"Holding On" interview

with Renfield




1. Are there any authors - fanfic or non - whom you count as influences?


When I first read Robert Asprin's Another Fine Myth I was impressed at how he took the genre of fantasy adventure and turned it on its ear. That was the book that made me decide I wanted to be a writer.


When I discovered fan fic, I found myself attracted to the stories that explored heavier dramatic elements that the show (being a comedy) generally eschewed, such as the works of CE Foreman, Michelle Klein-Haas, and Martin Pollard. However, it was Diane Long's "It's My Party and I'll Cry, But Not In Front of You" that made me say "I want to write a story like that!"



2. What kind of responses have you gotten from readers on this story?


When I was getting ready to send out the story to the sites, I posted the first two pages on a message board, ending with Daria's line "-before Quinn died" as a teaser. I think it really helped to build the anticipation for the story considering my reputation at the time. When I sent it out, I posted the message "Some have read my stories and speculated that I must be quite a depressed individual. After reading this, they will probably demand an intervention." It was a comment designed to whet appetites further still until the Daria sites got around to their next update. Imagine my surprise when Martin replied with a link to the story at Outpost Daria, before he updated the site. It was very heartening to know that he thought highly enough of the story that he would go out of his way to provide immediate access to it.


Most people who have read it have been highly complimentary. I was glad to see many people enjoyed the revelation that Daria was laughing at the funeral. I nearly didn't include that scene because I felt it was a trifle clichˇd, so I was glad to know that it worked as well as it did. I was also surprised to see that many people interpreted a different outcome to the story than the ones I considered, which I will touch on in the answer to question 4.



3. What are your own feelings about this story and what happens in it? How do you think it compares to other Daria fanfics you've written?


I wanted to write a story that showed Daria dressing like Quinn, and imagined a situation in which she would. I wanted to use the flashbacks to present the mystery, steer the reader towards an explanation, then revisit the flashbacks to show that something else entirely was going on. From there I knew it would be a race towards the ending as I ratcheted up the suspense until the full explanation could be revealed. Ultimately, I have always been dissatisfied with the way the flashbacks came out. I really wanted to present them one way and then show that something else entirely was going on just by switching the point of view or focusing on different details, and I just didn't pull that off as effectively as I wanted.


As for how it compares to my other stories, well that's always personally subjective. I admit to liking this one for how I managed to make things work as well as I did, and I've always had a soft spot for the ending.



4. The ending of this fic - "Doctor Moore held on to Daria for a very long time" - can be read ambiguously, in that it is unclear if Daria finally falls or Doctor Moore is able to save her.  Was this your intention?  What do you envision happening after the final sentence?  Was this always your planned ending?


Growing up, I was always annoyed by stories that had ambiguous endings. I always felt they cheated the reader. When I use that technique I like to think that a) I'm not being so ambiguous that it can't be figured out what happened - even if the reader has to make the choice themselves, and b) leaving things ambiguous leaves the possibility of hope.


When I realized I didn't have to say which way Daria stepped off the wall, I knew I had a good ending because I could leave things both hopeful and sad. Daria could have stepped off into the Doctor's waiting arms. Daria also could have stepped forward, out of reach of the Doctor as she plummeted. However, one possibility that many people seized on was the fact that since Daria stepped off the wall, and Doctor Moore lunged for her, then apparently Doctor Moore jumped to try to catch her and accompanied her to the quarry floor. To these people I say, "What the hell's wrong with you?" 


As for me, while I personally lean towards a certain direction, I feel I can not publicly admit my interpretation of the ending, as that is in the hands of every reader, whether they like their endings happy, sad, or doubly sad.



5. Did you have a time in mind when this story takes place, as far as it fitting into a mainline Dariaverse before it veers into an AU? When exactly was this story first written? (month, year)


I know it was posted in the summer of 2001, just before a holiday. I never really planned a time when it took place in canon, aside from when they were both still in high school and Daria was dating Tom, so sometime during the last season.



