<![if !vml]><![endif]>MARINA BROERS
Marina’s Beauty and the Beast Website
Who are you?
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your interests in general.
I am 45, married and have a son of 21. I used to work in an office but since I became a mom, and because of my husband’s work schedule we decided that I would stay at home. Interests : working with computer, walking, bicycling, traveling, photography
What drew you to the Beauty and the Beast TV series, and what motivated you to create your site? Was it just your love of the show or the need to share it with others? Was there something in particular - another site, perhaps - that inspired you to develop your own website?
The first episode I saw of B&B (the one with Mitch – the name eludes me) had such an impact on me...when he was standing beside her in the hospital.… I was hooked. At that time we didn’t have a video recorder, and that episode made me go out and buy one that same week because I simply HAD to record the next episodes. I was captivated by the magic of the show…the romance…Vincent’s voice…. I was glued to the screen.
The first reason to create my site was, yes, my love for the show and the need to share it with others.
Did you become a computer enthusiast soon as personal computers were available, or did particular needs draw you to learn to use them?
In the beginning, I made some drawings of BB and I wanted to use my work to create notepapers and stationery. At that time I didn’t have a computer so I went to a shop and made photocopies of the art in several sizes and created layouts with it. Then back to the copy centre to make copies of the finished product. The result wasn’t perfect but for the time be, it had to do. Then home computers became available .. or I should say ‘more affordable’ and I bought my very first computer .. a Macintosh Performa 5200. I had no real knowledge of it. Sure, I had worked with a computer at work but that was years ago and I only had to use a special designed program that was made for the company. So I really had to start from the beginning. I remember those first weeks after I got that computer. Often I was at it till late at night...trying things...not giving up until I finally figured it out. It was a slow process, but that’s the way I learned it. I bought good books, and they helped me to learn to understand the computer and its programs.
Did you learn your web skills on your own or did you have a previous background in computers?
See above. I learned it all from books and by not giving up. If I knew it was possible to do something with a computer, I kept working at it like a bloodhound...not giving up until I got the result I wanted.
Your web site:
How old is your site? Are you its only webmaster/owner?
I started the site in august 1999, and yes I am the only webmaster/owner.
When you first opened your site, what did you have to share with the fans? Had you contacted several writers/artists, etc. to contribute?
hahahaha I remember that, after I had figured out how to create webspace and upload stuff to that server I thought, “OK, now I got the webspace...what am I gonna to put on it!” I believe the first things that I added to it were my own drawings and some stories which were previously published in the Chatterbox magazine.
I didn’t know many people in fandom and wasn’t part of mailing lists yet, so my resources were very limited.
You are not a native English speaker. Tell us about your choice to use English for your site, and what problems you had about it.
Well I only had my limited
“school English”...only got one year of it because we had French as primary
foreign language. When our Belgian fan club ceased to exist, I was in panic. hahahaha I didn’t want this to
stop. So I found Gwen Lord’s address in one of the Dutch club journals and
wrote my first English letter to her. And that’s how it all started. If I
wanted to continue with BB I had to focus on
From what sources do you gather and what criteria do you use to choose the content of your web site? Do you accept submissions "as is" or suggest/insist on some measure of editing? Do you have other limits on what you will accept? Do you adhere to any self-imposed set rules or boundaries?
Sometimes when I know that someone has material I can use, I contact them directly, like for example photos from conventions, But in other cases, regarding stories or art for example, I have to wait until someone is sending me new input and that’s hard sometimes. I wish people would do this more. I have a few loyal ‘writers’ who sent me their stories on a regular basis, but I would want so many more of them. I don’t care if stories have been published on other sites too. I think it is just a way of reaching more fans when a story is published in several places.
My site is an ‘all seasons’ site, meaning you will find ‘classic stuff’ but also stories and photos regarding 3rd season. I accept practically everything, as long as it has to do with B&B…with one exception though.... I don’t publish real “graphic” art on the site (you know what I mean J ) Doesn’t mean that I don’t like that (hahahaha), but that is just the one thing I keep off my site. I accept adult stories of course, but no art.
How has your site evolved over the years? Have there been a lot of changes in the general content since you created it? Did you delete some parts of the site, or just keep on adding new pages?
Well every web builder will know this: you create pages, and at that moment you’re happy with it, but then after a while you evaluate the site again and you feel that things can be improved. In my case it is not really removing pages...it’s more a change of the design. When I started the site I didn’t know a thing about designing graphics, so I used all ready-made designs. But then I learned how to do all that myself, and in a way it’s a never-ending story. You work with a graphic program, learn new things in it, and then you wanna apply that knowledge.
