The apocrypha Interview: Michelle M. Leslie
By Korillian

Michelle M. Leslie first came onto the Law & Order fanfic scene last spring with the publication of Keeping Secrets. A touching story about fatherhood and loss, Keeping Secrets generated a ton of fan mail and eventually went on to win apocrypha's first annual Blue Wall Award for fiction. Patients, Michelle's second story, was much different but just as powerful, focusing upon one of the more potentially devastating aspects of Mike Logan's carefree bachelorhood. And her next story, Immortality, is the much-anticipated sequel to Keeping Secrets! Look for Immortality in an upcoming issue of apocrypha.
I recently chatted with Michelle via email about fanfic, Mike Logan and more. Enjoy!

Why did you start writing fan fiction?
I started writing as a child in the sixth grade, and have written stories based on such series as Starsky and Hutch, Simon and Simon, Quantum Leap and now Law and Order. I was a very shy child and didn't belong to many "extracurricular activities" out side of school. However, I was very creative and needed and outlet to express myself. I didn't have much talent with drawing or painting, but putting words onto paper came quite naturally. I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when finishing a particular story. This feeling grew into a desire to become a professional writer in some genre, particularly television and film. Although I realize, now that I am an adult, that this is "just a dream," the love of writing is still there. In addition, the satisfaction and joy of having someone read and respond positively to something I have written is very rewarding.
What do you personally get out of writing fan fiction?
Writing has become very therapeutic for me. When I feel stressed, depressed, angry or lonely, writing helps me to deal with it. In addition to helping me cope with life's ups and downs, writing fan fic gives me a voice to express myself on certain issues. Writing fan fic, as opposed to writing a new fictional story, also helps to keep me centered and focused. Fan fic has certain guidelines that must be followed because you are working with someone else's characters that they have developed and you are just building on their foundation. This is a good tool to help strengthen certain areas of writing, be it character description or development of a plot.
Is Law & Order the only television show you write fan fiction for?
At this time, yes. I like to find one show and "dedicate" myself to it. The show intrigued me and I loved the characters. When I watched the show, ideas started popping into my head. When I saw that there was a forum for fans of the show to actually write stories and share them with others, I went to work! It has proven to be very rewarding and challenging.
Law &Order has been characterized as a plot-driven show. How does the fact that L&O is mainly about plot and not the characters affect your fanfic writing?
That's the nice thing about fiction, fanfiction in particular, it can become anything you want it to be. I think a strong plot and strong characters go hand in hand. For a plot to be effective it must make some impact on the main players, or there is no reason for them being there. If this were the case, and the show is totally plot driven, there could be a different cast every week and people would still watch. I think the majority of the people tune in to watch a show because they want to see the characters and how they will react to an issue. L&O teases the viewers and only gives them little scraps to "chew" on, until the next episode. As a fanfic writer, I can go beyond that. I like to start with a strong plot, but make it personal for a certain character.
What is it about L&O that inspired you to write fan fic? Or should I say, who? *smiles*
One of the first things that attracted me to the show itself and to writing fan fic for it, was because it is one of the few shows that deals with dark and disturbing societal issues in a mature way. Naturally, having such great characters to draw on for writing was a big plus as well! *grins*
Who is your favorite L&O character -- or is that a silly question?
My favorite Law and Order character is definitely Mike Logan. He has a range of personality and emotions that gives a writer a lot to work with. I really enjoy writing for his character, as well as the characters from the first three seasons. Personally, I think that group is the most interesting and dynamic.
We both agree that the Season Three lineup was one of the best. Yet NBC told Wolf Productions to add some female cast members after Season Three because there weren't any women watching the show (see Law & Order, the Unofficial Companion, pg. 33). Was that a fair assumption on NBC's part -- that women need to see women onscreen in order to relate to a show?
Personally, I think the NBC sponsors were wrong. I started watching the show the very first season and loved it. The cast was strong, the characters were realistic and believable, and the story lines were well developed. The idea of the show "needing women characters" to make me continue to watch it was absurd. I'm not a feminist by any means, and I don't need to see strong women on TV to make me feel worthwhile or validated.
Give me five adjectives that best describe Mike Logan.
Dedicated, hot-headed, compassionate, dependable, loyal.
In Keeping Secrets Mike Logan finds out that he has a son. What kind of a father do you think Logan would have made?
I think he would have been a very good father. From what we have seen of him, when it comes to children, he has a very kind heart and shows a great deal of compassion and sensitivity. I think he would do what he could to spend as much time as possible with his child, which would mean sacrificing some of his personal life. This would be hard for him at first, but I think he would adjust in time.
You've written a sequel to Keeping Secrets called Immortality. Is this the end of the series? What are your future writing plans?
There actually is a third story in the series that I'm trying to develop. It will take place between Keeping Secrets and Immortality, and deals with the investigation surrounding the deaths of those involved in Gage Logan's murder. I have other story ideas in mind as well. One relates to the Patients story I wrote in which Mike Logan is waiting for the results of an AIDS test. I think I want to open that window a little further.
What advice do you have for beginning fan fic writers?
Write, write, write! That's always a good place to start. First, find a character or group of characters that interests you, and get to "know" them as much as possible by studying their personalities, moods, actions and reactions. Ask yourself questions about this character or characters. For example, "Who is he/she?" Describe the person/people. "How would he/she react in a given situation?" "What evidence is there in his/her background that supports how you have interpreted this/these characters?" Questions like these will help you stick to the already developed characters that you are writing about. (If you know and understand who it is you're writing about, that is.) Remember that you are writing about characters that have already been created, and your goal is to write that character as he/she has previously been defined. If you stray from that character's "definition" than you are no longer writing about them, but rather someone else. As a teacher, I tell my students when they are writing to "stick to the topic." As a fan fic writer, I tell myself and others to "stick to the character." There is nothing that says you can't "stretch" that character and give him/her added characteristics, just don't change the ones that are already in existence. Next, share your work with someone you trust and learn to take "constructive criticism." Listen to suggestions that may help make your character(s) more believable or your story better, but don't feel that just because someone else "thinks" it should be written another way that you have to go along with their beliefs. After all, it is your story. But remember to keep an open mind. Also keep in mind that a story not shared is wasted. Don't write something and hide it in your closet, you'll never know how good it might be if no one ever gets to read it.

whaddya think?