Land's End

A Guide for the Tourist

Many thanks for our fabulous proofreader Beth, for agreeing to interview us.
---Staci “Cody” Faulkenberry and Michelle “Gidget” Beaubien


Beth:  Okay, just what the heck is Land's End , anyway? J  

Staci:  Land's End is a small coastal town about ten miles to the south of Cape Suzette and home to a bunch of mercenaries and assassins that the local cops can’t, for some reason, catch (and don’t really seem to be inclined to, either).

Michelle:  Land's End is an original universe created entirely by Staci. This world is darker than the TaleSpin one, which is why it's for mature readers.  *laughs* Sort of like Cape Suzette ’s evil twin, but isn’t actually part of the TaleSpin universe.  I've admired her writing for a long time, and wanted to showcase it properly.  To me, Staci isn’t your usual fan-fic author.  Her work stands out as something original and doesn’t use the show as a crutch. 

Staci:  Stop it or you’ll make my head swell to obscene proportions. ;)

Michelle (mock-meekly): Yes, ma’am.  ;)

Beth:  What made you decide to write a story in the TaleSpin universe without the TaleSpin characters? 

Staci:  It is, sort of, a 'spin-off' of TaleSpin, I guess. I mean, it's sorta in the same universe and Cody did have her start in TaleSpin. But there won't really be any TS characters in these stories and it doesn't involve planes (since Cody's terrified of them ;D). As I was writing Mercenary's Honor, I realized that it really wasn't TaleSpin and Cody really wasn't a good TaleSpinnish character. So I decided that I'd leave the real fanfic writing to more talented people than me (like Scarlet and Joe) and just let Cody and co. take over and see what they'd do in their own universe, since they don’t seem inclined to play well with others---especially Cody.  I started writing Cody stories because I wanted to get into her head and understand her character better for Mercenary’s Honor.  While writing about her and her cohorts, TaleSpin fanfic writing became less of a priority.

Beth:  Were you worried about how it would be received?

Staci:  Maybe a little.  But Joanna is an awfully popular fan character, so I wasn't really concerned that people would come after us with grease and spoons. ;)

Michelle:  Maybe the violence, somewhat.  But I had a strong feeling that there were readers out there who would be willing to give it shot, as long as it was well-written and most of all, entertaining.  But what really got me enthused was the fact that Staci’s original Cody stories were exactly what I wanted to find in the library, what I’d like to someday accomplish with Joanna and the gang.  I would love to create a ‘Joannaverse’ someday, but so far that’s in my head for now.  I’ve always wanted to try to write a sort of Thelma-and-Louise/Pulp Fiction hybrid, but found it hard to do.  It’s my fault, actually --- I couldn’t write a sidekick as interesting as I found Joanna.  She was a Mary Sue and just took over all the time.  Anyone I tried to pair her with ended up being drippy and dull. 

Staci’s vixen Cody was the great equalizer.  Because Cody was so complex, Joanna had to work even harder to keep up.  Nobody is the ‘leader’ or the ‘sidekick’ --- they’re equals and capable of anything.  Staci showed me how it’s done. The animal characters of Land’s End have real, gritty problems, love lives, complex personalities, etc.  They’re not children’s stories.

Beth: What made you decide to combine your two characters in the same story?

Staci:  Lizzy Blackwell.  :)

Michelle:  Yeah, it’s all her fault!  ;)  Seriously, though, the story, The Whole Damsel Thing, was inspired by an idea that our friend Lizzy had over a year ago --- she noticed that me and Staci had very similar writing styles and characters and we thought it would be interesting to see what happened if we worked together. They’re similar in many ways yet are entirely different people.  They aren’t the same person, despite the fact that they’re both pretty bad-ass and not traditionally cute female toons.

Staci:  And they have the same hair color. :D  Like Joanna, Cody’s character evolved a great deal while we worked on TWDT.  I actually wanted for Cody to be a bit less feminine so she and Joey would be perfect foils for each other. Joanna is the one who convinces her that it's okay to be feminine and sometimes, it can be used to her advantage. Cody's grown up around men --- very few women.

Michelle:  She was raised by the Seven Dwarves?  ;)  Yeah, Joey is certainly more ‘girly’ than Cody.  She likes nice clothes and perfume, and to look good --- she’s actually quite vain.  :D

Staci:  And she won’t go anywhere without her makeup. :D

Michelle:  But Cody sure does --- she needs Staci’s artwork to give her a face.  ;-)

Staci: (as Cody) Aw, go take an acid bath. 

Beth:  How did you come up with the title, ‘The Whole Damsel Thing’?

Michelle (grins):  It’s a pun.  Hint --- drop the second syllable of ‘Damsel’.  And it’s ironic, considering the idea of Cody and Joanna as ‘damsels in distress’.

