I am so excited to introduce you to April, or @_LilyBlue28 on Twitter and Ao3. April wrote one of my favorite ABO stories and I’m so excited that she took the time to answer some questions for me.
This is the fourth installment of this feature, so if you’re excited about authors and peeking behind the curtain in their brains, I encourage you to look at the March issue of No Stunts Magazine for my profile of BananaHeathen, April issue for ItsMotivatingCara and May issue for CuckooTrooke.
Without further ado, I introduce you to April.
Works: Five Point, How Many Times Will It Take (To Get This Right), Angels Fly, Various short one shots.
Rosann: Thank you, April! First off, what do you like people to call you?
April: I prefer to be called April, which is my real name. LilyBlue is a pen name derived from one of my favorite YA novels “Blue Lily, Lily Blue,” by Maggie Steifvater. I don’t mind being referred to by that name, especially by those who only read my works on AO3 and aren’t familiar with my actual name, but it feels most natural and comfortable to be addressed as April.
Rosann: I’m a Maggie Steifvater fan from waaaay back. That’s cool that you derived your pen name from one of her books. How did you decide to get started writing fanfic for the 1D/Larry fandom? How long did you write before you published for the fandom?
April: I started writing for the Larry Fandom as a way to try and make sense of some of the past “proofs” and current situations going on when I first entered the fandom. I think I was just truly getting into stan Twitter and fanfic at the height of the Holivia stunt and as a baby Larrie I was deeply hurt and confused by what I was seeing. The first couple of stories I started writing were heavily centered around the holivia stunt and the emotions I was experiencing because of things like the yacht pictures. I must have been writing Larry fanfiction for at least four or five months before Five Point was born.
Five Point was like the fifth or sixth WIP I started and it was the one that inspired me the most, so it ended up being the one I decided to post. I fell in love with the story and I hoped that posting it to AO3 would inspire me to finish it, and it did. With a little help from Mary, of course, who happened to find me not long after I started posting Point. She’s a huge reason why that story got to fruition.
Rosann: I love hearing origin stories! That’s a really interesting way you got into the fandom! And all hail, Mary! She was one of my inspos as well! Do you write in any other fandoms? If so, which?
April: Oh gosh. I used to write on fanfiction.net and have a couple of complete stories for the Vampire Diaries fandoms and one complete fic for the Shadow Hunters fandom. I was younger when I wrote for them, probably only about 19 or 20, and I don’t think they really live up to what I see my writing as now, but at the time I was very proud of them. I’ve actually been contemplating moving them over to AO3 since I finished Angels Fly, but I’m not sure I’m quite that confident yet.
Rosann: Love that! I think fanfic is such a great way to cut your writing chops. What is your favorite fic that you’ve written and where did the idea come from? How long did it take you from first idea to publication?
April: Can I be a bit more personal than I think this question was meant to be? My favorite fic that I have produced always has been and probably always will be Five Point. It’s obviously my least popular complete fic, and I can’t honestly say that isn’t a bit disappointing, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t bother me too much. I love that story and even though I can acknowledge that HMTWIT(TGTR) or Angels Fly might be better written or have better plots, what Five Point means to me will always make it stand out the most.
I’ve never actually told anyone this, except for one person, and they know who they are, but Five Point was written during a time when I was first discovering and coping with my own sexuality. It was a time during my life where I was feeling very insecure in my relationships, I was struggling with my relationship with my mother, I was feeling isolated from and abandoned by my best friend, and most of all I was feeling abandoned by myself. Coming to terms with who I’d always been, who I’d never allowed myself to be fully—as empowering and beautiful as it was to claim it and own it, it was also a terrifyingly lonely experience. My world was shaken and I didn’t feel like I could trust myself because I’d been so wrong about who I was my entire life.
Louis’ struggles in Five Point mirror my own so closely, and the camp is based on a camp that one of my first ever queer love interests told me about, and the way Harry cares for Louis’ anxiety throughout the story is heavily influenced by the way I’ve always cared for my best friend’s anxiety as we grew up. Five Point is as personal as I think fanfiction can get and because of that it’ll always be my favorite story. No matter how popular Angels Fly or hmtwit goes on to be, I’ll always be the most proud of how Louis and I came out on the other end of Five Point together, stronger, more whole, and proud of ourselves.
