classic fan, yet you’ve explored a lot of “What If’s” that make a classic heart cringe. As a matter of fact, you've admitted to an odd relationship with Classic/Third season. Care to explain yourself?
Hope I can be clear about this. Somehow I am able to separate my writing from my personal feelings about the resolution of the series. What I write – to me the stories are only ‘what ifs’– is in no way how I feel about the third season. I hated it; even though, it had some of the best writing and acting. I had trouble watching it and I still do. I thought Ron Perlman was excellent in his portrayal of a man who had lost the center of his life. My stomach would knot up every time there was even a hint of something going on between V&D. I would sit there and holler at the TV, "No way! He wouldn't do that." Naturally they didn't hear me, and I suffered through the whole thing but now only watch those parts that I needed refreshing on as part of my research. But after writing 'But Turned Aside to Sleep,' I realized that there were all kinds of permutations to the ending that the show's writers had written. In my third season universe and my own private V&C universe, Vincent is always in love with Catherine. Diana may love him, but it will be an unrequited love. In the few stories where Vincent and Diana are together, she loses him when Catherine comes back. After all, a man that pledges that he will love you forever and carry you with him in his heart always isn't much of a man if he immediately falls for another woman. I hope I've explained it so you understand where I'm coming from. Someone once told me that basically I had it in for Diana; she may be right.
You are probably the most prolific online writer; and the online fandom owes you a lot, as you continually supply quality stories to the never quenched thirst of fanfic addicted fans. How can you so easily find so many ideas in you?
Heck, I don't know. I think I explained that in a previous answer. I carry a little notebook with me and jot down all the ideas that come to me. Some I use, others I don't.
Do you ever have a case of writer's block? If so, do you have a technique to get past it?
Every time I think I've come up with the last idea, the ideas start coming again; so, I guess I've never really had one. I'm not particularly looking forward to my first one. The closest I ever came was when I went a whole week without writing anything new. Then I just proofread the stories I had written, that can get you going.
Is there any particular part of a story or poem that you had an unusual amount of trouble getting the way you wanted it and how did you resolve that problem?
Chapter 13 of 'The Long Night' and I'm still working on it.
If you could change one thing about your writing, writing habits, style, etc, what would it be?
To be able to write about emotions and feelings better than I do.
Tell us about the story/stories you are working on at present, if any.
Oh gosh, I've got so many unfinished tales. There's one about Catherine marrying Elliot, one about Devin trying to make it home for his baby's birth, one about Joe's desire for vengeance against the man behind Gabriel who is responsible for Cathy's death, one based on the Cupid and Psyche legend (I'm terrible about borrowing from other disciplines), one called 'Susan's Floor' that's hard to explain, one about Diana saving Catherine's life, and a lot more.
After you’ve written
Oh yeah, I wouldn't send them in if they weren't.
Extremely! I have gone over a manuscript innumerable times and thought it was perfect, sent it to Alisa, only to have it come back with red correction marks all over it.
Alisa West and Joann Baca (for some of my stories set in the 3S universe).
You, as well as the other guest authors we are interviewing, have allowed your work to be posted online for the enjoyment of all B&B fans. Why did you decide to do it?
I knew I'd never make a fanzine; so, this seemed the best way to make my stories available to B&B fans. Besides, other writers had done it and given me a great deal of pleasure. So, I thought I'd return the favor.
That they enjoyed it, their reactions to the story and any mistakes that they might have found. It gives you a special glow to realize that others – especially other authors – appreciate your efforts.
Good, honest criticism. If I've made a mistake or wasn't consistent, I appreciate being told about it, so I can correct it if possible.
My story 'Jitters' was dedicated to all mothers: past, present, and future. One fan wrote in saying that it reminded her of all her mother had done for her. That really touched my heart.
An author that I greatly admire told me that she respected me as a writer. I think I could have walked on water that day.
‘Carnival’ I really can't say why; I just thought it was one of my best. 'Comparisons and Remberances,' I like the three different points of view, and I especially liked Father in this one. I have a tendency to tromp on him sometimes but not this time. 'Endgame' because it's different. 'Green Eyes,' I think it's one of my best. 'He' because I love the novel 'She.' 'Variations on a Theme,' another three-way look at the same incident. And my all-time favorite: 'The Visitation.' This was my first excursion into my personal third season universe. As you can see, I have a lot of favorites.
If you were forced to pick one passage, scene or line from one of your stories as a favorite, what would it be?
There are so many, but I guess this one will do. The scene in 'The Visitation' where Vincent is kneeling on the bed with the spirit of Catherine kneeling before him.
From 'Things That Go Bump:' Catherine has just told Vincent that she had a dream that a strange man was in her bed. «“There is a strange man in your bed, my dear,” he replied as he rolled onto his back to be able to see her clearly. Grinning smugly at her, he laced his fingers together behind his head. “And just what are you going to do about it?” he charged.» Catherine proceeds to answer his question in a most satisfactory manner.
Who are some other B&B authors who might inspire you or whose work you particularly enjoy?
Cathy Cox, Teri, Terri Milliman, Edith Crowe, Lynn Wright, Becky Bain and a whole raft of others that I can't remember right now. My Worlds' Worst Memory when it comes to names…
Joann Baca is my very favorite writer and a big inspiration. 'Between Two Eternities.' I just had to read it again and it's still wonderful.
Write, write, and write some more. Find someone willing to proofread and edit your writing. Don't believe that you know it all and don't need an editor. Even Stephen King has one. Don't let your feelings get hurt if they find mistakes. It's not personal. And, please, learn to punctuate properly. There is nothing harder that trying to read a story with little or no punctuation. There are plenty of internet sites that will teach you proper punctuation. Use them.
Being a B&B fan
In RL are you a closet "beastie" or do all your friends and family members know you're a fan? How do they feel about your Beauty and the Beast involvement?
My family knows of my obsession with B&B. To them it's just another one of Mom's crazy ideas.
No, they know I'm already crazy.
I've found some wonderful friends via the e-fandom. It helps to keep me young and my brain exercised.
No. I dabbled in the Star Trek fandom by
going to a few conventions in
Do you want to say anything else to the readers of this interview about yourself, B&B, the writing art, or the fandom?
I think I've just about said everything, but I want to thank the fans for reading this interview. I hope you enjoyed it.
Joan’s first story:
By Joan Stephens
Strolling hand-in-hand through the dark, empty park, Vincent and
Catherine were enjoying the sounds and smells of a hot, late summer night. It
was new moon, and when the lights of
"Oh hurry, Vincent, make a wish on the first star you see," Catherine said excitedly.
"A wish . . . ?"
"Don’t you know?
‘Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.’"
She turned her face to the stars and Vincent could feel her concentration. Strangely, she hid her wish from him.
He raised his face to the heavens, glorying in the myriad of stars spread across the heavens.
When the lights finally came back on, they were seated under a large oak tree, having spent the past two hours admiring the stars and talking. She sighed sadly to see the stars lost in the bright wash of the brilliance of the city. He stood and pulled her to her feet then led her back to the tunnel threshold.
"What did you wish for, Catherine?" he asked softly.
"Oh, I can’t tell you that. If I do, it won’t come true." But, she thought, I will do my darndest to see that it does.
"What did you wish for?" she asked, teasing him.
Smiling, he looked lovingly into her eyes, and gathering her closely in his arms, he replied, "Nothing. I have all I could ever wish for . . . right here . . . right now."
Winterfest Online, January 2005