Lea’s work online:
Who are you?
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your interests in general.
I (gasp!) turned 50 in 2005. I've been happily married for 24 years and have four children, only two of which still live at home. After being a full-time wife-and-mother for 18 years, I started working again four years ago, teaching English in elementary school. My interests...vast question! <g> I was a bookworm from the moment I could read and enjoy all kinds of literature, from "heavy-duty" classics to the latest shallow little thing, from historical novels to science-fiction, from candy-pink romance to the darkest serial-killer stuff. A matter of mood, and moment. I'm also a movie buff, and have very eclectic tastes there, too. Generally speaking I'm curious and interested in a lot of things, and even if science matters are a bit beyond my scope I try to keep informed in that domain as well. And of course I love watching TV shows! I've been hooked on a number of them throughout the years, and still am, but B&B stands one step above even my most beloved ones. It's special in a unique way.
What drew you to the Beauty and the Beast TV series, and why did you/do you feel the need to write about B&B? Was writing something you had done before being involved with Beauty and the Beast or something that developed out of it?
It's the love story that drew me, like it did many people, I guess. Yet unlike many people, I wasn't hooked from the start. When B&B was first aired here I was too busy (my two youngest kids were born in '88 and '89) to really "enter" the B&B world. But it had touched me, stayed in my heart, and when it was aired again in '99, I decided to watch it from the start, without missing a single ep, and got drawn into the magic. We'd had the internet for a year, then, so I naturally went surfing for info about the show...and found out about S3! It nearly broke my heart. Fortunately I also found out about fandom, and fanfiction. Finding out about fanfic was a revelation. Not only had people found a way to give V&C the happiness they deserved, but I also discovered that the solitary, compulsive, almost shameful writing I'd been indulging in years before about a couple of my favorite TV shows had a name, and lots of other people did it! I read, and read, and read, and finally felt the urge to write something too.
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 wrote my first fic (without even knowing such a thing existed!) in the 60's, about "Man From Uncle". I never shared it with anyone, would have died of shame if anyone had known what I was doing. I finally burned it, to be sure it wouldn't be found.
Who most influenced and/or encouraged your talent? 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?
My favorite B&B writers were my influence, having readers was my encouragement. I didn't get any formal training apart from what I learned in High School, but I've always taken writing seriously. It's about the only domain in which I'm a perfectionist, even for a simple letter. I do trust my instinct, too, but I take a lot from my readings, especially as I write in a foreign language. I work like a sponge, soak up words, expressions and turns of phrases, give them my own twist and use them for my own purpose. I want my sentences to have a "native" flavor, so I have to rely on native writer's work, but must always be wary not to let "borrowing" slip into plagiary. "Take, not steal". <g>. I learn as I go along.
Does it feel natural to write in your second language? Do you get a surprised reaction when people discover that English isn't your native language?
I've often found it easier to write in English than in my own language, especially when it comes to steamy stuff <g>. I just have to "switch" my mind into English mode. Yes, I did get surprised reactions, but not so many. Native English speakers are used to English-speaking foreigners.
Was your fluency in English already at an advanced stage, or did your discovery of B&B help you perfect it?
I literally fell in love with English in Middle School, and was fluent in the language by the time I was 16. I managed –mostly by reading a lot of books in English- not to lose that fluency during my wife-and-mother years. In '94 I took classes to brush it up, and passed a degree. So I was good, but not yet bilingual, when I found the B&B fandom. Since then my abilities have grown by leaps and bounds. I live part of my life in English, think in English, often dream in English. And now I teach English, thanks to B&B!
When you write:
Describe the space in which you do most of your writing.
The family computer is in a corner of the living-room, facing a big, north-oriented window from which I can see the apple-tree in the garden. It can be a very noisy place, and I have to compete with the boys for the use of the computer, so I only write when I'm alone at home. A more and more scarce occurrence, sigh...
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...? Where do you start on a story... beginning, end or middle? Or does it just depend on the story?
