Interview with the authors of Fangasm – Supernatural Fangirls
If you read my review of this book, or have read my blog or my Gliterary Girl column before, you won’t be surprised to find out that this interview was a dream for me. It could have only been made better had I been able to sit down with these ladies face to face….one day, maybe!
I wanted to dig a little deeper to find out how these (quite frankly inspirational) fangirls turned their pursuit and passion into a book which is speaking to fans the world over. The novel which started all of this isn’t just for Supernatural fans, it isn’t exclusive; in fact quite the opposite. Sure, if you are already hooked on the divine, demon-hunting Winchester brothers, Fangasm delivers, but if you have ever sought to be accepted as a fan or really wanted to put it out there how much something means to you but feared the social consequences, you need to read this and bask in the glory of validation!
In this interview, Lynn and Katherine share more about their journey to create the book and some fun inside gossip, like what it’s like to be in Jared Padalecki’s trailer while he changes…yes, really.
Read my review of the book here.
- You mention a lot in the book about being in one mode or another (the fangirl or the academic). How much was really just fangirl when you realised you may be able to use your skills to research a book….give us a percentage?!
K: Impossible! So much of the time I think we occupied both positions simultaneously – business in the front and party in the back! I also think the difficulty in sorting out when we were fans and when we were academics speaks to the very problem we wanted to highlight. The two co-exist and any division winds up being artificial. And detrimental. It’s like saying that fangirls don’t *think* and academics approach their areas of expertise with dispassionate precision. The truth is so much messier – emotion always informs analysis and there’s an awful lot of analysis involved in being a fan. Where are those boundaries? I know I haven’t been able to pinpoint them yet.
L: Neither of us has been very successful in disentangling our fangirl selves from our academic selves, so I think we’ve pretty much given up. I will say that there was a fair amount of fannish motivation behind the decision to write a book that happened to be about the Show we were so passionate about, but the original drive to delve into research came more from our academic side. I remember sort of shaking my head and asking myself ‘What the HELL is going on with me??’ when I fell head over heels for Supernatural. Later, when I had discovered the amazing fandom community and experienced firsthand what a supportive and healthy place it can be, I wanted to do the research that would back up those perceptions. I’m still fascinated by the phenomenon of fandom and the phenomenon that is Supernatural, and am constantly having ideas for more research projects, so I guess my fangirl and academic selves are still pretty entangled. And I think that’s probably a good thing.
- What were the best and worst parts of the journey to create Fangasm?
K: Well the best parts were the times spent with other fans. That joy is infectious and it’s so *rare* in our daily lives. Our first time at Comic Con, waiting all day for the Supernatural panel surrounded by other fans, our first Supernatural convention standing in line after line. It was fantastic to be in that.
And of course the worst part was the toll it took on family life. I think researching any book would have had similar consequences in terms of taking time away but I also think that there were times that what we were doing seemed less than legitimate. We were studying popular culture, not Shakespeare (who of course *was* popular culture at one point). It was hard to justify and I think I was on the defensive for the better part of three or four years because I felt required to justify what I was doing, perhaps to myself most of all.
L: The best parts were definitely the roadtrips we took through fandom – conventions, a local theater production halfway across the country, film premieres, set visits, or just trips to meet up with other fans. There was a tremendous sense of freedom to just picking up and going – it was something neither of us had ever done, and we were constantly worrying about whether we deserved that freedom, but it was also exhilarating in the way that unfamiliar territory can be. Buoyed by the motivation of both seeing the boys and writing the book, I pushed myself outside my comfort zone in countless ways, and came out on the other side a different person. Fandom itself did a lot of that for me – it allowed me to be real and to explore the real me within a community that was supportive and encouraging. Also, chatting with Jared and Jensen in their trailers and having drinks with Misha rank right up there with best things EVER. Obviously.
