The interviewer entered through a huge matching pair of ornately carved hardwood doors and walked down the sweeping marble staircase into the lounge. The lounge was a huge echoing chamber, the walls crowded with shelves of books and esoteric knickknacks, and there were a few standing statues. The wide diamond-paned windows showed a thundering storm flashing furious bolts of lightning outside and you could see an angry sea lashing the jagged rocks below with crashing waves. The sumptuous gloom of the lounge was lit by the roaring fire set in the large marble mantle, which sent flickering shadows on the tiger skin rug laid out in front of it. But for all its rococo luxury, the room was utterly dominated by the woman reclining on the chaise lounge. She was stretched out, the peacock patterned silk lounging gown draped over her lush form, puffing at a water pipe as something small and squiggly writhed inside the pipe’s glass bowl. Her features were pale and exquisitely formed, with large dark sloe eyes and a sensuous mouth, all framed by a mass of midnight black hair that fell past her shoulder in waves, with a single startling silver lock that rose just over her right eye. She was holding a pair of gold pins-nez glasses in one hand, and loose pages were scattered over her form and the lounge, with a few pieces on the floor, where a sleek Siamese cat with a bejeweled collar lay indolently next to a tray with a teapot and a few cups on it.
Sitting on an ottoman next to the lounge was a sylph-like girl girl of maybe fifteen summers, with huge tragic blue eyes. In stark contrast to the diaphanous dress she wore, there was a black iron collar fastened around her neck, which had a delicate golden chain leading from it to the arm of the chaise-lounge, where it was securely tied. The waif looked piteously at the interviewer, and her lips trembled, as if she lacked the courage to whisper, ‘Save me!’ Standing primly at attention next to her was a severe looking woman in a hobble skirt and shirtwaist. She was wearing a pair of thick black glasses and her chestnut hair was pulled back into a bun. But the severity of her mode of dress couldn’t completely hide her rare beauty. She was holding a fountain pen poised over a clipboard, suggesting that they’d been interrupted in the middle of dictation.
The Interviewer gave an ‘ahem’, and the woman on the lounge turned in that direction. “Yes?” she asked in a throaty voice.
“Excuse me? Are you Bek D Corbin?”
The vision raised a haughty eyebrow and said, “Yes, I am Bek D Corbin.” She left the question of ‘who are you?’ unspoken but obvious.
“I, ah, you agreed to take an interview…”
“Ah Yes!” she raised an imperious finger, “Now I recall! Yes, I did. Yes, I am Bek D Corbin. We will conduct this interview here and now. This,” she gestured lightly at the delicate blonde on the ottoman, “is my muse, Enid. And this,” she indicated the severe brunette, “is my amanuensis.”
“Oh? What’s her name?”
The interviewer thought that over and took a seat as the authoress and her secretary finished up with that part of her latest magnum opus. When that was done, she set one arm across the back of the lounge and regarded the interviewer. “Very well. You have questions. Commence!”
The interviewer hemmed, awed by her radiant beauty, and began, “Ah, well, we were wondering who your favorite authors are, whose work influences your writing, where you get your ideas from, that sort of thing…”
Bek D Corbin rose and strode magnificently to the French doors and looked out at the storm’s raging fury. “My favorite authors… Well, of course, I thoroughly versed in the immortal works of C(lavius) F(rederick) Earbrass, Mrs. Regera Dowdy, Ogdred Weary, and Raddory Gewe. In times of travail, I find myself again and again taking refuge in the pages of The Eleventh Episode or The Unstrung Harp. However…” she paused, the back of her graceful hand against her brow, “for influence, I turn only to myself! I adamantly refuse to give my precious readership watered-down copies of others’ works! Let the schlockmeisters of London, Paris and Berlin settle for that! And as for inspiration? Well, aside from marginal assistance from dear little Enid over there…” the pale waif in the iron collar whimpered. “My inspiration comes from the raging tempest that is mine own SOUL!” As if to punctuate the incomparable littérateurine’s proclamation, the storm issued a particularly bright flash of lightning and the accompanying thunder rattled the salon.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”
The words barely out of his mouth, the interviewer, looked around. The opulent faux-Edwardian salon was gone. He was once again seated at the very prosaic (if upwardly trendoid) café called ‘The Crepe Vine’ on Church street in San Francisco, just off of Market street. Across the tiny table from him, instead of the raven-tressed ageless beauty, was rather frumpy looking fifty-something woman sipping a cup of herbal tea. She might have been rather attractive, if she lost, oh, say, forty pounds. Or wore clothing that hadn’t probably already been shabby when she bought them at the Salvation Army three years ago. Or wore contacts instead of obviously old glasses that were fixed with electrical tape. Or had her hair done, instead of just washing the shoulder-length mass of admittedly very good dark brown waving hair. She gave a wry smile over her cup of tea. “Sorry. You should try holding down a job with that going on.”