6. Have you ever wanted to make changes to the story, or to any of your Daria stories?


All the time, but I resist the urge. While I felt there are improvements that could be made to this story, I've never really been sure what they should be. Actually, "Diary Dearest" is the one I would most like to "fix," but I believe that once it's out there, it's done. A writer's energies are better spent towards taking what they've learned and putting that towards another, better story.



7. How do you view the field of Daria fanfiction as it has evolved over the years?


There's a loaded question. At this point I guess I'm one of the old guard who's seen quite a lot. I've seen a lot of prolific and talented writers set a standard and move on. I've seen Iron Chefs evolve from plot-summaries-in-an-hour to fics-on-demand. I've seen message board stories change from the occasional ficlet to multi-chaptered series and epics. All in all, it's been a lot of fun and it still is.



8. Do your family members or friends know you are a fanfic writer? What do they think about it?


My wife knows. She likes my stories, although she's not a big Daria fan. Sometimes I mention it to family or friends, but they don't really get it, as only a fan can.



9. What does this story say, in your own words? Does it have a moral or point to be made, as you see it?


Well, they were my own words, and that's what they said. It wasn't a parable, but if it produced an emotional reaction in the reader, then it had a point.



10. A lot of your stories have a psychological bent - In "Holding On", a therapist is an important character. In "Last Stage Out", the 5 stages of grief are personified, and in others, the Morgendorffer children are placed in mental hospitals. Is there anything specific in the Daria series that inspires these settings - do any of the characters strike you as being prone to actions that would get them committed, for example, or are likely to commit suicide as shown in "Holding On" and "Psycho Sis" - or is it an area you have explored for other reasons, such as personal interest or your own experience in it?


While growing up I did have issues with the medical profession but the doctors in question were not psychologists, although the experiences did lead to a lot of self-analysis when I matured. That being said, I think I use doctors and hospitals because they make it easier to tell the story. Doctors a) are in a position to remove a person's rights, which makes them a good source of conflict, and b) since their purpose is analysis they make good sources of exposition to the reader. As a corollary to that, a psychological story doesn't require much medical knowledge, just carefully applied logic. I don't think the characters or the series inspire these situations per se, I just took situations that happen to people every day and applied them to these characters.



11. What would you have said Quinn's intentions were when asking Daria for help? She had to know that her sister wouldn't just hand her the proverbial loaded gun and say "Off you go". It could even indicate that Quinn might not really have been sure about wanting to die, as Daria could have informed Helen. Are there any reasons this wasn't explored, or did you think that Quinn may have actually believed Daria would provide her with a suicide method?


That's a good question, and I admit I never considered that. Since I only needed Quinn up to certain point as it were, I never considered what her actual thoughts might have been beyond that. Most thoughts of suicide and the attempts are cries for help, though. While I think this is one of those things that should be left up to the reader to decide, I think that Quinn wouldn't have brought it up if she wasn't seriously that depressed, but that she genuinely wanted to be talked out of it even if she didn't realize it.



12. Do you have plans to write more works in the future?


I'm not going to announce retirement, but I have tried to actively concentrate on other projects. I am very active in organizing and planning two annual conventions and I'm a member of some local performance troupes, so those take a lot of creative energy. Also there is a novel I try to devote my attention to, which has been slow going.


I probably will write more fics if I have the time and decide to do so. There is a new game I've been thinking about introducing. I have a few other ideas still kicking around, and who knows when inspiration may hit...



13. If you could have fanart done of any scenes from any of your stories, which scenes would you like to see most? Pick as many as you want, but pick at least five.


When I was writing my first fic "Diary Dearest" there was fan art posted on the home page of Daria's Rubber Room, one of the big sites at the time. It was close enough to what I was picturing that I altered one of the scenes to incorporate it.


I'd be flattered of any fan art that my stories might inspire, but if I had to choose some, hmmm...