Staci:  Michelle’s brainchild.  She’s much better at the whole ‘pun’ thing than I am.

Michelle:  Thanks, but I got lucky this time.  Titles are hard.

Beth:   How do you avoid the dreaded Mary Sue problem, since your characters are in the forefront? 

Staci:  How does any writer of an original work avoid that?  You just give them flaws, don't make them so impossibly beautiful that all the other characters are automatically enamored with them, and don't let them always save the day.

Michelle:  Boy, did she cure me of that --- almost, anyway.  ;)  I ended up seeing Joanna as a Mary Sue in A Fair to Remember and revised a lot of the story so I could read it without puking.  She’s a lot more ‘human’ now, if that’s the word.  One thing we had to keep reminding each other was…Cody/Joanna is not Wonder Woman!

Cody:  LOL!  Yeah, that was sorta our mantra.  But I think we both learned that it’s a lot more fun to let them screw up sometimes than to let them never make mistakes.

Michelle: It was a hard lesson, but now I wholeheartedly agree.  It’s too easy to relate to your protagonist and want to protect her from embarrassment, as well as harm.  

Beth: Can we expect any more from you two? 

Staci:  Aside from reviews?  Maybe... ;)  Seriously, we don't have any plans to collaborate on another story right now, but... who knows?

Michelle (nodding):  It’s an open possibility, but we’re both very busy with other projects and RL in general.  But given the time and a great story idea --- I’d work with Staci again in a minute. As readers, we both like stories with hard-boiled action and tough heroines.  As authors, we think a lot alike, and sometimes it’s hard to tell who wrote what.  Personality-wise, we’re almost polar opposites.  Eg:  She loves the outdoors and I’m a hothouse plant.  But somehow it works!

Staci: I think it’s because we’re similar enough in what we like, character and style-wise, that other aspects of our personalities don’t really clash.  Cody and Joanna, for instance, get along very well. But they are very different people as far as their interests go.  Cody’s very active and outdoorsy and prefers action.  Joanna’s more of a thinker as well as inactive and indoorsy, if that’s a word.  Spellcheck’s saying no, but that’s okay.

Michelle:  Rebel.  ;)

Beth: How did you write this story together? Did the two of you write separate scenes and then just clump them together? Was one person better at handling dialogue or action?  It's probably much more collaborative than that, but I'm just wondering how you guys figure it out.   

Staci:  We both just write scenes, send them to each other, and add onto what the other's done.  Our writing gets so tangled up that half the time, I can't tell hers from mine.

Michelle: Exactly.  I keep forgetting who did what, except I do know that action scenes come easier to Staci. I'm more into dialogue and comedy.  But we write in such similar styles that it merges very well, IMO. And we both love dark humor and violence in fiction.

Staci:  *widens eyes innocently* Violence?  Me?  Never!  *hides her .22*

Beth: Yes, your writing styles definitely meld together seamlessly, although once in a while I think distinctive personalities shine through -- just in descriptions and whatnot, but that just makes it an even more interesting read.  You two work really well together!  Did you run into any snags while writing this story? 

Staci:  Oh, definitely.  We kept getting bogged down with backstory and had to cut it.  Some scenes also gave us trouble with giving them escape routes that weren't too contrived and moving smoothly from one scene to the next.

Michelle:  Yup.  Constantly.

Beth:  Your story is definitely a lot more "adult" then the usual TS fare (e.g. sexual innuendo, graphic violence, nontraditional morality, etc. Where you worried about that when you wrote it? 

Staci:  Yeah, but since we're posting a warning, it's not a major concern. 

Michelle:  Yeah.  None of it is pornographic or excessively reprehensible.  But funny animals aside, we tried to keep this a realistic universe while writing TWDT --- personally, I like Land’s End more than Cape Suzette in a lot of ways.  People suffer, make love, give birth, get killed, etc.   No ‘toony’ violence where the characters slam into a rock wall and leave a ‘cut-out’ behind.  The danger is real and the stakes are high. We’d rather write what we’d like to read (action) instead of subscribe completely to censorship.  And face it, we’re bound to offend somebody no matter what we do.

Beth:  Well, I certainly had a blast reading it, and I'm virtually certain everyone else will too when it gets posted.  Thank you for asking me to do this, guys!

Staci:  Well, thanks! :)  It really has been a lot of fun.

Michelle:  And a privilege.  It's great to have someone to bounce rocks… er… ideas off of.

Staci:  It makes you write faster, too.  We churned out over 100 pages in just a few months when we first started with it, didn't we?

Michelle:  Sounds about right.  It was like knitting the longest scarf  in the world --- it just kept going and going!  J

Staci: And going and going and... well, you get the idea.  Read it.  You'll like it. ;)


December 2004

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