Rosann: Thank you so much for sharing that, April. I love that fics can be so personal and so cathartic for ourselves as we write and we can use the boys as sort of conduits. I’m so happy that you were able to do that! I don’t want you to out your anonymity, but can you tell us if you’ve written under other names, or if you’re perhaps traditionally published? Are you professionally trained?
April: I guess I wrote under a different name on fanfiction.net, but if I’m being honest, I don’t remember what it was now. I’d have to check, which means I’d have to hunt down my fanfiction.net login, and that could take forever. But other than that, no, I’ve never written under any other names than my own and LilyBlue.
I do have a Bachelor’s degree in creative writing, so I studied literature and prose writing for four years. I’ve produced many works for school and some of them may even be good enough to publish one day if I could actually finish them, but I haven’t gotten there yet. An exciting piece of news is that I’m set to start the process of self publishing an autobiographical poetry book this summer, which is a chronological look at my life over the last five years. It speaks to a lot of my personal struggles and triumphs and I’ve had it illustrated by a really fantastically talented friend of mine. She’s a bit younger than me and when I told her about the book I was putting together she understood my vision so clearly without me really having to go into much detail. Her art means a lot to her, though she doesn’t truly understand what she’s capable of, and I couldn’t think of a better way to show her than to bring her along with me as I start the exciting journey of self publishing. I will definitely be keeping twitter updated on that process as it goes along!
Rosann: Congratulations on that project! That sounds so exciting–keep us posted! What’s your favorite trope (if any) to write?
April: I’m not sure I have a favorite trope per se, but it’s definitely a joke amongst my friend group that my stories all seem to revolve around lost time due to one character trying to protect another. Miscommunicating martyrdom and lost time. Is that a trope? It’s definitely my favorite.
Rosann: I think that definitely qualifies as a trope! How do you handle writer’s block (if you experience it).
April: This is going to sound strange, but I write when I’m experiencing writer’s block. If I’m stuck on a particular scene in a particular story, I switch stories. I change the kind of writing I’m doing. During HMTWIT I wrote a lot of poetry. Every time I couldn’t make myself get through a scene I’d write a poem instead. It usually helps fix whatever is stuck that keeps the gears from turning, clears them out a bit, and then I can come back to the doc and write what I need to write.
If that doesn’t work I also look towards music. Rach loves to joke that I find a way to sneak Taylor Swift into all of my fics via thematic and/or lyrical parallels throughout the story, but it’s actually kind of true, and it’s because she helps save me from writer’s block. If I’m struggling with a narrative I sometimes turn to music because I find that it can be very inspirational for me. If a song has a good enough narrative I can usually build upon it as I listen to it, creating whole backstories and future plots for the subjects of the songs and by letting my brain have this creative outlet, it helps me sort of unclog whatever was tripping me up in my own narrative building. Taylor Swift is one of my favorite artists to use for this because I admire her narrative style so much. Her writing is insane, I’m deeply inspired by her ability and prowess.
Rosann: Love that method of beating writer’s block. Do you read other things while you’re writing? Why or why not?
April: Oh gosh, no. I can’t read when I’m writing. I’m too moved by other art. I’ll unintentionally take on the feelings and themes of other stories in my own writing, not because I want to copy, but just because the characters plant themselves so deeply in my own heart that they become pieces of me, and that in turn gets written into my own stories, because my characters and stories are often just pieces of me. It’s why the characters across my three complete fics are so similar in personalities. If you look closely enough, you’ll see them scattered across the three universes as if they’d merely jumped to the next page. I haven’t quite decided if this is a strength or weakness of mine.
Rosann: A lot of times, the “real world” frowns on fanfic in general. Have you had this experience? Do your friends and family know what you write–and how do you deal with questions about it?
April: I’ve definitely had this experience, and because of that I don’t typically share my work with anyone in my real life. My best friend/ roommate knows that I write them. She’s even listened to me rant a couple of times when I was near the end of Angels Fly and a major plot point was up in the air, but she’s never read them, nor will she ever. I’ve just recently told my mom about it too, though in much less detail than my best friend knows. My mother is really supportive of my writing dreams, and even though I can see she thinks its a bit silly, she’s genuinely happy for me every time I tell her that hmtwit has reached a new milestone, or that someone on twitter has reached out to me to tell me how much my words mean to them. Other than that I keep it very secret, but I’m also just a very private person anyway. Most of my irl friends don’t know what music I listen to or what books I take the most inspiration from, let alone how I spend my free time. My closest friends know I have a community of authors/artists that I’m very involved in, but they don’t pry for more than that. They know they won’t get a real response from me. I find sharing things that are that personal with people to be tough, no matter what the personal thing is. It’s one of the reasons I love fanfiction so much, because it allows me to be vulnerable and open in a way that I truly am not in real life, and because of that I’m able to share my art without having to be afraid of it.
