[The following is an interivew I did last summer for a girl 
working on a school project regarding Anime, manga, and the 
phenomenon of fanfiction.  I don't know how, when or if she 
used any or all of this, but I thought I'd post it here for 
those who are morbidly curious about how and why I decided 
to write "Hearts of Ice."]

Hi Gina ^_^

>Hi! Wuz up?
>Thanks for agreeing to do the interview.

No problem.  If there's one thing I like to do, it's give my
opinion to anyone who will listen. ^_^


>Here are the questions:
>
>First, can you tell me a little about yourself?

Well, let's see.  I'm 26 years old, and I live in Salt Lake City,
Utah.  I come from a stable, happy family, complete with the
original parents (which I only mention because it seems to be a
rarity these days).  I'm the oldest of three children.  I have a
sister, Suzanne, who's 22, and a brother, Kurt, who's 19.  

I've been a voracious reader since I was three, and I read
practically everything on any subject I can get my hands on,
though my tastes run towards the science fiction/fantasy genres. 
My favorite author is Orson Scott Card, and my favorite fiction
book of all time is his Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel,
_Ender's Game_, which I recommend heartily, along with it's
sequels, to anyone who wants to gain a greater understanding of
human nature and what motivates people to act the way they do as
individuals and as a society.  I mention Card and his work
because he is undoubtedly the largest influence on my own
personal writing style.  I learned almost everything I know about
portraying both realistic characters and cause-and-effect in
fiction from him.

How's that for personal stats? ^_^


>What exactly is a fanfic writer?

Hm.  Tough question.  Off the top of my head, I would say "Someone who 
can't get paid for all their hard work or else they'll get their
socks sued off by the people who actually own the rights to the 
characters." ^_^  

Also, from my own observations, fanfic authors usually fall into one 
of two very broad categories.

First, there are the Otaku authors; the fans who, through
attempts thinly veiled or not-so, insert themselves as a
character into the pre-established world of their choice, whether
it be anime, manga, or something that inspires similar fan
followings, such as Star Trek, the X-Files, Xena, Warrior
Princess, etc.  The author then mingles among the established
cast, often in an annoying know-it-all capacity.  I personally
find these types of stories boring and unimaginative, since they
are written solely as author wish-fulfillment.  The Otaku author
has an intended audience of one.  He sets out only to please
himself, and therefore, runs the risk of entertaining only
himself, even if his work is read by the thousands of Internet 
readers.

The other (and, thankfully, more common) type of fanfic author
are the authors who, because of affection for the characters and
the fictitious universes they inhabit, simply decide to create
their own new stories for those characters.  Some authors try to
imitate the original flavor of the series, while others force the
characters into unusual, out-of-character situations just for the
sake of "what if?"


>Why do you write fanfics?

Actually, I've only written one, and that's "Hearts of Ice." 
But, dang, it's long.  When it's complete, it will be about 400
pages on my WordPerfect 6.1.  That's what I get for typing a 4-
page, single spaced outline. @_@  As for why I started writing
it...  

[Oh, how naive I was back then.  Let's see, "Hearts of Ice" is now
almost 600 pages and counting...]

Well, after getting hooked on Ranma  last summer, I was
surfing the Internet and I stumbled across the archive for anime
fanfiction.  I'd never read fanfic before, but within the week I
read almost every Ranma fanfic I could find.  Some were very
good.  Most were mediocre, and some were down-right bad.  The
first Ranma fanfics I really enjoyed were "Nightshadow"  and
"Regarding Ranma."  There were a ton of other good stories, but
those were the fanfics that stick out most in my mind.  And as I
read them all, I kept thinking to myself "Wow, that was a good
story, but the story I'd *really* like to see is..."

I wasn't planning to write fanfiction.  I have several original
stories in the works that I would like to see published someday. 
But nobody was writing the story I really wanted to read about
the Ranma  cast, so I decided to write the story myself. 
That's why I write fanfiction.

Oh, and it's also a great ego boost to get a ton of fan mail from
people who read my story. ^_^


>What is the importance of fanfics?