Mostly I start with a plot idea, and work out the developments of it in my mind for a while. Where to start the story, where to end it, what main stages, etc.... At one moment some key scenes will just scream in my mind to be written. Those almost write themselves, and sometimes in the process new ideas spring up that may change the general outline of the story. Then I decide to keep them, or not. I often write the strongest, most "emotionally rewarding" scenes first, then fill in the gaps afterwards. But it can vary a lot depending on the stories.
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? Do you always know what you want to achieve at the end?
Well, I always have the same ending in mind: V&C happy ever after. <g> But I do have my self-imposed rules for endings. I think it's important to close a story at the right moment, leaving the reader satisfied, but not "overfed". The angst must be solved, the various issues addressed, and no doubt remain about V& C's happiness, but some should be left to the reader's imagination, too. Also I like an ending to "sound like an ending". The last sentence should have a closure feeling to it.
How often do the characters take off on their own once you've started writing? Do you ever end up with a story entirely different from the one you started, or maybe two or three spin-offs?
It happens rather often, especially when I'm writing dialogs, because I hear the characters speaking in my head as I write, and they're "Real" enough to me to sometimes say things I hadn't planned. <g> I've had even newly created characters do that to me! Then I either decide to follow them where they're taking me, or to keep them in line. Depends on whether it changes the storyline or not, and if it does, whether I like the new one better or prefer to stick with my first idea. I've never ended up with real "spin-offs" yet, but I always keep the scenes or dialogs I discard because they don't fit in the storyline I've decided on, and a couple of them finally found their place, with a few changes, in other stories.
What are your sources of inspiration? Do your ideas come from things you see around you, start from a seed and gradually blossom, or spring, fully armored, like Athena from the head of Zeus...? What do you imagine first - the content or the emotion you want it to convey? What was your most interesting inspiration for a story or poem?
Hard question (scratching my head). I don't know. The ideas just are...there. I could say my sources of inspiration were the Trilogy and learning about 3S. I felt the need to "right the wrong", give V&C the happiness that had always been meant for them. The good thing with fic is that you can make them fall in each other's arms as many times as you want, in many delightful ways. I just try to think of new ways, of things I've always wanted them to say, or do, and come up with logical, consistent reasons for that to happen.
My most interesting inspiration for a story, though, was of a totally different kind. It came from another story. In her lovely "For Thy Sweet Love Remember'd", Joan Stephens had Vincent become amnesic after the Trilogy. He forgot all about Catherine, and in despair she went away and gave birth to their son in hiding. It took a dramatic event Below to have them re-united. Then I thought "And what if Catherine decided to stay anyway, claim shelter Below and start a 'new' relationship with Vincent?" And that became "How Could I Forget Thee?”.
What was your inspiration for Take Me Home?
That one was of the "fully armored" kind! To write a First Time story, one of the ways is to come up with one event likely to change V's or C's –more often V's!- point of view about their relationship so things can start to evolve between them. The idea came just like that, out of the blue.
You seem to prefer writing adult fic. Does that come more naturally to you, than the tamer fic you write?
Hey, I only wrote three really adult stories! What I prefer writing are First Time stories, but my first ones, including "Take me home" were suggesting rather than telling. My first steamy fic was written for a friend who loves adult stories and kept urging me to write one. Real life was being tough with her so I wrote "Told You So" as a little gift to boost her morale. She showed it to Lynn Wright, and it ended up in TST. That's when I decided to become "Lea". But I can tell you it didn't come to me naturally. I had to force myself at the beginning, even if it became gradually easier afterwards. OK, now I must admit I'd have trouble keeping a consummation scene soft R. <g>
Why did you choose this special way to celebrate Vincent and Catherine's love?
You mean writing steamy fic, or writing fic? I'm artistically challenged, but words have always been my friends. Discovering fanfic was like finding Ali Baba's cavern! It felt natural to add my own little contribution to the treasure. And since First times are my favorite stories, that's what I wanted to write, too. They grew bolder as I did.
Where do you get the inspiration for those steamy scenes? Or is that a trade secret?
Part from reading, part from personal fantasies...and part from personal experience. The trade secret lies in the exact proportions.