The interviewer collected himself. They’d warned him that the Whateley canon writers- the core cabal especially- were a strange lot. “Does that happen a lot?”
“More often than I really care to admit,” she said with a shrug.
“Will it interrupt our interview?”
‘Just remember, you’re getting paid,’ he reminded himself. “Okay, let’s just do a few of the questions that readers have sent in, all right?”
“Hey, it’s your dime,” she responded. “Oh! And that reminds me!” She waved a waitress over to the table. “I’ll have a slice of that delicious carrot cake. Put it on HIS tab.”
The interviewer gave her a sharp look, but pulled out his notepad and began. “So!
How do you coordinate this Madness?
The coffee shop suddenly dissolved to a large dark vaulting marble chamber lit by six great braziers. Large throne-like chairs were seated in a circle, with the mysterious cloaked figures seated in them consulting large scrolls and bizarre clockwork instruments. “STOP THAT!” the interviewer snapped. A few of the other customers at the coffee shop looked at them curiously.
“Sorry!” Bek said apologetically. “Just happens. Walter Mitty syndrome. Or not. Coordinate? Well, a LOT of e-mailing and IM-chatting goes down. We try to make sure that both the events in our respective stories jibe and that our takes on how a character would act or react are in synch. It’s what we call the ‘Signature Character’ system. Sort of like Player Characters in a role-playing game. Certain ‘non-player characters’ are so important to other writers’ storylines that they sort of have ‘dibs’ on them. For instance, I created both Bugs and Vox, but since they’re so closely connected with Fey and Phase’s stories respectively, if you wanna do anything really major with them, you’d have to run it past Maggie or Diane. For example, Thuban would make for a great villain. But he’s so closely connected to Jade’s story that doing anything really outrageous with him- making him a murderer, getting him expelled or even killed- would impact so much on Jade’s story line that Babs would probably nix it.
“What’s really tricky, is when we do one of those mass collaborations, like ‘Quoth the Ninja’ or ‘IPP-4’ or ‘Parent’s Day’. THAT was like herding cats. One of the reasons why ‘IPP-4’ took so long was that we were all working on other stuff, and it kept being pushed onto the back burner. Finally, someone said, ‘Okay, this is ridiculous! We’re getting this turkey done by HALLOWEEN! Period!’ She declared herself Temporary Story Czar and cracked the whip (well, noodged the hell out of people) until it got done.”
“So, who exactly WAS this ‘Temporary Story Czar’?”
Bek concentrated and looked off into the distance for a bit. “Y’know, I should remember, but for some strange reason, I can’t.”
How did you get together?
The opening theme from the ‘Brady Bunch’ started. The interviewer gave Bek a sharp look, and the music wilted into nothing.
“Well, as I recall, I was working on a story called ‘Advancer: Cascade’-”
“Advancer: Cascade’ I don’t recall any stories by you of that title.”
“Never finished it.”
“I’LL SAY YOU NEVER FINISHED IT!” A tall attractive woman in a black leather long coat with very strange blue hair with whitish highlights in the waves that made it seem like a sea in motion, strode up and scowled at Bek.
“Cascade, I’m going an interview here,” Corbin moaned.
“It’s ALWAYS SOMETHING!” Cascade snapped. “You keep telling me, ‘I’ll get around to it, I’ll get around to it!’ But do you ever? NO!”
