This week’s author interview is with ghostcat3000. If you haven’t followed her on tumblr or read all of her fics you need to look at your life and look at your choices. Like, immediately. Her WIP for the fandom is All Things Go, a 20-part fic series that she talks about in the interview. Also, she coined the tag pairings of, #Logan Echolls #Concerned about your orgasms since 2004, and she deserves a parade for that fact alone.
Questions #8 and #10 contain references to the movie.
1. What’s the story behind the name ghostcat? Are you actually a ghost? Do you like cats?
Ha. I used to live in an apartment where I would constantly feel a phantom cat swiping through my legs. It turns out there was a cat that lived there, just prior to us, a big tabby who used to sit at the window in the kitchen and meow at passersby.
When the time came for a fanfic pseudonym, Ghostcat sounded right to me and that’s me on AO3. Alas, Ghostcat is taken on tumblr, so I added the 3000 in honor of Andre 3000 of Outkast.
I love both cats and dogs but sadly, I no longer have pets because half of the people in my apartment are allergic. :(
2. a. What was the inspiration behind the current series, All Things Go, that you’re writing?
I’d only started writing fanfic last summer and joined Tumblr not long after. My falling in love with the V-Mars universe coincided with being inspired by some spectacular parallel spotlighting gif sets (bartowski, loganmars) and character discussions (petpluto, mysilverylining, troublescout and many more). The fandom is incredibly passionate and smart. They brought up a lot of smaller mysteries within the show, psychological ones, and it led to a lot of story ideas. Too many, really.
Anywho, I wanted to give writing VM fanfiction a shot but I was fairly intimidated. The scope of the show is ambitious, the protagonist is a ballsy, takes no shit smartypants and the big significant romantic relationship is fraught with unseen history. But I was so inspired! Every song I heard connected with some thought or another and I found myself jotting down fic ideas in my head based on those songs: Chicago by Sufjan Stevens, I Was a Lover by TV on the Radio, Back In Your Head by Tegan and Sara, The Haunted Man by Bats for Lashes and quite a few more. I decided to focus on Logan and Veronica, their history both before, during and after the series and all the moments we never got a chance to experience. I knew I didn’t want to do a straightforward chronological series, partly because I wanted each story to work on its own and partly because I wanted them to mirror the show’s flashback structure. For example, Veronica might look at an old photo in one story, and the next story might be a story set during that time. Or Logan might mention someone unwittingly saving his life and they are the next story’s protagonist. Nothing too obvious but something to tie them together so that if anyone were ever crazy enough to read all of these in one go, the shifts would make a little bit of sense.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of outlining and scribbling on envelopes during my commute home and thinking and little actual writing. It was getting ridiculous and as a bit of a dare to myself, I threw myself into writing what became Heard the Old Man and the Sea Singing Low, the first story in the series and one set in the present day. One of my New Girl fandom buddies, and quite an astonishing writer in her own right, Blithers, agreed to beta so I had no excuse but to commit. This was August of last year, I published Heard the Old Man… in September.
(PS HUGE shout out to Blithers. She told me that when she originally agreed to do this, she was under the impression that these fics were going to be mostly drabbles and ficlets. Oops. She is an incredible sounding board, super smart and intuitive. She somehow manages to restrain her inner Grammarian God from smiting me every time I take all tenses on a trip through space and time.)
2. b. Is your outline for the series going to change based on events from the movie?
Yes! I have a very specific idea for Logan’s career track which will require an insane amount of research and because I’m insanely lazy, I want confirmation on my hunch before I proceed.
I already started in the present so in quite a few ways, I’m going to have to stick to my incorrect guesses but I’ll figure out a way to meld it to canon so that it’s not such a jarring variation. At the same time, it has to make sense and not seem shoehorned in. It will require a certain amount of finesse.
3. I know it’s one of your goals as an author to balance your perceptions of characters vs. the characters actual perceptions. How do you do that and work to keep out personal bias?
I think try is definitely the operative word. It’s definitely a struggle! Not sure how I’m doing.