Well, that's kind of a subjective question, since the importance
or value of anything varies from person to person, and its value
is determined by how much an individual is willing to sacrifice
for it.  To people who don't read fanfics, and have no interest
in reading fanfics, I would say the importance of fanfiction is
very low.  To people like myself, on the other hand, who cannot
bear to see a series like Ranma  come to an end, and the only
way to see it live on is through fanfic, I would say fanfic is
very important.  Stories are set in the various anime/manga
universes, by the fans, for the fans.


>When writing fanfics which influences you most: anime or manga?

I'd only seen the Ranma  anime when I started writing "Hearts
of Ice," so that was my primary influence to begin with.  But
after I had read all 38 volumes of the Ranma  manga, I found
that I liked the manga much more than the anime.  The basic
premise of the anime adaptations of Takahashi's Ranma  was the
comedic situations, but in the manga, I found an underlying
current of serious drama and romantic tension that is mostly
absent or glossed over in the anime.  I've since revised earlier
chapters of my story to make them more like the manga.  The only
aspects carried over into my story from the anime is that Ranma's
cursed form has red hair, and Cologne is 300 years old, rather
than 100.


>Why did you choose to write fanfics on Ranma 1/2?

Because Takahashi's characters struck a chord in me.  The whole
Ranma  series is brilliant, with gut-busting situation comedy
and slapstick humor in some parts, counterpointed by delicious moments
of poignancy and drama powerful enough to rival a Shakespearean
play.  (And before my English professors have fits over me
comparing the Bard to a Japanese comic book artist, let me say
that I feel I can say this with some authority, since I'm one of
the few people I know who enjoys reading Shakespeare outside the
classroom. ^_^)


>Can you tell me a little about your Hearts of Ice series?

Well, I started it last August, about a month after my brother
introduced me to Ranma 1/2.  I guess it seems like a series
because how long it is, and because I've been submitting the
chapters to the Fanfic Mailing List as I go, but I think of it
more as a novel.  Unlike some long fanfics I've read, which seem
haphazard with their "I'm making this up as I go along, I have no
idea where this is going" feel, I've always had a clear idea of
how the story is going to end.  As I mentioned, it started with a
4-page outline that I sat down and wrote one day.  I've stuck
pretty close to that outline, but, as with all stories, I've
found that the characters' unexpected actions have created
interesting plot twists not originally included in the outline,
that completely steered the story in strange new directions. 

For example, I didn't originally plan to have Nabiki bug the
Nekohanten.  But she did, and look at what resulted because of
it.  Also, I knew I wanted to write about Ranma being trapped in
the Nekoken for an extended length of time, but I didn't get the
idea for the Shadowcat demon until I was actually writing the
scene in Part 9, where the Snow Woman is looking in on Ranma's
past and witnesses his Nekoken training.  It was weird.  The
Shadowcat just showed up, and I was almost as surprised by his
appearance as Ranma was.  Also, because of this, I obviously
didn't know that the Shadowcat would eventually kill Masakazu. 
That was another twist in the story I wasn't expecting, but
that's what happens when a story comes to life.  The trick is to
let it flow naturally without letting it get out of control.  I
kind of let the story tell itself, while still keeping to my
original outline.


>How did you come up with the stories?

Sheesh, I don't know. ^_^   I guess no matter what I'm doing,
whether I'm at work or with my family, I'm always daydreaming on
some level.  I'm always creating stories in my head.  An image
will stick in my mind from something I've seen during the day, or
a concept, or a "what if."   And then a situation will play
itself out in my mind, almost like watching a movie.  That's the
way it is when I write.  I watch a scene play out in my head, and
I pay attention to what kind of emotions it evokes in me. 
Sometimes I tweak the scene until I get the feeling just right,
and then I write down what I see in my mind's eye.


>Your stories have a lot of Japanese myths in it. Why did you put it in 
>your series?

I've always loved myth.  Since I was a child, I've read every
myth and fairy tale I could get my hands on, from cultures as
varied and diverse as European, African, and  Native American.  I
started studying Japan and its culture because of my growing
addiction to anime and manga.  Hence, part of the inspiration for
"Hearts of Ice" came from reading a book of Japanese fairy tales.