“I’M STALLED, OKAY?” Bek roared back, “I’ve gone as far as I can, but now I don’t know where the f_____g story’s GOING! If I knew where the story was going to GO, I’d finish it!”
“This is Cascade, the main character in the story that I was telling you about, the story that I’LL GET BACK TO WHEN I CAN-” she said severely at the woman, who stalked off with an air of being much put upon.
“Can’t blame her. It’s a good story, if I could only get the steam back up on it. Anyway, about that time, the show ‘X-Men Evolution’ was on. It was pretty good, and I got a few ideas for TG fan fics. But then a writer called ‘o2bxx’ put up a X-Men Evolution story called ‘XX-Man’, and Babs Yerunkle started her ‘X-Man’ story on Sapphire’s Place. This put me in the ‘Oh, me too!’ spot, which sucks. I chucked the idea of a X-Men Evolution fan fic- at least in terms of the Marvel universe. I spotted a few potentials in the whole ‘school for mutants’ theme that hadn’t been explored. So, I wrote up a precis for it and sent it around to Maggie Finson, Starwolf, Scrambler J and Babs. We’d tried a bit of on-line role-playing that didn’t quite pan out, and we decided to try it as an experiment in round robin storytelling.
“The rest, as they say, is History.”
Who joined when?
“Well, at first, it was Maggie, Star, Scrambler, Babs and me. We got a bunch of stories written- well, except for Scrambler J, who writes with the blinding speed of continent drift- and after that, I sort of lost track. *Whoo!* Did we get some gawd-awful Sue-thors at first! *Yick!* Our very first applicant was some guy who much wanted to write an all-powerful whatever who pretty much made Team Kimba his harem. Told him ‘so sorry’. We haven’t heard anything from him since, but I DO have a few suspicions about one or two of the more nitpicky posters on the forum. But the rest have been pretty good, considering that we’re not paying anything.
“However, I think that Scrambler J and Diane Castle do deserve special mention. The reason that Ayla/Phase was so slow at first was that, well, Scrambler J was slow. Like in ‘a couple of rescinded chapters in four years’ slow. We kept at him to PRODUCE for the luvva Pete, but it just never happened. But we kept writing stories and not really doing that much with Ayla, ‘cause she was HIS character. It got to the point where we had this Ayla-shaped hole in our plot line. Which would be one thing, if she were a minor character, but she’s NOT. It was getting very awkward. Finally, after saying ‘we should do something about this’ for over a year, I bit the bullet and e-mailed Scrambler, telling him that Character Services had called about charges of Felony Neglect, and Ayla was being taken away from him. He didn’t like it, but he did realize that he’d let it slip with her.
“MAN, was Ayla a sight when she came to us! Poor thing, so neglected, wasted away to almost nothing! We didn’t have the slightest idea as to what to do with her. I was even thinking of taking her on myself, but I really didn’t need another potato on my plate. Fortunately, after farting around for about a month, I got e-mail from Diane Castle, wanting input on her fan-fic ‘The Turk or the Geek’. I passed the story around, and everyone agreed that it was not only good, but it nicely covered Team Kimba’s retaliation for the Turks’ ambush, something that none of us had anything planned for. AND she had a nice grip on Ayla- much better than anyone else had done up to then, Canon Authors included. Seeing a chance to do the right thing by Ayla and keep down the influx of new POV characters, I wrote Diane and asked if she’d take over the writing duties for Ayla. Diane jumped on it like a hungry tiger on a bleeding goat, and I think that she’s done very nicely by Ayla. Though I think that some of that snark is residual resentment for her earlier neglect. It’s a damn shame when a writer just abandons a character like that.”
“You freaking HYPOCRITE!” A tall handsome woman in gray with a black cape, mask, bustier, gloves and high boots stalked over, with a cute blonde teenage girl not far behind. “What do you call what you did to ME?”
“And ME!” the girl echoed.
“Max…” Bek moaned, “I keep telling you- I want to finish the next episode, but I need to put Jessie Seleski in, and I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! I’m STALLED! It HAPPENS!” Bek sipped at her tea. “And Sapphire posting with the regularity of J.D. Salinger doesn’t help.”
“Oh?” Said the blonde, “And what about ME?”