With All Things Go, I knew I wanted to explore certain canon events and in canon, Veronica loves Duncan Kane (and really likes Piz, but more on that in a moment). While it took some work, I grew to appreciate Duncan despite the aspects of his arc I find deeply problematic and unresolved. I focused on Logan and Veronica who, while very similar to an extent, have entirely different reasons for caring about people. They both love Duncan without reservation and while a lot of that comes from pre-series events that we never get the chance to witness, it’s important to consider that they don’t really change their minds during the run of his stay in the series despite everything we learn about him and judge him for. Duncan always remains important to both of them. So I thought a lot about Duncan from Veronica’s perspective and tried to reconstruct him in such a way that would make sense to both her, The Powers That Be’s intentions and to my own feelings.
There is nothing easy about taking this tact at all. I think it would’ve been much, much easier to villainize the characters I don’t care for. In the end, I said fuck it. Let me try to understand where Rob Thomas is coming from and use it as a writing exercise of sorts. Which part of the characterization did the show drop the ball on that I can address or flesh out? What are the limits of my own perspective? How does that refine my headcanon for unseen events? And so on…
I’m still struggling with it. I’ve been trying to wrap up a Piz/Veronica story for months now. It was supposed to be the third story in the series but because I couldn’t get a handle on Piz’s voice, it’s just sat there, eyeing me sadly. Now it has to be Piz’s POV for story reasons but I’ve just found his POV so limiting. For example, and this is set slightly before the events of the film, him and Veronica go to a dinner party where some of the guests are clearly awful. The readers are meant to find them awful, Veronica finds them awful but Piz… not so much. He genuinely likes people and isn’t cynical enough to see manipulation. How do I get him to see it? I feel like he doesn’t fit in my head, much less the universe!
4. a. How long have you been in the VMars fandom…
Trufax: When the show was on the air, I wasn’t overly inspired to watch it. Buffy, that I was a rabid, stupid fan for, was dying down and I thought that Veronica Mars, with its cute blonde in high school fighting crime, looked like a wack imitation. Also, I was entering a dumb, snooty phase where I wanted to stop watching high school set shows. I saw the photo ads, heard a few lines and dismissed it. Also, I thought the boys on the show weren’t that cute. HA HA HA HA HA. Ah, youth!
Fast forward to the fall of 2011, my family got hit with a couple of unconnected tragedies: an immediate family member was brutally murdered and I miscarried. While I was at home, on medical leave, I decided to watch the pilot on Netflix. BAD MOVE. It was way darker than I expected and a little too much for that place and time. But it stuck with me, haunted me a little, and I swore to return to it at some point.
Add another year to that and then came Kickstarter and all the coverage. I remembered the show and decided it was safe to try again. VM was no longer on Netflix so I bought series one on Amazon. By the end of the first episode I was hooked. And by the end of the week, I was OBSESSED. It’s funny how art is ready for us when we’re ready for it. The Veronica Mars universe is a surprisingly dark place and I love that it is. It’s entertainment that helped me understand what it is to survive and overcome things that are supposed to mark you for life. It hits hard even though it’s coated in sugar.
I know that fandom Johnny-come-latelies never had to experience the exquisite agony of the 7 year wait. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t envy that experience at all. That being said, I’m so, so grateful for all the lifers because without them we wouldn’t have any of the stuff that’s coming our way. I bow down to them every day.
4. b. …and what do you like about writing for it?
What I like most about writing for this fandom is the incredibly rich psychological material to work with and the diversity of the characters. Not so much in terms of race/ethnicity but in perspective. I love that all of our characters consistently misread each other and situations. Everybody is wrong, everybody is right.
I’m also really into word choice and vocal rhythms in dialogue and the voices in this universe are all strikingly unique. You can always tell who is who, either by the honey and the sweetheart, the playful Fennelian summary or the classic Echollsism*. Even the context in which all of these characters say “Veronica” is incredibly specific.
5. Were there any storylines or characters from the Veronica Mars series that you started off HATING that you ended up really LIKING or LOVING? Or at least, not hating as strongly?
I think that, in time, I started to appreciate the Cassidy as the supervillain of season two (and arguably, the silent Big Bad of season one). On multiple viewings, his plan was genius and he was a formidable adversary in that he was an unseen, unobserved one. I wish though, that the final reveal had been less villainous monologuing and more pragmatic, more chilling. I don’t think this is Kyle Gallner’s fault since apparently he didn’t know that he was the person behind all the deaths until the last minute. I wonder how knowing this information could’ve shaped his performance throughout the seasons. I definitely think it would’ve radically altered his take on the final confrontation on the roof.