You write a wide range of stories, from G to R and beyond. Is one type of story easier to write than another?
G? Who, me? <g> Even the softest of my stories (Lion Pride) has a rather suggestive ending that makes it PG! Each story has its own tone, that imposes itself as I write. I will only put a steamy scene in a story if it's essential to it. So some stories remain soft, some not, but I don't find it easier or more difficult either way.
Is writing a "suggestive" sexual scene more difficult than writing a scene that is more sexually descriptive?
Never had to ask myself that question. I only wrote suggestive scenes when I was unable to write anything stronger!
When you're putting together a steamy fic, do you ever chuckle as you work or proof read, knowing you're leaving your readers in need of a cold shower? Dare we ask if you might need a cold shower, too, now and then?
Yes, I do chuckle <g> thinking 'Gee, I don't believe I'm writing such things!' or 'I know a few people who're gonna like that one!' No cold shower for me so far, but quite a few cigarettes!
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?
Definitely not, as Mary Sues are one of my pet peeves. The new characters I’ve created always served a well-defined purpose in the story, and I created them only when I couldn't use an already existing character for the plot I had in mind. I tried to give them flesh and make them believable, but they're totally invented.
Do you adhere to any self-imposed set rules or boundaries?
I'm my own first reader, so my rule is the Golden Rule "Do onto others...etc." In the fics I write I try to avoid all the things that usually put me off in those I read: grammar and vocabulary mistakes, bad characterization and inconsistencies. I do my best to be as true to the B&B characters and universe as I can. Not always true to the story canon as the episodes show it, because it would be too restrictive to my writing freedom, but true to the spirit of it. Well, I try, at least.
If you introduced especially painful developments, were they a priority in order to make the story eventful, hook the reader...? How did you feel about making the characters suffer - it would make them or their determination stronger, eventually solve their problems...?
Sigh...I hate angst! When reading a story I often skim through the "hurt" parts to go straight to the "comfort" ones. But much as I hate it, I use it. Have to! I didn't at the beginning. My very first stories either have no hurt part at all (Lion Pride) or just solve the angst already lavishly provided in the Trilogy. Then as I began exploring further I realized I'd have to throw my own angst in, too. Not especially to hook the reader, but rather to provide a dramatic trigger to a change in V& C's relationship. That was in "Take Me Home", and I put in all the angst I deemed necessary to make the story believable, but I still don't enjoy doing that. I'm much more at ease with scenes that solve or heal.
You mention a *speakeasy* in the story "Safe House". Do you do much, if any, research about certain matters you wish to include in your fic?
Rarely, I must admit. Mostly I stick to things I already know, though I did look once or twice for exact legal terms I needed. Whatever research I do is more often about B&B, a piece of dialog, a literary quote or a particular detail of "canon" I need to check on.
What is the hardest part of writing a multi-chapter story? Do you prefer to post a completed story or a work in progress?
The hardest part is undoubtedly to keep the inspiration going, and the story consistent! Especially so with my bad habit of writing the most meaningful scenes first. I then find myself with a bunch of scattered scenes, and an awful lot of linking and filling in to do. But though I sometimes post in chapters, I always consider the story as a whole, and won't post a line of it till it's complete, because I can never know exactly when I'll finish a story, and besides I'm likely to change things until the last minute! One exception was "How Could I forget Thee", my longest story so far, that was written in three independent parts.
If you wrote "what-if" stories or stories outside of your own preferred boundaries, how did you feel about those developments? Did you write them just for fun, as an intellectual exercise, some other reason...?
All my stories so far have remained in the "canon" universe, but I have a half-written one which is an "Alternate Beginning". It's C who finds V wounded and takes care of him in her apartment. Maybe I'll finish it one day, maybe not, but it was real fun to explore in that direction!
Do you have one or several favorite happy endings and/or developments in the characters' lives? If so, have you written about them yourself? Are there similar stories from other authors that you enjoy as much as your own?