How often do you update it? Do you have someone else check your site after each update, the way a writer would work with a proofreader? If that's the case, what do you have them look for?
No I don’t. I check it out myself. When I have published a page, I visit that page myself on the internet with several browsers, to see if it all displays correctly.
How much do I update? That really depends on how much real life interferes and also the time of the year. When we’re in the summer and its more then 30 degrees Celsius in my room here, well, sorry but then I prefer to be outside. hahahaha.
The other thing is: people often don’t realize how much work it is to create a site. Sure, you can use templates and ready made graphics and that, but that is not me. I design it from scratch. Backgrounds, designs.... I start all of them from scratch, and that takes time and lots of work. And sometimes I just have to take a distance from it. I love working on the site, and I still have lots of ideas for it, but it comes and goes. Sometimes you will have several updates a week, sometimes only a few in a month.
What has been the most challenging aspect of creating your web site? Of keeping it running? The most satisfying?
I always want to create things on my site that are not on other sites. Its ok to have input that can be found on other sites, but I also want to have unique material, something that makes the site special.
The most satisfying thing is that when you have created something that took a lot of work, and you get positive feedback on it. But it’s not always like that, and that’s a shame sometimes. I mean…sometimes you get the feeling that people take it for granted that you keep providing these updates and that results in ‘Why am I doing all this work?’
Tell us about the important “guests” you have created pages for…Jamie Murray, Jay Acovone…. How did you deal with creating such pages, and how did they contribute and comment on them?
Reason number one that I have these pages is because I had the luck to really get to know them and become good friends with them. Jamie contributed by sending me lots of unique photographs and Jay, for example, keeps me informed about the latest projects he is working on. I always know it when he is going to be in a show or feature before others do because I already have the info before he actually starts working on it.
What page or part of your site you love best and why?
I don’t have any favorites because each page is a work of love…at the moment of creating a page I guess that’s the favorite of the moment.
They’re all my favorites because there is such a variety in them…they’re all little treasures to me
How often do you receive emails about your site? What kind of content arrives in your emails? Mostly appreciation…questions…? Is there any particular response that you remember fondly? Any particular incident or response about your site that stands out in your memory for other reasons?
Well, I honestly wish I would receive more feedback regarding the site, or that more people would sign my guestbook...to let me know how they feel about it.
And yes, one incident I will remember - that person wanted to use me to get in touch with a celeb she said she knew very well. I had to forward (which I did) photos of her (and believe me, these were no ordinary photos). When the celeb found it better not to react, she blamed me and called me a lier...said I hadn’t forwarded her photos and that I didn’t knew the celeb at all. She would only believe me if the celeb would actually call her. That didn’t happen of course…so...in her eyes...I am a liar. Well...that’s her problem... not mine. End of story. hahahaha
Your site has become a milestone in the B&B online fandom. When you consider retiring from this webmaster role, would you make sure someone else takes over, and how would you arrange for that?
Well…if I would retire from the site I would have no problems giving it to someone else, but the fact is...that ain’t gonna happen soon...because the site is a way to be creative with computers, and I just love to do it. I just love to design and learn new things with the computer, and the site is a way to share it with others.
What kinds of software do you use to produce the backgrounds and images you use? To handle anything else related to running the site?
The main program that I use is Photoshop CS2. I use it to create everything on the site. All the graphics…backgrounds, borders, buttons, etc....they are created from scratch so to speak. I have a simple clipart (like a rose) or artwork (like one of Jamie’s paintings) and then I start to work with that...take colors out of it...work with filters on it to create matching sets of graphics.
And once in a while I also use Paintshop Pro. The framed photographs (set B)…the frame of it is created from scratch with this program.
Considering the quantity of screen captures, decorative elements, etc., on your site, may we assume that working with that sort of thing is something you enjoy, as opposed to one of the necessary chores? How do you deal with the heavy graphics that might intimidate the dial-up visitors?
Yes, because I love to be creative with a computer, and to be able to design everything yourself gives you 100 % control. You decide for yourself how things are gonna look... and that makes the site special. You know that what you create by yourself isn’t available on another site, and that makes it more enjoyable for visitors.
I know that there are still a lot of dial-up visitors so one of the rules is to keep the images as small as possible so the pages will load faster. But when you’re creating special things it sometimes isn’t possible to have a page that loads in a few seconds.
But the goal is to create an attractive site...and that means designs...so sometimes it is the price one has to pay. One sometimes has to wait longer before a page loads, but the waiting is rewarded.
