Holy Mother of Merlin! I can't believe I didn't reply to this. I just missed it! HeyMrsPotter, I'm so sorry. Well, if anything that will answer your first question in part, won't it? So, on to the answers:
1. You've been writing fanfiction for aaages (well done!) has that been constant or have you taken breaks in that time?
I indeed have been writing fanfictions for a long time, but I have started to that when I was already a student in university, near the end of my studies, so my time was kinda limited. The thing is, writing is what I do to relax. I write fanfics, original stuff, but it comes and goes with inspiration. Sometimes I can write down an entire story in a few weeks, and then block on the sequel for months, while plot bunnies for other stuff pops in.
I'm trying to discipline myself and try to focus more on finishing stories or not beginning stuff I can't finish (for lack of real matter).
For example, for the fanfictions, I write stories in four different universes: Harry Potter, Star Wars, the DC universe and the Marvel universe (more precisely the X-men). I'm also a huge fan of Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed, but I've always forced myself not to begin any writing in those, because I know I would only lose focus and in the end, post nothing at all.
in the same vein, I recently revamped the entirety of my original stuff to simplify it, and try to form one or two cohesive universes, rather than the dozen plotlines I was exploring.
But as a result, combined my family (wife and daughter), the job and the rest of my real life, I sometimes have trouble finding both time and inspiration to actually post anything. Plus the site I was posting my HP stories on went slowly but surely down, and I lost all my readers, while I was working on one of the 'Hogwarts' stories. I found HPFF and resumed posting, but realized the entire Hogwarts series needed serious reworking. I started writing back in 2003 or so, and my English was dreadful, now that I look back on it. Hence the entire rewrite and the huge changes between the first draft and this one. the upside of rewriting: I know EXACTLY where I want the whole thing to go. Now, i just need time and patience to get it done.
2. How did you discover fanfiction? Did you start writing it straight away?
I discovered fanfiction through a fansite of Harry Potter. I began to read some stories posted there, and I liked the idea. This was right after the Order of the Phoenix had come out (the book) and I found I was impatient to learn what Harry would go through next. I was reading a few good stories about a year 6, so I decided that I wouldn't be able to do a story like that. I chose to go straight to an 'After Voldemort AU', to explore different things. So I started posting pretty quickly, actually. I was on a break form studies, so I had time, and it got pretty out of hand. Before I knew it, I was done with the first version of 'Seal of Chaos' and I was heading straight into 'Warlocks'. I was supported by the community, there, and it did help me to write, gaining confidence in my own story.
3. Are there any stories that you read all those years ago that have stuck with you, remained favourites?
Well, I'll admit there were some very good ones. I can think of a few authors that I followed for a while, exchanged with. I even drew some art for a few of those. We had this group of authors on that site, and one of us started to write a story called "The night of the living fanfictions" where fictional versions of ourselves found ourselves plunged into the HP universe. That was purely comedy and I loved it very much.
On the more serious side, I can quote the stories of VicariousLeigh (sadly, I think she took them off the net, since then). She wrote a fantastic sixth and seventh year story called "The Power he knows not" and "The Triumvirate of resolve". It was a Harry/Hermione story, which not usually my thing, but she brought on board anyway. there was also PaulaMcG's 'Remus Lupin and the revolt of the Creature', which was an amazing story on Remus' POV. And of course, I loved Phoenix_song's 'Lily's Story' so much that I used it as my vision of the Marauders years for my continuity. We exchanged with PS, and she incorporated the father of Alexander Lockenburn in her Hogwarts roster. I made some changes, since I left the site, but I still acknowledge her influence on me.
4. Which of the HP books is your favourite?
I'd have to go with 'Prisoner of Azkaban'. The others were good, of course (though I had trouble going through 'Order of the Phoenix', but I guess that was because it was the first i was actually reading in English). Azkaban is the first one when we truly get a glimpse of what makes Harry so powerful as a character. His meeting with Sirius, his reaction to the bits he learns about the past of his parents... It just spoke to me.
5. If you could go to any shop in Hogsmeade/Diagon Alley which would you choose and what would you buy?
The obvious, cliché answer would be Ollivander's, and I'd like a wand without a Phoenix feather, because those seem to attract trouble. But if Ollivanders is out, then I'd step in Flourish in Botts, Beyond the books about magic, I think I'd be curious about what kind of fiction wizards actually read.
There you have it! And now, I'm off to continue working on 'Staff'. I've got a chapter up for validation and I'll soon need to have another one ready to go.
Thanks for replying and see you soon!