Well, any ending that has V&C in a bed together is good for me, <g> but I just love the "house-above-with-tunnel-access" happy life storyline. I used it myself, sometimes only as a suggestion at the end of a story, but quite a few authors I love have developed it beautifully. Edith Crowe, Lee Kirkland, Edna Grice, Lynn Wright...my apologies to those I forgot! I also like Joe, Jenny or Nancy to be introduced to the tunnels. And of course I want V&C to have children!
Do you ever have a case of writer's block? If so, do you have a technique to get past it?
Tell me about it! I'm having one right now. None of the half-written stories I have in my files seems to appeal to me enough to have me sit down at the computer and work at it. Yet I managed to write my Winterfest Online Round-Robin chapter, so it would seem that the technique that works best for me to go past writer's block is...a deadline. <g>
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?
The "Kristopher's painting come to life" scene in "How Could I Forget Thee?". I sweated, deleted and rewrote a lot to make it exactly as I wanted it. Finally I went to get the poster in my bedroom closet and put it on the wall near the computer so I could look at it while working.
If you could change one thing about your writing, writing habits, style, etc, what would it be?
I'd be more regular, force myself to sit at my keyboard and write. When I do, it generally works. I'm also very slow, but I don't think I can change that, and I'm not sure I'd want to anyway. Where I'm concerned, fast always means sloppy.
Tell us about the story/stories you are working on at present, if any.
Technically, I'm not currently "working" on anything, but I've got several unfinished projects in my files that I intend to tackle someday. One is a "new beginning" where V&C meet in a different way. Another one is about a new Helper trying to seduce V at Winterfest. I've also started an adult alternate third part for "How Could I Forget Thee", this time for TST.
After you’ve written:
Do you have your stories edited and proofread? Do you consider this important? Do you involve beta readers? Do you have favorite editors/proofreaders/beta readers?
Of course! It's very important, out of respect for the readers. I didn't do it with my first stories, though, because they were published at a time when I knew almost no one in fandom, and had no clue about how those things were done. Now I often ask two people to proofread my stories. One close friend I trust to –mercilessly <g>- point out any flaws in the plot, dialogs or characterization, but she's not a native English-speaker either, so I always have my work edited by one of my English or US friends as well.
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? How did you/do you choose the sites to have your stories posted?
When I wrote my first two stories ('The Best Hands There Are' and 'Lion Pride') back in 2000, I wasn't on the discussion lists yet, and didn't know what to do with what I'd written. I had subscribed to Lisa Howard's FOL mailing list, but it was hardly active anymore then. Lisa advised me to submit my stories for the 2000 Conzine, and, boy, was I awed and smug when they were accepted! Then I subscribed to CABB's mailing list, and it just felt natural to give my next stories to CABB.
What do you like to hear from someone reading your story? What do you find most helpful or rewarding when reading reviews of your writing?
Well, it always feels good to hear that people like my stories. <g> I appreciate constructive criticism, but usually get it from my beta-readers before the story is posted.
What was the most interesting response you've had to your work? What do you consider the greatest compliment you've received? Did you ever get a review that really touched you? Something a reader wrote that really inspired you?
One comment really touches me. I've heard quite a few times, about several of my stories. It's when people tell me that my work warms their heart, makes them feel happy in a warm, safe B&B world, because that's exactly what I mean to achieve, for our beloved characters, for myself, and for the readers. Some people even told me that when they've inadvertently stumbled on something that hurts their classic heart they go and re-read one of my stories, to "wash the taste off" <g> and reassure themselves that V&C are well and happy together. I consider that the greatest possible compliment my work could receive. It means I've succeeded in making V& C's happiness "Real" enough to offset the 3S anguish.
Which of your B&B writings do you like best, and why? If you were forced to pick one passage, scene or line from one of your stories as a favorite, what would it be? What are your favorites of other things you've written?