“Jordan, I’ve started and re-written and re-plotted your next story SIXTY TIMES! It just isn’t coming together! I’d like to get it out and done with as much as you would! I have some GREAT ideas for you! I just don’t quite have a handle on this story yet.”
“Yeah, well, it’s been MONTHS since you worked on me!” Jordan Winters snipped. “I notice that you’ve been taking Foxglove out and working on her!”
“And WHAT is the problem with THAT?” A lithe redhead wearing leathers with a sword at her hip strode onto the scene.
“You got an update only a YEAR ago!”
“Yeah, and how long was it before I was updated before THAT?”
“It’s been YEARS for me!”
“Hey, she’s thinking about re-tooling ME and pushing me as a mainstream Fantasy novel!” Foxglove insisted, “She SHOULD be working on finishing me!”
“Ooooh…” Lady Lightning sneered, “Published as a mainstream novel, hunh? Remember when she was gonna send ‘Code of the Brewsters’ to SF&F magazine? And whatever happened with that?”
“YES, what bally well DID ever happen with that?” A perky blonde in a 1920s flapper outfit strode out into the coffee shop. “ONE bloody rejection slip, and you give up!”
“I don’t know where else to market it, Val…” Bek groaned. Then a waitress came up and told Bek that they were making too much noise. If she didn’t get her characters under control, they’d be forced to ask them to leave.
Most of the characters stalked off, but Foxglove just sat down and glared at Bek. The interviewer collected himself and tried again.
What are you goals for this endeavor?
Suddenly a brisk wind whipped through the interviewers’ hair and there was a scent of metallic steam in the air. He found himself on the deck of what would have been a schooner- if not for the pair of dirigible bodies that the ship hung from, or the furiously hissing and ka-spocket-ing steam engine. Men in trim 19th Century naval outfits were running to and fro, and an alarm bell was clanging stridently. Facing forward was a handsome dark-haired woman in Victorian-era garb, except for the various brass-and-clockwork devices strapped to her clothing and high silk hat. She gripped the aiming rod of the transtatic hyperionizer strapped to her back as the miniature dynamo hummed, building up its charge. She adjusted the fit of her monocle, all the better to glare at the accursed gorilla-men as they swarmed toward the Byglave Ingvaron their pteranodon mounts…
“Ex-CUZE me? We’re doing an interview here?”
“Sorry!” Bek said with a shame-faced grin. She settled in, took a sip of tea and began. “Well, I can’t speak for the others, but I’d say that I wanted to create a setting that had a reality of its own, that was its own thing unto itself, and not just a setting for one or a few more characters. Sort of the way that Oz is Oz, whether Dorothy’s around or not, and Gotham City has a life of its own, completely separate from Batman. I mean, Xavier’s School for Gifted Children is only a smokescreen for the X-Men, and the Young Kingdoms are just a stage that Elric of Melnibone struts across as he does his cut-rate Hamlet act.
“But I think that Whateley has become a thing unto itself; it’s not just a setting for Team Kimba. When (and IF) Team Kimba graduates, they’ll go on, and so will Whateley. Archie and Jughead are pretty much trapped in Riverdale. But Team Kimba- and the other Whateley characters- have their entire world open to them. And with Outcast Corner, the Lit Chix, the Grunts, the Bad Seeds and other cliques being fleshed out, we not only get to see Team Kimba incidents from new perspectives, but we get to see the rest of Whateley- indeed, the rest of their world!- from different perspectives. And, best of all, we agreed that the Whateley stories would be character-driven, and by and large, they are.”
What is the size of Whateley's faculty and staff?
“Whatever size the plot of the moment calls for.”
Do any of you have an agent?
Suddenly the interviewer found himself inside a high-tech situation room, with maps and satellite footage being displayed. A trim woman in a skin-tight black catsuit began to drop from the ceiling on a spider-silk slender cord to… “Not THAT kind of Agent!” he snapped, “A LITERARY agent!”