The worst parts were the balls we inevitably dropped during the course of our epic juggling act. Children and partners weren’t always happy about our treks across the country or our long hours spent immersed in either research or online fandom. And while we made many wonderful new friends along the way, we also lost a friendship that was important to both of us.
- From your interaction with fans what was the most common reason people felt drawn to the show?
K: Overall I’d say it was something in the family dynamic, the boys’ relationship to their father, to their absent mother, to each other. Yeah, Jared and Jensen are handsome, but I don’t think that’s enough by itself to hook people, to create the emotional bond with these characters that we’ve felt ourselves and that we’ve heard so many people talk about. These men are damaged, flawed, complex people. And we respond to that.
L: I agree it’s the family dynamic, and that’s been extended to the other important characters – Castiel, Bobby, Kevin, Ellen, Jo, Jody. The idea that “family don’t end with blood” is a powerful one, and I think it resonates with many fans. I like to say that what we call ourselves – the SPN Family – is more than just a hashtag on twitter. It’s the way the community feels for many of us, in a very real way. That dynamic has always been there on Supernatural, exemplified by the way that Dean and Sam love each other and are there for each other, and later by the bonds they form with Cas, Bobby, Kevin, etc. It’s why this season has been so painful, as Sam and Dean are torn apart and hurting each other so badly – but when they inevitably find their way back to each other, I think we’ll all feel validated.
The character of Castiel has also resonated with many fans – he was a compelling figure from that amazing scene that introduced him, and he caught the imagination of fandom instantly. His ‘otherness’, his emotional bond with the Winchesters (especially Dean), his journey down the route of good intentions and terrible mistakes – most of us can relate. And just as Jared and Jensen and the chemistry between them brought their characters to life (and yes, looked really damn good doing it), Misha brought Castiel to life in a way that drew fans to the Show.
- Of all those you met on the way, who was the most influential on your work? (Actors, producer, fellow fangirls all included)…and why?
K: Hands down it was Chad Lindberg and his friend and former housemate Tony Zierra. Chad introduced us to Tony who directed My Big Break, a documentary about the consequences of fame. Tony gave us some invaluable advice at a moment when we were struggling to find our own voices and when various “powers that *were*” were trying to assert their authority over us. He encouraged us to say “no” and be true to our own stories. And of course Chad was a shining example of the bravery it takes to be honest and to be yourself in a business that often demands that you conform to someone else’s definition of who you are or should be. (If anyone hasn’t seen this movie yet – you really have to.)
L: In addition to Chad and Tony, I doubt we would have kept going if Eric Kripke, Sera Gamble, Jared and Jensen hadn’t been so supportive from early on – and later, Misha kept inspiring us not to worry about what others might think of our story, simply because he models that sort of “I’m gonna be me, f—k it” mantra. I’m glad we listened. There are so many fans who influenced the direction the books took as well – every time we sat down with someone to hear their “story,” we learned something about fandom, Supernatural, and ourselves. I feel like much of the fandom has gone along on this journey with us!
- There is quite a lot of emotion in the book at times; strained friendships, relationships with partners and children……now you have a finished product to which people are reacting so positively, has this helped iron out the strain that researching the book created?
K: I think time has helped more than anything else. My kids are grown now and leading their own lives. What I do now doesn’t really impact them the way it did when they were growing up. My husband never really minded to begin with. He’s happy for me now, but he was also happy for me as I was researching. I do regret friendships lost. In some cases that has not been fixed.
L: Everything turned out well – so much better than we ever dreamed – except for a few friendships which never quite recovered from the strain. My children are now the best PR people ever for all our books. (My daughter is a Supernatural fan herself; my son, not so much. Though he does like the Impala.)
- Do you have fangirl feelings towards any other shows/musicians/authors…if so who?