I came across the ghost story of the Snow Woman, in which the
Japanese snow goddess falls in love with a mortal woodcutter and
spares his life instead of freezing him to death, under the
strict stipulation that he tell no one of his encounter with her. 
Years later, she appears to him as a mortal woman.  He doesn't
recognize her, and he falls in love with her.  They marry, have
many children, and live happily.  Then, one cold winter evening
while the woodcutter is watching his wife sew clothes for their
children by the firelight, he is suddenly reminded of the night
so long ago when the Snow Woman came to him.  In an unthinking
moment, he relates the tale to his wife, only to see her
transform into the Snow Woman a moment later, trembling with
grief and fury.  She tells him that he has broken the spell that
has allowed her to be with him as a mortal, and tells him that if
harm ever befalls their children, she will return and kill him.

The tale is told from the woodcutter's viewpoint, and so it is
with him that we are supposed to sympathize with when the final
tragic blow comes.  Yet I found myself struck by the Snow Woman's
plight.  She gave up everything  her immortality, her power 
all to be with this mortal man.  And yet she lost both him and
her precious children because of a few thoughtless words, voiced
in ignorance.

I was curious to explore her character, and at the same time, I
couldn't help but think of the Ranma/Akane romance, which is
constantly foiled because of their sharp tongues and unthinking
insults.  And the thought came to me: "You know, I wonder what
would happen if Akane and the Snow Woman met."  That was the
thought that put "Hearts of Ice" in motion.

I found other elements of Japanese mythology ultimately
fascinating, such as the Tengu; the mysterious race of bird men
who are known for both their skill in the martial arts, and their
reputation as incorrigible tricksters.  It seemed only natural to
create a tengu character, since Ranma  is a martial arts
story, and the tengu are purported to be the ones who introduced
martial arts to the human race.  I decided to name my tengu
character "Masakazu," after a Japanese sculptor who created a
beautiful statue of a hatching tengu from a piece of red stone. 
The statue was the primary inspiration for Masakazu's "mutant
sparrow" appearance.

The appearance of the Shadowcat, though unexpected, seemed
natural, since cat demons are quite common throughout Japanese
mythology, and are known for their malevolent feelings towards
humans.

I have a fondness for incorrigible tricksters, and that's why
Susa-no-o showed up.  "The Impetuous Male," the irrepressible
Storm god.  After reading about him, I just knew I had to put him
in the story, since I knew he would be a perfect foil for Akane
while she was in the Kami Plane.


>Where did you learn your knowledge of these Japanese legends from?

As I mentioned above, I like to read a lot.  All the librarians
in the Salt Lake Valley know me by my first name.  ^_^


>Why did you make it that Akane was aging faster than Ranma?

Because, as I was thinking about how to get those two together in
the end, I realized that the whole exercise of separating Ranma
and Akane with the blood spell would be futile if, during the
ordeal, at least one of them didn't gain the wisdom and maturity
and patience necessary to make their relationship work when they
were ultimately reunited.  Akane seemed the natural choice, since
it seems to me that it is her temper, her jealousy, her
insecurity, and her refusal to listen to Ranma's protests of
innocence that creates most of the misunderstandings between
them.

I felt that giving Akane about five years in the Kami Plane, as
opposed to Ranma's month in the real world, would give her the
time she needed to come face to face with her true feelings,
soften her temper, and gain confidence in herself and her
abilities.  I didn't feel that Ranma needed to learn how to
control his temper because he doesn't really lose it unless he's
seriously provoked  or unless Akane teases him.  And he didn't
need any more confidence in his abilities, since he can be down-
right arrogant at times.  Yet, for me, his arrogance is an
acceptable part of his character, since it is, in fact, providing
a thin cover for his own deeply rooted insecurities created by
his curse, which threatens his treasured masculinity in obvious
ways.  And this charming, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic
aspect of his character is what makes Ranma so fascinating.

So why is Akane aging faster than Ranma in the Kami Plane? 
Because I want them to be able to get along when they finally get
back together, and this seemed like a creative, entertaining way
to do it.