Rosann: Thank you for sharing your art with us! If you write a serialized fic, do you plot/outline before you write or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?
April: A little of both actually. All of my fics started out as sudden in the moment ideas that led to five or six pages of story that I just spat out onto the page. But when the bout of inspiration runs out I go back with a more analytical mind and try to figure out who the characters really are, what they want, and what the point of the story is going to be. I outline from there. Five Point has been outlined as a three part series since probably chapter 4 of Five Point. Angels Fly’s outline was being built in real time as I wrote it, sort of simultaneously outlining and writing as I went. Hmtwit didn’t have an outline until half way through the story and I did it only to try and get myself out of a complicated plot hole I stumbled across. I’m a bit chaotic with my writing process, but there always does end up being an outline that I follow to end the fic, so I hesitate to say I only fly by the seat of my pants.
Now my twitter one shots? Those I just write. I start a tweet and I write until the story is done. No preplanning, no editing. Truly winging it.
Rosann: Total random aside. I love your Twitter one shots! What are your thoughts on writing/consuming smutty smut for people not in that same community and (assuming) they haven’t been in those situations? i.e. Can non-queer authors write smut?
April: As a person who is not male and never has possessed male parts, but has most definitely written male on male smut before I have to say that I lean towards the opinion that it’s okay to explore what you don’t know. Of course there is always some discretion that should be used, it should always be done in the most respectful and informed way. I don’t think anyone should ever claim their opinions and/or fantasies to be fact, especially if they’ve never truly experienced those things before, but a part of artistic expression is self exploration, so I think it’s a bit healthy to delve into topics (both as a creator and as a consumer) that you may not have experienced before, or can’t experience personally.
Rosann: I’ve noticed that a lot of writers include people from the boys’ real lives/situations. What are your thoughts for including personal things like that or not?
April: It doesn’t bother me when people include people from the boys’ real life in fics. In all honesty we are already writing about them, so including their publicly related friends and family can’t be any more invasive than that. But there is a limit to everything. Personally I don’t like dealing with the real life tragedies and/or illness, struggles, mental health issues that the boys or their families may have faced. I’ve written WIPs that deal with Johanna’s passing but hesitate to share them because I feel like it’s disrespectful to make consumable art out of someone’s tragedy.
I recently shared a WIP after AOTV was released that is canon and set after Jay’s death and I struggle to justify that I’ve done that. I tried to be as respectful as possible about it, tried to put as many warnings as possible, but it really goes against what I believe to have shared that, and I only did because I felt like the people in my immediate following needed to see it after AOTV. I won’t write another one that deals that closely with that topic, and I won’t write about the speculation on Zayn’s eating disorder, or Liam’s mental health issues. I think all things have limits.
Rosann: I think that’s fair. What are the hardest scenes/tropes for you to write?
April: If I’m being 100% honest, it’s the smut and fluff scenes that I struggle with the most. If Rach could jump in right now she could probably write paragraphs about the spirals I’ve had about writing smut scenes! And fluff is hard for me because I struggle to not lace it with a bit of sadness or mistrust, and that probably says a whole lot more about me as a person than it does me as a writer.
Rosann: Lately there has been some discussion on stan Twitter about what authors of fanfic “must” do (for example, provide trigger warnings). What do you think a writer has responsibility for to their readers? Conversely, do you think readers have any responsibility to writers (for example, leaving kudos or comments)?
April: Look, I don’t think it’s really my place to say anyone should do anything with work they’re creating for free, and conversely with art people are consuming in their free time. We are all writing and reading for ourselves first and that means there is a level of personal stake involved for writer and reader alike, and I think we all take that on at our own risk when we decide to be involved in a community like this.