Malice of Absence - Daria and Kevin in the hallway as the FC looks on.

Seeing Things Through - Jane sketching Allison, or the sketch itself

The Fear of Living Dangerously - Daria getting carried out of school or serenaded

Holding On - Daria sitting in the front seat post-accident, or standing on the wall

Kiss Until - Daria, Jane, and Quinn on Daria's bed, or Jane painting Quinn



14. Do you visualize events taking place in your stories in your head like movies as your write? (In other words, are you a cinematic writer?) Do you find that you have unique visions of how certain characters look?


I don't think I'd call it cinematic, but I do picture the scenes in my head as I write. That's one of the things that slows me down, actually, as I'm never sure how much detail to include (and usually settle on too little.) My visions of the characters are pretty much exactly as they appear on the show, with the exception that I do imagine them as three-dimensional people with real coloring and texture.



15.  At least one of your fics ("Diary Dearest") has inspired a sequel by another author ("The Whole Truth", by Lawndale Stalker).  What are your feelings about this, and are there any other fics you've written that you would like to see another author continue?


I think this is one of the highest forms of praise a fan fic author can receive. I was deeply honored when Lawndale Stalker introduced himself and sent me the story he wrote. Authors in this situation do have to realize that they have no control over what someone else writes, in the same way that Glenn has no control over us. In my case, while I disagreed with many of the conclusions he drew and the story choices he made, I think it was an excellent extrapolation and continuation of events into a great fic.


As for other authors continuing my stories, I guess that would be up to them and I'd be flattered at whichever ones they chose. I did get a message from a fan who indicated they wanted to continue "Malice of Absence", but as far as I know that never materialized.



16. "Malice of Absence" is often quoted as one of the best (and angstiest) AU Daria fanfics ever. Please talk about how you got the idea for the story, how it evolved, and what kind of response the story has gotten.


That one spun out of a piece of dialogue from "Antisocial Climbers" when Daria said, "I wish my parents had stopped at one child." I speculated at what Daria's life would have been like if she had her parents' undivided attention... their full attention... focused solely on her. It would have been hell. I figured that Quinn was so much of a handful and attention hog that Daria had lived her whole life being able to avoid their attention and excuse herself from any situation whenever she wanted. Helen and Jake, while not ignoring Daria per se, pretty much had to focus their attention on Quinn through both her younger age and active manipulation. Also, Quinn provided at least a visual outlet for Helen's maternal instincts, because she was into all the standard girly stuff, like clothes, boys, and beauty. Without Quinn, Daria would have had her parents all to herself, but had no escape from becoming the daughter that Helen wanted. Helen, being able to focus on her career while having only one daughter to actively guide into becoming a successful woman, would have become harder. Jake... well Jake was difficult, for some reason I've always had a blind spot for him. I decided he became flightier because I was halfway through the story, hadn't used him yet, and had no idea how I would. I knew how the story would end when I started, it was just a matter of guiding it there. I'm glad it is still talked about, and most people do drop me a note when they first read it to tell me how much they enjoyed it (or how depressed it made them.)



17. Same for "Last Stage Out," please: background notes, how it began, what responses you've gotten about it.


I was always annoyed that the writers never did anything more with Link considering how they ended IIFY. Sharp-eyed readers who found the buried afterword know that the whole story is an allegory for a situation in which I found myself. Link and Daria's relationship was close enough to the real life situation that I found it easy to imagine Daria in that position. When I set out to write the story, I did try to use each of the characters in their allegorical roles, but found I could not sustain it for an entire story. I do enjoy employing different literary techniques, and setting it up as a story within a story while tricking the reader into thinking I was treading dangerously close to the dreaded "OOC" label is always a source of surprise for the reader. The feedback on the story almost always includes a comment about that and has been very positive. I admit to being a trifle startled that no one has ever made the obvious comment, though.



Thanks for the questions!