I think the show is genius, GENIUS, at playing parallels and the idea that Veronica, who is outwardly very strong but inwardly a bit of a softie versus someone who is outwardly a victim but is inwardly rather ruthless could’ve been drawn out a bit more. Either by having Cassidy being more vicious is socially acceptable ways (his rivalry with Veronica in FLBA could have gone bigger) that seem harmless but in retrospect weren’t at all.
6. Were there any oneshot or minor characters that you would have liked to have a bigger role? What would you have liked to have happened with them?
I think season three’s bubbly, optimistic, true feminist powerhouse, Parker Lee was so misused. She provided another example of what one does after your life is turned upside-down by events outside of your control. She thrived, slowly, on her own terms, despite her parents, despite what other people thought of her. Veronica did not get her at all at first and I enjoyed seeing her put all the pieces together and figuring out that Parker was better than she’d ever surmised. Parker just had a different way of being.
Didn’t care for her being Logan’s girlfriend because it diminished her importance, turned her into a romantic obstacle, which she so didn’t need to be. I almost wish Parker had dumped Logan after one date because she got wise to the whole Epic sitch but stayed his friend anyway. Because how great would that have been? It’s not like it would take away from anything, there’s inherent drama in Logan getting close to anyone. At the time, Veronica would probably have found it more crushing to see him move on as a person without her. Romance didn’t even have to play into it.
7. Any fanfiction pet peeves, either specifically related to Veronica Mars or in general?
Specifically related to the Mars universe, I have two very intense pet peeves.
One, I have serious beef with any fic that thinks that making Veronica Mars a super bitch is some kind of shorthand for intelligence. Veronica is smarter than you. Rule #1, accept no substitutions. She’s a terrifying mix of intuitive and diligent, which is why people constantly underestimate her. They think she’ll stop once she realizes she’s wrong. HA HA HA HA. Fools! A fic where Veronica is a dummy, even a pre-series pink-clad, long-haired Veronica 1.0 fic, loses all my respect instantly. Don’t get me wrong, Veronica can be bitchy but she’s also got to be the fastest brain in the room. That’s her super power.
Two, as a Latina I get seriously creeped out by stories that fetishize Weevil Navarro as some kind of dusky bit of strange. If I see one description of Weevil’s skin tone using food metaphors, like his fingers were the color of cocoa beans, I just peace out to a magical land. I love Weevil in fics (because Weevs is smart, provides an important perspective on the haves and have-nots of Neptune and on the shallow tip, no one was prettier than season one Weevil and him batting his eyelashes at anybody is always welcome) but I just want writers to examine their imagery more. This stuff matters. We notice.
8. What are your favorite kinds of fanfic stories for Veronica Mars to read? Any that you keep returning to?
I like arresting moments and a strong POV. Below are some of my favorite awesome Veronica Mars fanfiction moments, LoVe-specific edition:
When grown-up, totally together, NYC journalist Logan Echolls answers the door shirtless sucking on a thumb burn to one surprised Veronica Mars. Oh, and Toby Keith is blasting in the background. Present day AU.
Teenage Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars are on the lam, with Donut in tow. In a 7-Eleven parking lot, Logan uses Veronica’s transparent fakeout makeout attempt to his advantage. Round one, Echolls.
High School Sophomore Veronica Mars is determined to get over her post-assault fear of sex and decides to use an unwitting, blindfolded Logan. She wears Lilly’s perfume and surprisingly, he wishes she hadn’t. He breathes in the spot on her sternum where it isn’t as strong.
Would-be Season 4 Logan and Veronica, both dating others (in V’s case, Piz) involve themselves in an ill-advised game of I Never. Logan snarkily reminds Veronica what the rules are because she conveniently seems to have forgotten.
AU present day Fed Veronica works a case and winds up on a South American reefer ship where she befriends a scraggly mute working on board. She’s in his cramped little room, looking to borrow a book and in his carelessness he neglects to put his ever present sunglasses back on.