“Sorry!” Bek flashed another embarrassed grin. “Well, for the record, I- and I think most of the Canon Authors- would love to write for money. It’s just that like everyone else, we’re in the Catch-22 of the Literary world: in order to get read by a publisher, you need an agent to push your story; but in order to get an agent to take you seriously, you need to have already published. I have a couple of ideas that I could polish and put on the market right now. Heck, trim off a few TG mentions in Foxglove, and it could sell as good as a lot of the junk out there. Heck, Doctor Bender has been talking about doing a web comic, but so far nothing’s come of it.”
What is the unique hit rate for this site?
“How would _I_ know? The full extent of my computer knowledge is how to use a word processing program! And even then, I’m not using all the features to their full effect!”
What is each author’s rating on whom is the most warped?
“Oh, Definitely, Doctor Bender. The rest of us are amusingly warped, but Doc has a real touch for the dark and twisted. And not ‘Addams Family’ or Tim Burton dark, I’m talking Clive Barker dark.
“And as for who’s the best writer--- well, usually that’s a touchy issue, but fortunately, I think that there isn’t a lot of doubt that Babs is our best writer. She’s created not one but two breakout characters in Jade and Jobe, and her stuff is consistently good. And she has a rare talent, especially these days. She knows how to write angst. Namely, she uses it sparingly, and leavens it out with liberal doses of hope and good humor. I like to say that Angst is a ‘literary spice’, something that you add to a mixture to give it context and contrast. A lot of writers, especially the ones writing in comic books these days, sort of dump in the angst by the truckload, hoping that it will somehow give their characters and plots depth or meaning. Instead, it just overpowers everything else, and kills the taste of anything non-angsty. But Babs manages to avoid that.”
How much has Lovecraft influenced Whateley?
“More than I’m really comfortable with.”
How do you find time to write?
The coffee shop faded away to become a night-shrouded Gotham City. High up on a be-gargoyled ledge, a figure in a skin-light leather catsuit complete with cat-eared hood crouched. She reached towards a window and cut a circle of glass out of the pane with the claws in her glove. She undid the latch on the window and-
“Excuse me, but that did that have to do with finding time to write?”
“What? You don’t have a Catwoman fantasy? I thought that _everyone_ had a Catwoman fantasy!”
“Just… answer the question…”
“Well, I make a point of getting up in the morning and working on SOMETHING for at least a half-hour, even before breakfast. To be honest, the problem for me isn’t finding the time- not having a real LIFE is a big help there!- it’s keeping at one story long enough to finish it. I keep getting distracted by new story ideas and haring off on them, leaving stories that I really should finish-”
“A-MEN!” “Here, here!” TRUTH!” various characters cheered from the sidelines.
“Which is, completely the fault of my muse, Enid.” Bek completed.
“Oh, are you WHINING again?” A plump woman with a round but rather sour face sat down. She was at least a hundred pounds overweight, which suited the filmy diaphanous gown that she was wearing about as much as her over-permed hair and heavy makeup suited her scowling face. The interviewer was irresistibly reminded of the character ‘Mimi’ who was Drew Carey’s nemesis on his old sitcom.
“What’s the matter?” Bek snarled, “Your favorite bar run out of Night Train?”
“Speaking of which!” the woman pounded the table. “BEER! I’ll have a bottle of Steamhead! And put it on HER tab!” Bek quickly pointed at the interviewer.
“Who IS this?” the interviewer asked.
“THIS is my muse, Enid,” Bek said stolidly.
“THIS is Enid?” the interviewer wondered. ‘THIS is a MUSE?’
“YES,” Enid snarled, “THIS is a muse! Oh, and don’t think that I didn’t see what you were fantasizing about in that ‘Elinor Glyn’ scene. You’d just LOVE to have me chained up, putting out for you on demand, wouldn’t you?”
“YES!” Bek shot back, “I’d also like to have a waistline that wasn’t wider than my HIPS, but I don’t think that I’ll ever get THAT, either!”
“Bitch, bitch, bitch!” Enid said dismissively as the waitress brought a bottle of Steamhead. “You writers are all alike! It’s always all about YOU! You never think about MY needs!”
“Of course I think about your needs- every time that you hold the next plot development hostage, because you want chocolates- and THEN decide that you don’t want Hershey’s or Nestle’s, and won’t settle for anything less than DOVE chocolates!”