>In the manga series of Ranma, not much focus was made on Akane's 
>abilities as a martial artist. Is this why you decided to write a story 
>that showed her capabilities? I mean now it's up to her to save 
>Ranma.(But you kinda left a cliff hanger ending when you put her back 
>with Yuki-onna, so maybe Ranma will end up saving her.)

I like to think that this story is about the untapped potential
and self-discovery in each of the characters.  Akane discovers
her own courage and self-confidence.  Nabiki discovers her own
humanity.  Shampoo discovers her own monstrosity, and then tries
to redeem herself by atoning for her actions.  Ryoga discovers a
semblance of rationality within himself.  Mousse discovers his
dignity.  Ukyo discovers self respect, independent of her desire
for Ranma.  And, of course, Ranma discovers that, in spite of the
chaos that constantly seems to surround him, and the curses that
constantly plague him, he can take control of his own life
through his own choices and actions.

As for Akane saving Ranma, or Ranma saving Akane, I like to think
that they are actually saving each other. ^_^


>What is your inspiration when writing your stories?

All of my personal life experiences.  I write from what I know.


>Why do you think Rumiko Takahashi ended Ranma the way she did?

Not knowing her, I really couldn't say.  My own suspicion,
however, is that, like the rest of the Ranma  fans, she knew
she had to end the series, yet couldn't bear to do it with
finality, because then that would truly be the end.  By leaving
it open the way she did, with no solid "happily ever after"
ending, she left open all the possibilities of what might come
after.  This is why I think Ranma fanfic flourishes above and
beyond all other anime fanfic, with the possible exception of
Sailor Moon.  There was no end, and therefore, we can pick up
where she left off.  It kind of reminds me of "Indiana Jones and
the Last Crusade."  Although it was simultaneously exhilarating
and painful to see the Indiana Jones trilogy come to an end, we
knew that both Indy and his father had drunk from the Grail,
which grants immortality.  Thus we were left with the comforting
symbolism that, though the movies are over, the characters will
never really die.


>How did you first come in contact with anime or manga?

My first contact with anime came when I was nine or ten years
old, in the mid- to late  70's, when "Battle of the Planets" was
being shown in the U.S.  Of course, I didn't know it was "anime." 
I just knew it was my favorite cartoon.  I was sorely
disappointed when it was taken off the air.  A few years later,
when I was in junior high, I was flipping channels in the morning
before heading off to school and came across a cartoon that
looked like "Battle of the Planets."  They had big eyes!  They
had spiky hair!  G-Force must have returned!  I frantically
called my brother and sister into the room, and we watched the
show together.  We soon realized that it was not G-Force at all,
but a show called "Robotech."  By the end of the half hour, we
were all hopelessly hooked.  At last!  A cartoon that didn't
insult our intelligence!

After Robotech went off the air, I lived in an anime wasteland
for about eight years.  (Salt Lake City, Utah isn't exactly the
hub for international imports.) 

Then, last July, I walked into my brother's room to see him
watching a strange cartoon.  It was on video tape, and he paused
it in mid-frame, acting embarrassed that I'd caught him watching
a cartoon.  After all, he was eighteen, and I was 25.  Surely
such juvenile fare was beneath us both.  

Mercilessly, I pressed him to explain what it was about and so,
blushing, he said it was a Japanese cartoon about a boy who 
was cursed to turn into a girl when splashed with cold water.  
I said it sounded kind of funny, and so we both watched it.  
He was relieved when I found it to be hilarious, and I told
him I wanted to see more.  It turned out that he had purchased
the whole series on the video cassettes that were available 
through Viz at the time, and we spent the whole first week of 
July, 1996, watching Ranma 1/2.  I even skipped the fireworks 
for the "An Akane to Remember" OAV.

Since then, my brother has introduced me to all kinds of anime
and manga, from Lum and Maison Ikkoku, to Ah! My Goddess, 3x3
Eyes, All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku (say *that* three
times fast), El Hazard, The Record of the Lodoss Wars, Bubblegum
Crisis, the Dirty Pair, Battle Angel Alita, etc.

 
>What do you think about the violence and mature subjects in anime?