Whether a page loads fast or not is the result of a mixture of factors…the speed of the computer, the internet connection, the server on which the pages are stored and the layout and graphic on a page of course.
It’s a thin line between fast pages and beautiful designed pages. Sometimes you have to make a choice.
For uploading the site I just use File Zilla.
We know that you’re an avid photographer. Tell us how your knowledge of photography helps you in working with your website and the numerous images you post.
I started with a simple camera and now am the proud owner of my digital reflex camera, a canon Eos 10D. I just love photography and when I go on a trip, or to a convention making photos is part of the fun.
Are there any common mistakes people make in working with the kinds of graphics you use on your site, and do you have any suggestions for avoiding them or anything you've learned that might make it easier for someone working with them?
I presume you mean the ‘decoration’ graphics’? “Mistake” might be a big word but what I find annoying is that the design of the background takes over…let’s take a story for example…sometimes people present text against such an intense background that it makes it hard or almost impossible to read…or you present an image but the background takes the focus of the image itself.
Is there any particular general or recurring problem that plagues webmasters? Is there any advice you would give to those considering launching their own sites?
One of the annoying things is the difference between web browsers and the use of scripts. It would be much easier if when you create a page or when you include a script it is visible and working as it is intended to in all browsers. You can spend lots of time creating a page, and when you verify it in your html editor it looks the way you want it and it does what you want. But then, when you view it in browsers; the page might look different in each one of them...sometimes part of the layout is a mess, sometimes a script doesn’t work.…
Another annoying thing is the difference in monitor gamma between Mac and PC…PC screens shows an image darker and a Mac lighter…if you create your image on a Mac for example, that same image will look darker on a pc screen…so you have to fine-tune the gamma a little so it is not too light or too dark on either screen.
We understand that you use a Macintosh computer. Are you creating your website with it? In case you do, how do you design/create your website so it is also PC friendly?
Well whether you create your website with a Mac or a PC isn’t important because html is cross-platform…the main difference is the availability of programs. I started out with Macs but I made the switch to the PC world not that long ago. I still have my latest Macintosh, an iMac, but the main work is being done with a Windows PC. I am using Frontpage now to create the webpages.
Do you have any problems being a Mac owner in a basically PC world? Do you ever have difficulties like navigating certain sites, getting into chats, etc? Have you run into any interesting problems as a result? Some of our guests might be interested to know how you solved them.
The only “problem” I’ve had as Mac user is that it was harder to find the right programs, and that they are, in general, more expensive. I didn’t have any real problems when I used the Mac. I always found what I needed. Sure, there were problems navigating sites, but that had to do with what I mentioned before…the difference between browsers.
What made you choose a Mac rather than a PC? There is often an almost religious loyalty to Macs among their users. Do you fall into that category? Macs come in such interesting colors these days. What color is yours? (Sorry. We just couldn’t resist.)
Well, I always loved working with the Mac and it was always interesting to hear the stories about these windows computers (hahahaha)…and I must admit that it was always intriguing. I think I made the switch at the right moment...meaning when windows XP was available. I am very happy with the stability and the programs I use on them. Fact is I’ve always been open minded. I have never been one of those who said the Mac is the only perfect computer. Each system has it own pros and cons.
I started with a Mac and loved it, but I never regretted the fact that I learned to know the Windows world either.
And mine was - is - a ruby. I have a ruby iMac running System 9...so in the computer world, this is already an “OLD” one.
Being a BATB 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?
That’s a fun way of putting it ‘closet beastie’. hahahaha Yup...I am a closet beastie. lol Why? Because I discovered that in general other people didn’t see the series as I did, and often you get upsetting remarks about it so I decided to keep it all for myself.
How did BATB affect your life?
It gave me the joy of traveling, learning the English language, learning to work with computers and being creative with them. And I also have a few good friends thanks to this ‘simple’ TV show. So yes, you can say that BB had a big influence on my life. It sure became richer because of it.
Do you foresee creating other sites in the future? Anything other than BATB? Have you been involved otherwise with any other fandoms?
That already happened. I already designed and maintain a site for a lady who owns her own store. She makes gorgeous postcards, and sculpts fantasy figures like little elves.
Do you want to say something else to the readers of this interview, about yourself, BATB, your web site, the fandom?
Yes. Help me to keep our dream alive. If you have anything that you want to publish on the web (regarding BatB of course) send it to me. I welcome your art, stories, poems, photos (from conventions for example) etc.
And I am sure I speak for other webbuilders when I say that we wanna hear from you ..let us know what you like or don’t like about our sites. Sign the guestbooks!
And most of all...enjoy all the BatB sites and keep the dream alive!