“A girl’s got to have standards…” Enid murmured demurely.
“That’s not what the graffiti in the men’s room says.”
“How do YOU know what’s written in the men’s room?”
“I gotta take a whiz somewhere, when you’re passed out in the ladies!”
“Ah! Well” The interviewer tried to defuse the tension between muse and author, “Let’s forge on to the next question, shall we?” Then he cursed his luck:
Do you have any pet peeve about your muse?
Bek glowered at Enid. “Ooohhh… WHERE do I begin?”
“How about staring blankly at a computer screen, asking yourself, ‘What do I do NOW?’ and getting absolutely NOTHING in return?” Enid shrilled back.
“How’s that a beginning?” Bek snarled back. “I’ve done that more often that I personally care to remember!” Bek turned to the interviewer and smiled sweetly. “Well, to address your question, I’d say that my primary ‘peeve’ with my alleged ‘Muse’, would be her tendency to leave stories hanging in mid-air for months if not YEARS? Enid, do you have any IDEA of how many times I’ve had the Erinyes knocking on my door, wanting to know when they’ll work next?”
“So, put them to work,” Enid said sourly. “Y’know, as in WORK? As in ‘Do it YOURSELF’? As in ‘Not lean on the fucking MUSE to do all your work?”
“As in ‘Run a high-performance engine on FUMES’?” Bek roared back.
“Ooooh-KAY this is getting WAY too tense,” the interviewer jumped in. “Let’s try another question, okay?”
What things besides being overpowered and time travel do you try to avoid?
“Okay, my rule is ‘Never bring Time Travel, the Cthulu Mythos, or Giant Robots into an established setting, because if you do, all it will ever really BE about from then on, is Time Travel, or the Cthulu Mythos, or Giant Robots. Or Giant Robots traveling through time to fight the Cthulu Mythos. You’ll notice on all those anime shows, if there’s a giant robot, no matter what else they do, it’s always about activating the fucking giant robot.”
“Yeah?” Enid snarled, “And what about your precious Whateley? You didn’t want the Cthulu Mythos in THAT, all the Lovecraft mentions were just gonna be background stuff. But then Dr. Bender came along, and now you got tentacles crawling out of the woodwork everywhere.”
Surprisingly, Bek just shrugged. “True. But Doc Bender’s a damn good writer, and I really wanted him on board. And I thought that we could make it ‘Cthulu Lite’ or something. If anything, I think that what’s happened since then only underlines my point. Now, in a lot of ways, Whateley is about life in a Lovecraft world as much as it is about life in a superhero world.”
What is the airspeed of a fully loaded African Swallow?
“Are we talking about the civilian sports African Swallow, with all the safety features, or the military combat African Swallow, with the Chobham armor and the fully-loaded missile racks?”
Who are your specific influences while you're writing Whateley stories?
“Well, this is where I’m supposed to show off how erudite and well-read I am by reeling off a list of writers and like that. But, to be honest, I’d say that my style of writing owes as much to – dear gawd!- over thirty years of gaming, as a player, but more as a GM. If you’re not running modules- which suck- then you need to have a good grasp of how the entire world works together. How things like technology and commerce and culture all work together in everyday life. Now think about healing spells. Can you imagine how battles would be fought, if healers could run onto the battleground and get a combatant up and fighting again in a few minutes? Or how different society would be, if people KNEW, from direct personal experience that there were divine beings that both offered and expected things of them? How would society react to having several distinctly non-human aware races competing for land and resources? You have to consider these things- or you’re stuck rolling random encounter tables, which are frickin’ mindless and idiotic! Or, getting closer to the subject, how ordinary people would react if they knew that there were other people in the world who could do fantastic, superhuman things- while they couldn’t? You have to put these factors together so that there’s a sense of consistency.
Enid let out a windows-rattling burp. “What miss ‘I’m so deep’ is really trying to say, is those stupid stories are her way of telling people about her 16th level paladin.”
Bek pointedly ignored Enid. “As for style, I’d say that my writing is really most formed by the old movies and shows that I saw growing up. Film Noir. Hope & Crosby’s Road movies. The Thin Man. Bogart & Bacall. Tracey & Hepburn. Stuff with a lot of twists and turns, and sparkling repartee. Though as a specific style, I’d say that I really love P. G. Wodehouse. Plots were just excuses to get Bertie and Jeeves out there, doing their stuff.”
