Dan! It's so lovely to see you here!!
1. I am seriously in awe of people who write with style and elegance in a language that isn't the one they grew up speaking at home. How do you think this affects your writing? Do you feel like you have to plan more carefully and think things through better when you're writing in English?
I don't know if it affects the planning side of the story, but it's a definite challenge when it comes to the actual writing. What's difficult, for me, about writing in a language that's not my own is that I can get easily frustrated because more often than not I have this image in my head, like a movie playing in real time, and I know the feel of the moment, but then I lack the words to properly express what I'm seeing. The part that's most affected by me being a bilingual, so to speak, is definitely description. I spend a lot more time describing a scene, than writing dialogue or anything else. And I'm not referring to describing the way a character feels (Jo has taught me many adverbs ), but technical descriptions like a house, a room, clothes, how a character looks, etc. I lack the needed vocabulary to explain, as I would like to, what I'm seeing in my head...which makes me not very happy Not to mention that I mess up the syntax of the sentence because we place words differently
2. I see you're taking the plunge into the world of longer stories. Yay! How does your planning process work? Is the story already mostly worked out in your head or did you leave yourself a lot of room for the story to evolve as you write? How do you track characters, events and plot threads as you move from chapter to chapter?
For Blood Ties, which is a story that could (and I am stressing the word could) be taken as a missing moment (because we don't really know what Tonks was up after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries up until the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, except a few things), I have written down everything I know that happens to Tonks from canon. For example, we know that after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries she stays in the hospital for a bit, or that Harry meets her at The Burrow when he is taken there by Dumbledore, etc. These are the major canon events that I intend on following. After I've done this, I just started filling in the gaps with my story.
I don't plan everything down to the last comma, but I do have some important events I want to include. The rest comes as the story progresses. I jot down any idea that comes to my mind in my notebook for future reference, then I will come back to them and see if they can be added or not, if they really make sense in the context of my story, etc.
I found that I work best with worksheets like the one Jo has released for Order of the Phoenix. I have this time line for Tonks and other important canon happenings (like Emmeline Vance and Amelia Bones dying, for example), then I add to it as I go along. Since this is a more character driven story, there are not nearly as many plot threads as the story I'm planning for the First War, so it's easier to keep track of everything that happens or has to happen. I am not a strict planner, I do like to have a bit of leeway, but I need to have at least a general outline of each chapter and the story in its entirety. To give you an example, the outline for my first chapter of Blood Ties looks something like this: "Tonks once again remembers the fight at the Ministry and decides to ask the only person who could tell her more about her aunt, her mother. Andromeda snaps and has a weird reaction that only helps to deepen Tonks's curiosity" Everything else written in the chapter come in the spur of the moment
3. Do you set aside a specific time to write each day/week or do you just write when the muse is upon you?
Definitely when my muse is upon me. I do write better at night, when my family has finally settled down and I can turn on my inspiring music and just focus on the chapter, but there have been times when I've written for more than 4 hours at noon, or at 10 AM in the morning...
4. It looks -- at this very early stage of the game -- like you might be writing a story where Tonks and Bellatrix have some interaction aside from just trading curses and insults. In my experience, this is unprecedented. What gave you the idea? Which of the two characters do you identify with more strongly?
Yes, you are quite right about it. The story focuses heavily on the relationship between Tonks and Bellatrix. They are the main characters and they will have most of the spotlight, together with Andromeda because she plays an important role in her daughter's change. Well, to be honest, the idea is from the challenge that I've entered haha. The character I unknowingly picked was Tonks and I just sat there thinking what could possibly turn Tonks on the Dark side, and then it hit me. The only possible person is Bellatrix. Apart from the brutal, sadistic tendencies Bella most definitely has, I also see her as an excellent manipulator. I just can't picture has as the insane type, all the time. There must be more to her than her scary obsession for torture. We see her leadership nature in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, when she takes charge of the chaos there and separates Death Eaters into pairs, ordering them in different directions. There are these little hints, like the one I just mentioned, scattered throughout the books that lead me to believe that Bellatrix has skills that we don't know much about, and this is what I'm trying to explore about her in my story. The darker, but less insane side of Bellatrix Lestrange.
Since the story is written from Tonks's point of view and she is the one undergoing the 180 degrees change, she is the character whose thoughts and feelings I have to explore most, and until know it has been a very interesting experience. To answer your question, I definitely identify stronger with Tonks, even if I have to admit that writing Bellatrix in all her darkness and viciousness is very captivating. For a long period of time I was tempted to study criminal psychology, but I never pursued this path because I realised that in the long term it would affect my life as well. But writing is a totally different thing. In writing I can explore the mind workings of someone like Bellatrix, without worrying much about my own mental health, since I am not directly exposed to it. It remains purely on the theoretical level
5. Is there a character that you'd love to write, but you just haven't found the right idea yet? What attracts you to them?
Snape is the character I'd simply love to write, but I know and feel I'm not ready for him yet. I have the perfect idea for him and I will write him one day, but I still need to grow as a write to be able to do him proper justice because my idea involves Snape as an adult, not a child. If I will ever be able to do him justice, then I'll know I've reached the best I could offer in terms of HP fanfiction. You could say he's my dearest and highest ambition
Dumbledore is also a daunting project. There's just something about him I'm not sure I could capture, because I can't put my finger on what it is exactly. It's like that person, a girl or a boy that everyone loves. They have that something - something, like invisible glue that attracts everyone. You don't know what it is, but you know it's there and not every person has it. That's how I feel about Dumbledore. He's an incredibly difficult character to write, especially from his own POV. His mind is too brilliant for me...yet, at least
6. OK, deep question time: Do you ever find that immersing yourself in the world of fiction (HP or otherwise) changes your expectations for how people should interact with one another? Does it ever affect you in real life?
Out of everything you've asked me today, this is the hardest question. I think I spent more than 10 minutes thinking about it haha. My answer is yes and no. To give you an example, the story I am planning for NaNo (the First War one) is going to feature Alice and Frank Longbottom and their struggles with the War as members of the Order and newly weds. Since I can't not mention this to make my point, I am going to tell you that their relationship will be a strong one. A rocky relationship of course, because those were not easy times, but their bond will be unbreakable and no matter what they might go through, they will eventually end up together. In this sense, yes, I would like to see more relationships like this in real life. Couples that fight thought the difficulties of married life and outside of the marriage life, rather than throwing in the towel at the first obstacle.
On the other hand, I hope relationships like the one I am about to write between Bellatrix and Tonks don't happen in real life So we can safely say that what I write does affect my personal life in some way, but not very deeply and not permanently. I try to portray relationships as realistic as possible, so I guess it's inevitable that real life mingles with fiction when you do this
7. Related to Question 6: If you learned about a dangerous, evil magical person sealing a part of their soul in a locket, you would totally expect Ral to drop what she was doing and help you find it and destroy it, even if it was protected by a legion of zombies, am I right?
Totally! I wouldn't care what she was doing at the time (I refrain from giving examples in case she accuses me of considering her too shallow again ). But I also know that I wouldn't even need to ask because she'd offer her help alone
Thank you so, so much for these thought provoking questions. They made me really happy! (hope you are not disappointed with my answers)