The apocrypha Interview: WaterWitch
By Kitteridge

" McCoy stretched his shoulders, trying to ease the cramp that had developed during the past hour. The cold wasn't helping, and his hands were tingling from the Harley's vibration. One at a time he lifted them from the rubber grips, alternately squeezing them into fists, then releasing. It would have been easier with the gloves off, but it was foolish to ride without them, even more foolish to try and remove them at this speed. After repeating the action several times, he resumed the normal two-handed driving stance."
So begins "...And Sometimes We Remember," WaterWitch's novel-length Law & Order fan fiction. Sending Jack McCoy off into the sunset with his Harley and then back into his difficult past years, WaterWitch has crafted a unique and compelling tale, one which not only gives us some love interest, but also tells a satisfying story. At this point, that novel, a "biography" of Jack McCoy, and her submission to last month's debut of apocrypha, called "Intermezzo," completes her oveure, but there are many good things planned for the future. A former journalist and newspaper editor, WaterWitch seemed like an ideal candidate to approach about writing, and fan fiction in general, for this first apocrypha author interview.

What drove you to write fanfic in the first place?

A couple of life crises kept me from writing anything for several years. After "Mad Dog" aired [during the seventh season of "Law & Order"], there was a lot of speculation about McCoy's intensity regarding Darnell. I'm one of the few who believes the episode title refers to the latter, not the former. I decided to answer the questions.

What do you get personally out of writing fanfic?

To be writing anything again - including email - is tremendously satisfying. The words and ideas churn and burn and beg - demand - to be let out. Maybe your use of "drove" explains it best. It's not the attention or the accolades ... for the record not one person emailed me about ASWR after it was completely online, though several asked for the chapters which had not been html'd before that.

What about reading fanfic? Was it harder to read fanfic after you started writing it?

Harder? I find it physically difficult to read online, so some things I print out to read, others I struggle through. But that's not what you meant, I think. I find myself "arguing" with other authors sometimes, if it's about a character I have defined to my satisfaction. Plagiarism is always a boogeyman ... even unconscious plagiarism. I took some of your physical descriptions (the eighth floor for example), because I knew you had visited the set and believed they came from the show. I learn now that they were your creation and I, in effect, stole them. I care more about that than stealing the characters from Dick Wolf. No, I can't explain it, except we're all stealing from Wolf.

What do you look for in a fan fiction story?

I prefer plot to character study. Definitely plot.

How much research do you do to create your fanfic?

A lot, but not as much as I now wish. When I wrote the McCoy bio, I wanted it to be accurate, based on the show facts ... I missed -- in "Aftershock" [the final Claire Kincaid episode] -- that McCoy was from Chicago, and I made Boston his roots (for obvious reasons). Then, because nobody corrected me - although I asked - I went on and did "... and Sometimes We Remember" from the incorrect premise. It really bothered me ... still does.

For ASWR, I used my ironing board as a library table ... road atlas, dictionary, thesaurus, maps of Rockport from Yahoo, created a calendar using my arbitrary starting date, the bio, the family bio, online research into books, movies, and music, political events of that year - all laid out and handy.

Is that something everyone else has to do?

Of course not! Some people actually iron. And why the hell am I sounding like Dave Barry?

Where do the "facts of the show" stop and imagination/fantasy begin?

The facts of the show stop with whatever Dick Wolf and his writers tell us. Take McCoy -- or I will -- everyone I've talked to sees him as a first-born. Many as an only child, but definitely first-born. He was never anybody's kid brother. But L&O writers never told us that. So it's imagination/speculation; after that comes fantasy.

Who is your favorite character to write about?

Oh, fer Jack's sake! Big Evil Grin! Actually, I loved doing Libby in ASWR - she was originally Elizabeth Olivet, did you know that? Why? I have difficulty thinking like a man, so McCoy was much harder. Sam Waterston would not recognize him; my husband would. Libby was not an alter ego, but the way I perceived Olivet, who fascinates me. I'm glad she and McCoy had such a nice summer together. He-he-he.

How do you reply to Law & Order Executive Producer and Head Writer Rene Balcer's comment in The New York Times that "some fan fiction...seems to be elaborate fantasies involving them and one of the characters"?

I reply with: "Dear Mr. Balcer - I am functionally illiterate. It wasn't me." Deny as one wants, some of what I've read cannot be defined any way other than Balcer's. So what? TPTB [The Powers That Be] have two choices, I think: leave us alone or make us go away. Letting us continue to write, but monitoring the quality - a third option - seems too silly. "You can steal Mike Logan, but he better not ever get married," kind of thing. So leave us alone (for pleasure not profit) or sue our britches off. And win, of course, because we are a larcenous little lot. "Dear Mr. Balcer - the cat is one hell of a mouser, and the only thing not already attached."

Is it ever more than that?

More than elaborate fantasy? Lord, I wrote about Olivet, but I wasn't trained with her. I just don't know. It could be. It could be therapeutic for some, I suppose. Or obsession or revenge or a lot of things I'm not qualified to answer about. For me, it was a reclaiming of self esteem. I created and it felt good.

Does it have to be more than that?

Of course not. Nobody has to write the great American novel. That question is like watching Siskel and Ebert. They've been at it so long that every film they review has to be the best ever, or it stinks. What's wrong with a piece of fun fluff that is nothing but entertaining? Does everything have to have positive social impact?

What advice do you have for people who are beginners and want to write fan fiction?

Sit down and do it. No joke, that's the advice.

What is the greatest misconception of beginners?

That there is some kind of standard to be met. Believe it or not, there are people who don't like reading Faulkner. I personally dislike Dr. Seuss. Except, of course, Green Eggs and Ham ...

What is their greatest strength?

Passion, I guess. I'm sure Rene Balcer is passionate about his work, or we'd not get the quality we do from him ... but he is blessed (or cursed) by actual talent. Not that fanfic writers have none ... but few are professional writers. So they must care deeply about the subject. Some people write passionate letters to the editor. Is this making sense?

Sure. So what is your next project?

Finishing off McCoy's affair with Sally Bell.

How will it differ from what you've written before?

I don't know. I hate to think I've used up all my great sex scenes, but Sally and Jack is a difficult picture for me. I think it will be less, um, descriptive. ASWR was "tasteful smut." Maybe this will be tasteful?

What's the one topic you'd really like to tackle in fan fiction?

VanBuren's rise to lieutenant. Man, she must have really struggled and put up with so much nonsense to get where she is. I adore Anita. I get really pissed when the writers give her dorky lines ... like the one about the detectives and needlepoint class. With her experience, class and wit, she could have used a far better line and shriveled McCoy.

In a bareknuckled brawl, who would win: Jack or Ben?

Ben has knuckles? I thought his hands were made out of that Gumby and Pokey stuff. If this is an honest hypothetical ... Jack. Watch him move ... he's not only three-quarters legs, he moves like an athlete. Not bashing here, truly: I always thought Ben walked like a sailor not used to dry land yet. The guy who keeps his feet is going to win. I don't remember a childhood for Ben, but McCoy was a Chicago street kid, son of a cop. In all honesty, I cannot see either of them losing control to that point, though, and am only indulging the question.

Anything else?

Can I say "Hi!" to my mother? Okay, okay, may I say "Hi!" to her?

WaterWitch's story, "...and Sometimes We Remember" can be found here.

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