What are the stories in chronological order?
“The first one’s first and the latest one’s last. Everything else is detail.”
Of all the Universes that you’ve created, which is your favorite?
The coffee shop suddenly became deathly still. The interviewer was suddenly aware of dozens of amazingly attractive women, all deeply intent on Bek’s reaction. Some he recognized, mostly the young ‘girls’ from Whateley, others he had no idea who they were supposed to be. Most were one-offs, but there were groups with obvious themes, like the women in the glossy black latex suits with the big guns (and lots of firepower, too), and the group of five women, also in tight fitting suits, that were color-coded. “WELL?” Asked the tall woman in the gray-and-black-with-gold-trim super-suit.
Bek cleared her throat. “I don’t accept the question. My stories are all a part of myself, even the ones that I haven’t finished and have stopped writing. Indeed, I may never finish writing the stories that are dearest to my heart, because I know that I can’t do them justice.”
“Oh, stop weaseling around the question!” Enid said with a grin of sadistic glee on her face. “Of the stories that you’ve published, WHICH is your favorite? C’mon, it’s a valid story, and you agreed to answer his questions!”
Even the other patrons of the coffee shop felt the tension as the many characters leaned in to hear their creator’s favorite. Bek looked around, weighed her options, and finally came to a decision. “Jordan Winters.”
The coffee shop erupted in a storm of acrimony as characters bickered and complained about how they’d been promised things, and how it wasn’t THEIR fault that the stories were coming along. Some were outraged, others were tearful, and more than a few were afraid for their lives.
“HOLD IT, HOLD IT, HOLD IT!” Jordan shouted over the din. “If I’m such a favorite, then howcome you haven’t written a story for me in YEARS, hunh?”
“I TOLD you! I’m TRYING!” Bek shouted back. “But every time that I open your file, I start writing and I just can’t SEE where the story’s going! I have the basic plot, but it’s just not GOING anywhere!” Bek stabbed a finger in Enid’s face. “It’s all HER fault! I get a Whateley story or bit done, I sit down to write a Jordan story- or start on Foxglove or try to finish the latest Lady Lighting episode, or whatever- and SHE decides to go visit her buddy Phoebe in KANSAS for a few days! That is, when she’s not BORED, and decides to drop an idea for yet ANOTHER storyline in my ear!”
“You’re blaming this on ME?” Enid shrieked, her chubby face wreathed in rage. “You ALWAYS blame everything on me!”
“Well, maybe if you were as good about FINISHING stories as you are with STARTING them,” this wouldn’t be a problem!” The various characters loudly agreed with their creator.
“Oh, so THAT’S how it is,” Enid muttered. She chucked her beer bottle over her shoulder and got to her feet, stewing for a fight. “Okay, Big Shot, try THIS on for size!” Before anyone could stop her, she leaned over and whispered in Bek’s ear. Bek’s face fell, and her eyes went wide. Enid was out the door in a trice.
The characters all looked at their creator intently. The interviewer was about to ask what happened, when someone yelled, “Inspiration Storm! Head for the hills!”
The characters scattered, and the coffee shop shook ominously. Then, suddenly, plants erupted from every nook and cranny in the café, and a rough-hewn stone temple of indeterminate origin formed. The calls of exotic birds mixed with the hiss of reptiles that didn’t sound small. The interviewer was out the door right after the waitress and the more fortunate customers, as a full-fledged ‘Tomb Raider’ scenario blossomed into existence in the bistro.
The waitress leaned wearily over at what had happened to her place of work. “Gawd, I hate writers,” she groaned as she slouched back into the foliage.
The interviewer watched as she hacked her way back into the coffee shop. ‘I think that I have enough for my interview’, he thought to himself. ‘Well, maybe the next one won’t be as much trouble’. He pulled out his notepad and checked. Then a feeling like a cold lead weight settled in the pit of his stomach, and a sheen of perspiration broke out on his brow. ‘Oh No! My next assignment is….