If it's actually relevant to the story, I don't mind too much. 
As Orson Scott Card once said, "Evil [in fiction] is more
entertaining than unrelenting goodness because any depiction of
life without evil is a lie."  However, I'm still somewhat of a
prude, and excessive violence and gratuitous sexual content make
me gag.  I came close to losing my lunch while reading "Battle
Angle Alita."  Needless to say, I tend to avoid anime and manga
that contain such graphic depictions of violence and sex.  

I personally would not take action to deny anyone else the right
to watch whatever they want to, though I think that such
depictions of violence and sex are highly inappropriate for young
children.  Fortunately, not all anime and manga are full of
violence and sex, just as not all fantasy is full of sword-and-
sorcery.  Again, a quote from Orson Scott Card comes to mind: "My
most recent hardback novel has only sold two thousand copies. 
Think of it -- all that hard work, all that emotional
involvement, and only one-thousandth of one percent of the
American population has read it.  In a nation of voluntary
illiterates, who needs censorship?"

On a lighter note, I found it humorous to discover that my
brother is even more of a prude than I am.  After buying the
entire Ranma  video series, he went through and dubbed them
onto another tape, carefully editing out any flashes of nudity. 
Makes me wonder if, after editing "Bath-house Battle," there was
anything left to watch. ^_^


>Anime and manga are products of Japanese culture. Why do you think they 
>appeal to a lot of people?

Because, on the whole, both the art and the story lines of anime
and manga are of a higher quality, and generally more intelligent
than the slush pile of what usually passes for entertainment here
in America, both on the big and small screen, and in books.  I
personally have found anime and manga a refreshing reprieve from
the run-of-the-mill standard so prevalent in almost all avenues
of American entertainment today.


>Why are manga and anime so addictive?

See above. ^_^  It's good stuff.


>Anime and manga have categories such as shojo or shonen. Why do you 
>think there is a distinction?

Oh heck, I'm not sure.  I think I heard a rumor that the
distinction was between "comics for girls" and "comics for boys." 
But I'm pretty sure that people of both genders read both kinds
of manga.


>How do you think manga influences anime and vice versa?

I think anime is more influenced by manga rather than visa versa.  
After all, most of the anime I've seen was simply based on manga 
that was released first.


>It seems to me that more people are now getting hooked to anime. Why do 
>you think this is happening?

Word of mouth.  As I said, this is good stuff, and friends are passing
it to friends, the same way my brother passed it on to me, and the same
way I passed it on to my friends...


>Do you think the sudden boom of anime in America is a fad or is it here 
>to stay?

From what I've seen, I would say it's here to stay.


>What role do you think anime and manga play in American culture?

I really couldn't say.  From my own experience and observation, I 
know it's spurred an interest in Japan, its people and its culture.  
I personally have found that the ideas of Asian stereotypes that, I
am ashamed to say, were fostered in me as a child growing up in a
post-World War II, post-Vietnam, post-Korean War society, have
been dissolved to be replaced by admiration and a growing respect
for Asian people, as well as a desire to visit their countries
and learn about them first hand.


>What is your favorite anime?

That's tough.  I just finished watching El Hazard and The
Slayers, and I really liked those.  Ah! Megami-Sama is an all-time
favorite, as well as the Tenchi Muyo! OAV series.  But I think
Ranma  will always hold the highest place in my heart.


>Thanks again for answering these questions.
>I know there are a lot. (sorry)

No problem, I'm glad to help.  However, now that I've answered
all these questions and practically told you my life story ^_^, I
was wondering if you wouldn't mind telling me a bit about
yourself, as well as this project you're working on.  I'd also
like to know how the whole thing turns out.


>So, when are you going to finish your Hearts of Ice story? Or is it 
>going to be a continuing series?

I've got one more chapter left, but it's going to be the longest
one yet, possibly around 70 pages.  I'm about half-way finished
with it at the moment, and it should be ready to post within the
next couple of weeks.

[I can't believe I thought I only had one chapter left!  Aughh!!]

>Keep up the good work!

Thanks! ^_^

Ja ne,

Krista




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