I am so excited about this new column in No Stunts Magazine. As some of you know, as a writer myself, I’m fascinated with the writing process. When I first started reading Larry Fanfiction in January 2021, I wasn’t even on Stan Twitter–it was deep into Covid lockdown and I’d get recommendations on Tumblr or find them myself. BananaHeathen’s Of Mates and Men was among the first fics I read, when it was a very new Work-in-Progress, and that started a giant fixation with finding gems on AO3 for me.
When I had the idea of interviewing authors in our fandom, Dee was one of the first people I thought of–mostly for selfish reasons. I really wanted to pick her brain myself, and then I thought many of you might like to get to know her better as well.
I hope this will be the first of many author interviews, as there are so many amazing talented people writing fanfiction in our fandom.
Without further ado, I introduce you to Dee–aka BananaHeathen
Works: Of Mates and Men, Babes in Boyland (WIP), The Section, Make Me Feel, Fine Line, Eat Your Vegetables, It’s Thursday. Let’s Get (un)Dressed.
Rosann: What name do you like people to call you online?
BH: People around here call me Dee 🙂
Rosann: Thank you for being here, Dee!
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?
BH: I sort of fell in by accident? A friend of mine got me started reading fic during the pandemic. I’d been in a whirlwind of reading queer romance novels because the state of the world in 2020 was overwhelming at best and I wanted somewhere soft to escape into sometimes. I was on the hunt for more books to satiate my need for nice things, and my friend texted me and asked “Have you ever read fanfic?” And I hadn’t but I was extremely game. Escapade was my first fic, and I couldn’t stop after that. Because I was brand new and not really in any fandom spaces then, I was just reading anything my friend suggested. So I’d reach out to her with a trope or premise I wanted to read and she’d recommend me a fic she’d read that fit it. And then, one day, I asked for a premise that she couldn’t think of a fic for off the top of her head, and she joked, “Guess you have to write that one.” And so, I did. That was Eat Your Vegetables, which I sent to my friends and they convinced me to publish it on AO3. It came out about a month after I first started reading fic at all. And I had so much fun writing that one, that I just kept writing.
Rosann: I love this origin story!
What’s 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?
BH: I feel like Of Mates and Men is the *correct* answer to this question, but I actually think my favorite fic I’ve written is Make Me Feel. I wrote that fic in between writing chapters of Mates, and I love it very dearly. The idea came from hearing about a friend of a friend who was getting paid to go out to an artist’s studio and do some nude modeling for them. It just sounded like a fic idea to me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head until I wrote it down. I think it took me about a week overall? I’d still love to go back and write a little more of that world someday.
Rosann: There’s definitely no correct answer here–and when I tell you I RAN to read Make Me Feel after hearing this answer, I RAN (it’s great–go read it).
What’s your favorite trope (if any) to write?
BH: I don’t know if this counts as a trope, but my favorite thing to write (to the surprise of probably no one) is pining. Pining is one of my favorite things to do (lol), it’s definitely one of my favorite things to read, and consequently it’s one of my favorite things to write. I grew up on a lot of Jane Austen, so I’m convinced there’s just nothing like an incidental touch and a longing stare across the room.
Rosann: You do pining really well! How do you handle writer’s block (if you experience it)?
BH: Oh, I definitely experience it, and the short answer is, I don’t handle it very well haha. I usually try to find some other medium that’ll help get me in the mindset for the scenes/story I’m working on. Whether that’s a song or an album or a playlist, or a movie/episode of TV that’s on the same topic, or going down a YouTube rabbit hole or listening to a podcast for research about the world I’m building. Sometimes I’ll journal out whatever ideas I’m having just stream-of-consciousness style and see if I can push past my inner critic that way. And, if all else fails, I’ll whine to my friends and lay face down on the sofa for a while about it.
Rosann: I actually find it comforting that you experience writer’s block–journaling is great advice.
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?