Veronica sees her relationship to Logan as a series of photographs, surveillance or memory. He wipes out surfing, gets put on painkillers and she takes him home. His energy, usually a keyed up thing, is dimmed and this makes him safe, flattens him out, makes him hers. Post-season 3 AU.
Wallace calls Veronica Mars to tell her about bumping into Lt. Logan Echolls, fighter pilot in the US Navy. She takes the news as well as she could with an endless stream of questions and vivid Top Gun slo mo flashes. Present day AU.
There are so many wonderful fics out there, this is just a small list. I could do this ALL DAY, SON. ALL. DAY.
9. George R.R. Martin expressed that he thinks there are two type of writers: gardeners and architects. Would you say you’re more of a gardener, an architect, or some hybrid of the two?
Definitely a hybrid. I’ve planned out most of the ATG material, both song and story. Some are several page outlines, some are dialogue only, and some are half-finished WIPs. I know which story is last and I know which stories need to be together. I’ve also planned the connections between them. An insignificant detail in one will pop up in another, this time carrying considerably more weight. I like easter eggs in shows, so I try to have them in my stories.
Despite all the prep, I think it’s important to be flexible and leave room for change. The way I use the prompts for each story is different and sometimes, I find that a particular song has an unexpected detail I want to explore and that will lead me to restructure a story or reconsider a POV.
I also know that after the movie comes out, the series is just bound to change. Not just because of new canon but because the actors are older, they are going to bring deeper things to it, everyone’s characterization is going to be tweaked slightly and these changes will be inspiring. That’s the beauty of fanfiction, whether or not you choose to ignore canon, you can always use the source material for inspiration and that inspiration is in constant flux.
10. What was one moment from the movie that made you go, “WOAH!” either out of joy or surprise or frustration?
I didn’t say woah but I’m pretty sure I muttered “HOLY HELLS” during the Logan and Veronica make out sesh slash Arts & Craft pillar bang. The best part of it was the breathless communal experience of seeing it in a theater. You could hear people gasp when Veronica grabbed Logan’s face, squeal at him lifting her up and spinning her, or after that shirt rip, hoot, yes, hoot. Like OWLS. Shit was crazy.
Waiting to go in, I spent some time eavesdropping the conversations of the other folks standing in line. One woman, who couldn’t have been more than 15 when the show was on the air, was complaining to her friend that she wouldn’t be able to deal if Veronica didn’t get with Logan because Logan Echolls was the reason she knew about orgasms. She shifted from one leg to the other, tried to sound appropriately ironically detached, but the anxiety radiated from her. She sat behind me in the theater and I heard every single exclamation that came out of her mouth, and when that scene hit, she said nothing. Afterwards, I heard one long whispered FUUUUUUUUUUCK MEEEEEEEE.
Upon repeated viewings (This is laughable but honestly, I was trying to get to the point where I could view the technical aspects and the only way to do that is to get the emotional component out of your system and this reads like bullshit, doesn’t it? LOL.), that scene is so amazingly acted that I’m kind of in awe of it. You can read every bit of subtext, the missing years between them, the fear, the familiarity, the want and the need. It’s their faces. The way they can’t stop looking at each other, like perfect open mouthed mirrors.
The wonderful Veronica Mars fic writer Absolutelyiris and I have half-jokingly messaged each other about stellar sex scene acting (the most recent being Rust/Maggie in True Detective) and I thought of our conversation when I saw this. I feel like without Bell’s and Dohring’s commitment to their characters, the history that Logan and Veronica have in canon, the incredibly dedicated fanbase, you wouldn’t have that big breath hold and release. You wouldn’t have that investment. It wouldn’t exist. You’d just have mild titillation or worse, no response at all. But luckily that wasn’t the case, not one bit. We were all one person in the dark, willing them on.
Unconnected to these questions, I just want to say thanks to the fine ladies of VM Fic Recs for asking me to do this (even though I am an impostor) and thank you to anyone who has ever read one of my stories and left a comment or messaged me. It means a great deal to know that you are not just shouting into the fandom void and that there are readers out there who are interested in following what you’re doing. Also a big thank you to other writers in this fandom who have always been wonderfully supportive. This fandom has a rich array of voices and I’m super proud to be one of them.