K: I find myself being drawn into the Thor/Loki fandom – perhaps for many of the same reasons I love Supernatural. The family dynamic of the black sheep is always compelling as is the desperate need for the love and approval of a parent one feels to be distant and unapproachable. I find Loki’s situation – living in the shadow of a brother he both loves and sees as filling all the space in his father’s heart – to be heart rending. And his response to this situation, hiding his feelings, literally *deflecting* his emotions, seems like something we’ve all done when faced with feeling inadequate.
I’m also dancing around the Sherlock and Dr. Who fandoms, though I’m drawn to both on more of an intellectual rather than an emotional level. I’m loving (and sometimes hating) watching the stories unfold and what the writers are doing with these familiar characters, but I’m not emotionally involved with them.
L: I’m pretty much fandom monogamous. I think loving Supernatural takes up so much of my emotional energy that there’s just no room for anything else. I casually watch a few other shows and love music, but my fannish passion is reserved for SPN.
- Can you pick one thing that makes Supernatural stand out for you and evokes such strong feelings?
K: I’d say the answer to this is the same as for most other fangirls – the family dynamic. I don’t have siblings, so I think what drew me in to begin with was the boys’ relationship to John. I could relate to both the need to please, no matter what the cost, and the need to rebel, to distance oneself.
L: I watched the show casually for a year without being drawn into it. I could see the good things about it – it’s well written, beautifully filmed, very well acted. It’s scary, exciting, suspenseful. But none of those characteristics made me fall down the rabbit hole. It wasn’t until an emotional scene between Sam and Dean, where Dean breaks down for one of the first times and shares his pain with his brother, that I sat up and said “OMG WHAT THE HELL, THIS IS THE BEST SHOW EVER”. Those emotional moments, and that bond between the brothers, is what still captivate me. I don’t think I’ll ever run across a more fascinating, compelling, heartbreaking character than Dean Winchester – and I never get tired of watching him and wanting to follow his journey. I love his love for Sam, his bond with Cas, his loyalty to his friends and family, blood and otherwise. I love that he’s flawed and imperfect and has come close to broken, and has to struggle to keep going. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s played by Jensen Ackles.
Nine years down the road, I think that the dynamic between the actors also contributes to my ongoing love for the Show. Jensen, Jared, Misha, and many of the other recurring actors are simply a great group of people, and the way that they all get along bleeds into the show and keeps it fresh and genuine. In much the same way, my love for the fandom community – the fact that I can share my love of the Show so openly and joyously – fans the flames too. It’s like a feedback loop of the very best kind.
- What is your single finest fangirl experience?
K: Without a doubt it was our first visit to the set. Everything about that experience was surreal. It really was a case of having to pinch ourselves to verify that it was really happening. Everyone was so kind and giving and enthusiastic and helpful. And every time we thought it just couldn’t get any better, it did. We were on set for twelve hours and every moment was pure joy.
L: Kathy’s right, that first set visit was literally a fangirl dream come true. Every single person – from the producers to the actors to the cinematographer to the art director to each and every crew member – was so proud of their little Show, and so happy that someone was going to write a book about it! They all wanted to tell us about their part in making Supernatural, and their enthusiasm matched ours. It was magic!
They filmed until nearly midnight (it was a “Fraturday”), and we were sure that Jared and Jensen wouldn’t have time to speak with us, since they had worked so late. And honestly, we completely understood. But both of them insisted on staying to talk, and within five minutes of sitting down in their trailers, it was clear that they were every bit as enthusiastic about the Show as we were.
I have to say that since “Fangasm” came out, it’s been nearly as wonderful to hear other fans’ reactions to the book – a different kind of fangirl experience, but just as amazing. Once a mom came up to me at a con holding a copy of the book, her teenage daughter behind her. She started to tell me how much “Fangasm” had meant to her daughter, how it had made her daughter feel “okay” about herself, and then she said that she had read it too, and now she understood her daughter – and then she started to sob, and her daughter started to sob, and then *I* started to sob…. That was a standout fangirl experience for me too. I’m touched every single time someone tells me that they read “Fangasm” and felt validated, because that’s exactly why we wrote it.