However, as an artist who is incredibly protective and adoring of the people who read my work, personally I think it’s my job to make sure that I’m not asking them to be vulnerable with me and then setting them up to be punished for that. Discussing the “responsibility” a writer has to a reader quickly snowballs into the discussion of what topics one should or shouldn’t write about and I don’t like that line of thinking at all. Writing is a deeply personal matter and if someone feels they need to write about something, it’s likely they need to process a very similar feeling or event, and they should have the right to do that. But I personally wouldn’t unleash feelings too heavy for me on my readers without proper warning, if only because as a person to another person, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I think it’s important to talk about heavy subjects and present situations in media and art that might be hard to digest for the sake of exposure and conversation, but I don’t think it’s right to do so with an audience that’s been tricked into having that conversation.
As far as the reader’s responsibility to the writers—they don’t owe me anything but kindness. Even if that kindness is simply saying nothing, that is all I expect from the people who read my work. The kudos, the comments, the shout outs on twitter, they’re amazing and I love every single person who takes the time to do that, not just for me but for other authors, because it’s impossible to describe what that feels like. What it feels like to know the words you produce have made an impact on someone, it’s beyond any other high i’ve ever experienced. But I don’t expect it from any of them. I don’t expect them to clap for me just because I’ve posted my silly stories to a public website. I do expect respect though. Human decency, as I do in all situations. Unnecessary, non-constructive criticism and plagiarism are obviously things I think readers should not ever do.
Rosann: Can you give other burgeoning writers some writing tips–for writing or publishing?
April: My only advice is to make sure that whatever you decide to do with your art, you do it for you. Because the attention, good and bad, will make you feel really high and it will drag you really low, but the power of art is bigger than that. If you’re just seeking attention, or just creating things because you think someone else wants you to, don’t do it. Keep it for you until you want to share it with the world. That way, no matter if you’re flying high, or feeling low, your creation will always be for you. Make sure your writing remains a safe place, even if it feels like putting it out in the real world is the most unsafe thing you’ve ever done. When you do it for the right reasons, the opinions of others can never take that away from you.
Rosann: Great advice. Do you have favorite fics that have inspired you?
April: Of course I do, this fandom is so full of talented artists it’s impossible not to be inspired every time I log onto twitter, let alone AO3. Young and Beautiful by Velvetoscar is a big one for me. The writing style in that fic, the beauty with which the words are arranged on the page—it was one of the first fics I ever read and it’s stuck with me for the past several years. Tired Tired Sea by Mediawhore too, of course. But there are others beyond the classics. Where You’d Rather Be by Itsmotivatingcara is another one of those stories that embedded itself into my soul and carried me through many nights of writing. On The Horizon by Fitzandlarry. That story has meant a lot to me even before she started posting it and whenever I’m having a rough time remembering why I do this, it’s always that story I come back to.
Rosann: Those are great inspirations! Do you do anything to promote your fics? Cover art, mood boards, or something else?
April: My three full length fics have mood boards, and I’d love to make covers for them but I’m afraid I lack that particular talent. I’m still holding out for someone some day making me a cover art for hmtwit—a rather meaningful gift I’d like to give relies on it. But I’ll wait forever if I have to. I did a promotional deep dive into the story event on twitter for hmtwit as well, for its one year anniversary. That was a lot of fun and really gave me an opportunity to interact with the story that I hadn’t had before. Of course, my Twitter One Shots are done primarily on twitter, and the community does the promotion for those for me. Those are always so fun—getting to interact with the readers in real time is a unique experience that publishing on AO3 doesn’t truly give me.
Rosann: Anything else you want to answer that I haven’t asked?
April: I just want to thank you, Rosann, and everyone at No Stunts for the work you do, not only for the boys and their promotion, but also for us, the fic authors and the artists in the community. It’s been such an honor for me to even be recognized by this magazine, and to be given a platform of sorts to just talk about my writing and what it means to me. I’m sure the other author’s you’ve highlighted feel similarly. At least for me, writing for this community has given me a piece of hope that I’m rebuilding my dreams on and I can’t express how important it is to me to have my work recognized. These stories are a part of me, and there’s no better feeling than getting to celebrate what they mean to other people as well. So just a massive, massive thank you for what you’re doing for all of us.
Rosann: Thank you so much, April, for saying that. It’s been my goal through these profiles to shine a light on some of the talented writers in our fandom. I get such enjoyment out of the literary brilliance that you and others bring to our fandom–so thank you!
If you haven’t followed her yet, please follow April on AO3 and Twitter as @_LilyBlue28