I'd say "Take Me Home" is my favorite. I tend to think of it as my first "mature" story. I had it so well planned in my mind it practically wrote itself, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Except maybe the necessary violence at the beginning, all the scenes in it were scenes I wanted to write, there was no boring "filling in the gaps" work with that story. I have a very special fondness for V and the children's "lion chase" at the Mirror Pool in "Told You So". I chuckled all the way through that one. It felt so good to imagine him having fun! I love creating scenes that give V an opportunity to express "lighter" facets of his personality that I know are there, but we were too rarely shown in the episodes. I very much enjoyed writing V& Joe's encounter in "Lion Pride", and V&C's fit of laughter at the end of "The Best Hands...", with a puzzled and somewhat outraged Father listening behind the chamber curtain. And I must admit I like having Father hear a few truths, too. <g>
Who are some other B&B authors who might inspire you or whose work you particularly enjoy?
Edith Crowe was my first inspiration. I got so immersed in her universe that I set one of my first stories (Lion Pride) in it, "borrowing" her brownstone and her Jacob and Caroline twins. I hope if she ever stumbles on it she can see it as a respectful homage rather than a shameless plagiary! I admire Rosemarie Hauer a lot. A non-native writer like me, her writing is both strong and delicate, just like her art, and her lovely "Night of Miracles" is one of my all-time favorites! I love Lynn Wright's healthy, happy steamy fic –especially "Journeys"-, and JoAnn Baca has such a way with words... all right, I'll stop there or I'd need hours. There are others, many talented others, whose influence has inspired and shaped my own writing. Let them all be thanked!
What aspirations do you have for your writing? i.e. Do you wish to write professionally or keep it as a hobby? In either case, what do you hope to achieve?
For the moment it's only a hobby, and will probably remain so, since I've never written anything that wasn't based on someone else's story and character, and don't feel any urge to. What I'd like to do professionally is literary translations, but it's very difficult to find work in that domain.
Any advice you would give to beginners?
Enjoy yourselves! You're your own first readers, and if what you write gives you pleasure and warms your heart, it's likely it will please other fans, too. But don't expect it to please everyone, and don't resent criticism, if and when it comes. Use it to grow!
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? Do they worry about your sanity?
I'd say I'm a "semi-closet beastie". Only my family and closest friends know about it, and yes some of them did worry about my sanity, especially at the beginning. Both my family and in-laws are "intellectuals", and they frown on the idea of being crazy about anything, much less a TV show! And my leaving my husband and kids alone to fly to the USA to attend cons all but scandalized some of them. I had to make it clear to a few people that nothing they could think or say about my involvement in fandom would change it. Told my sport-buff father who was asking me if I had "nothing better to do" that yes, I could sit down like him in front of every football-rugby-tennis-athletism-you-name-it match available on TV, but unfortunately I didn't happen to like sports. He never mentioned it again.
Most of my loved ones accept my passion for B&B, because they understand it's become a part of what I am and they love me. Hubby grumbles a little when I spend too much time at the computer, my kids joke about my alleged "zoophilia", and no way I'll be allowed to hang my life-size poster of Vincent anywhere in the house (sniff!) but that's it.
They all know I write, too, but only my husband and sister know about my steamy fic. And only my sister has read it. Hubby says he might if I translated it, but I could never be so bold in my own language!
How did B&B affect your life?
In countless ways! I was a dreamy housewife who sometimes wrote in secret. Now I've got a job I love, friends all over the world, I've visited NYC and San Francisco, written things for other people to read. Hey, I'm even getting interviewed! <g> I'm more self-assured, more independent, and much less afraid of other people's opinion. B&B helped me grow stronger.
Do you ever get the urge to use anything B&B related when teaching in the classroom?
Whilst teaching in the classroom, has anything ever made you smile to yourself as it reminded you of something you’ve seen on B&B?
Well, apart from the fact that I've got nine little Vincents among my pupils this year, and that two of "my" teachers are named Catherine and another one is named Mrs. Vincent...no, B&B has no part in my classes. Even my cloak, which I use as a winter coat and often wear to school, only evokes Harry Potter to them.
Do you write in any other fandoms besides B&B? Are you or have you been involved with any other fandoms?
Never. I'm in no other fandom. B&B is unique.
Do you want to say anything else to the readers of this interview about yourself, B&B, the writing art, or the fandom?
Just want to say to all fans: thank you for being there. Go on keeping the dream alive!