- How did you manage to speak when faced with J2 in such close quarters???
K: The first time I “met” them was in an autograph line at a fan convention and I could not think of a single coherent thing to say to either of them. In fact, I wound up saying just that to Jared – and he was *lovely*. His response was “That happens to me all the time!” By the time we finally did interview them we had met them a few more times, usually in the process of interviewing other actors, so we weren’t completely unfamiliar with them. And since we were interviewing them, we did actually have something to say. That helped. At least for me it helped.
L: Kathy will say that I could probably speak to anyone at any time in any circumstances (not true!), but honestly I think I was more overwhelmed than she was when we found ourselves in their trailers. That was not where we expected to conduct our interviews! I admit to getting a bit tongue-tied when Jared started taking off his clothes (he was still dressed in his FBI suit from filming) – Mr. Padalecki is a good looking guy, in case you haven’t noticed. And in tee shirt and bare feet? REALLY good looking. I also admit to getting distracted by Jensen’s biceps during our interview (he was wearing that form-fitting black tee shirt that he favors, it’s totally not my fault…) But somehow I did manage to keep talking anyway J
Both Jared and Jensen have a way of making you feel comfortable pretty quickly, simply because they’re just down to earth guys with a great sense of humor. And they’re *smart*, which always makes for good conversation. Misha is the same, plus he throws in a quirky way of looking at things and a candor that keeps sending the conversation off in unexpected directions – something I love.
- There are obvious highs and lows in the book, especially in relation to TPTB. Can you reflect now and feel confident that you delivered the best version of the story you wanted to tell?
K: Of course not! There are always things you wish you had said better, always bits you wish you had included (or excluded), always second guesses. Even though we essentially got to tell the story twice (in Fandom at the Crossroads and then again in Fangasm) there are still things I’d change. We certainly came much closer to our goal working with Iowa University Press than we ever would have working with Warner Bros. I believed at the time, and I’m convinced now, that Warner Bros dropping us was the best thing that could have happened to the book.
L: I’m pretty happy with the story we ended up telling, because it seems to have accomplished what was most important to me – fans can see themselves in the story, and relate to the story. Every time someone tells me that they feel less ashamed to be a fan, that they feel more ‘okay’ as a person, that validates *me* for writing it. The one thing I wish is that the story had gone on longer. We meet Misha Collins in the last few chapters, and his interviews then become a significant part of the book – in fact, he has the last word. But a lot has happened since then, and I wish some of those ups and downs had made their way onto the book’s pages too. Maybe we need a sequel…
- What is next on your discovery of fangirl life?
K: I’m writing an essay for an upcoming collection on Harry Potter and performance. This grew out of a course I taught in London during the summer of 2013 on Media Tourism and Fan Pilgrimage. I’ve become really interested in the ways fans express themselves in the “real” world, as opposed to the online world we focused on in the books, the places fandom takes them and how those places are packaged for fan consumption. I’d love to do another class like this sometime in New Zealand (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) or Iceland (Game of Thrones and Thor, The Dark World).
L: Well, while “Fangasm” doesn’t yet have a sequel, we have kept writing about SPN – our new book, “Fan Phenomena: Supernatural” was just released! We wanted it to be a book written by “all of us”, from multiple perspectives. We’ve learned first hand over the past eight years that the fans, cast and crew all share a love of this amazing Show – so why not have everyone write about it in one book? “Fan Phenomena: Supernatural” has chapters written by fans, by actors Misha Collins and Richard Speight, Jr., by cinematographer Serge Ladouceur, and by academics who study the Show (and are also fans). We’re so excited about it!
- Can you sum up what it is to be part of fandom for you in one word?
L: SPNFamily J
- The things they don’t tell you when you become a writer - February 19, 2016
- Interview with the authors of Fangasm – Supernatural Fangirls - April 23, 2014
- Fangasm – Supernatural Fangirls - April 2, 2014