BH: I think writing and reading smut can be liberating and explorative for folks, and helpful for people in figuring out their own desires and their own sexualities, so I’m always gonna support that, regardless of a person’s identity. I understand there are concerns around the potential for fetishizing that can happen, and certainly I think it’s important to be considerate about the way we consume/produce any media about identities that aren’t our own, and interrogate whether we’re thinking about people who aren’t just like us as fully human and complex and not reduced down to certain identity markers, stereotypes or sexual preferences. But I don’t know that it’s a useful exercise to gatekeep, based on identity, who is allowed to write and read which subjects. I’d instead advocate for all of us to be mindful in always thinking about characters as fully realized individuals, the way I’d hope we also think about each other in real life.
Rosann: Great answer.
What are the hardest scenes/tropes for you to write?
BH: I’ve talked to several people lately about how hard smut scenes are to write. I have tremendous respect for authors who write incredible smut, because they always seem to have a way of making it feel seamless, when actually there can be a lot of logistics that go into pulling it off well— for example, whose body parts are where, and can reach what; which words feel sexy and not uncomfortably graphic to use; writing dirty talk that doesn’t feel cringe; finding the right blend of sensuality and explicit content; the list goes on. I find it hard to write smut that feels original and also exciting and also true to the characters and also satisfying and, and, and… *spins off into infinity*
So, I like to think I get better the more writing I do, but it’s definitely still a work in progress.
Rosann: I actually think you’re one of the people (for me) who writes great smut, and it’s likely because you are so thoughtful about it. I think writing a bit out of one’s comfort zone can be healthy–so thank you for that!
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)?
BH: There’s part of me that thinks any time someone chooses to share their art with others, it’s an act of generosity, and that they don’t necessarily owe the world more than that. That said, I also believe the world would be a better place if we all took a bit more responsibility for each other. And especially in a space like AO3 where the tagging system already exists and is so readily accessible and relatively easy to use, I personally feel it’s important to give people warnings about things in my work that might be uncomfortable or triggering for them. I think it allows us a chance to practice communication and consent in community with others in a casual context. And those are things I value super highly, so that’s the way I try to share my writing.
I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the responsibility of readers to leave kudos or comments, but I think part of the beauty of fanfic is being in community with readers and writers together. And getting engagement from readers helps to foster that. So, I’d say, if you love a story, it’s always worth letting the author know. It’s such a simple way to make someone’s day. And isn’t that a lovely thing to know you did?
Rosann: This is such a thoughtful answer. And a great reminder that we all can acknowledge and appreciate the art we love in a super easy way.
Can you give other burgeoning writers some writing tips–for writing or publishing?
- I think my biggest piece of advice is to write what you love and what’s fun for you. Even if you think it’s too weird or too silly or you worry that there are too many stories like it already. Write the stories that you get excited to read. There’ll be someone out there who’s been waiting for a story like yours. And a big point of writing fanfiction is that it’s fun. So you should get to have fun making it.
- If you’re just trying to get started, start with writing whatever scene comes into your head first. There’s always time to go back and edit and finetune the story, but for the first draft, I’d say just to jump into whichever part of the story grabs you first. Even if it’s just a single line of dialogue, the way a certain room looks, or a perfect detail you can’t get out of your head, start writing there and just see what comes out next.
- Because I grew up a theater kid, I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about character backstory and motivations. I find thinking through emotional arcs for characters can be really helpful in helping me figure out the shape of a story. And the more specific you can make your characters, the more universal they become— since it’s our unique idiosyncrasies that make us most human. (Caveat to that: I tend to write character-driven fic, so this might be a less helpful launch point for folks writing more plot-driven stories.)
Rosann: Great writing advice–I’m filing those away for my own writing. Thank you. And why does it not surprise me that you were a theater kid?
I was always super impressed with your consistency over months and years to update OMAM. Do you plot/outline before you write or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?
BH: Firstly, thank you. I’m delighted it felt consistent. I’d say the answer is: a little bit both. I made myself a calendar of events for Mates, where I listed out major story points I thought would happen in each month. And I referred back to that a lot, which was infinitely helpful. But there were also several story elements that moved around over the course of my writing, and elements I hadn’t planned on initially that just felt right and so I had to add them in and then figure out how to make the story work around them. There was a lot more pants-flying in that writing process than (hopefully) it seems like now that it’s complete. But I’d attribute some of that consistency to the fact that I established really clear backstories in my mind for my characters. So, who they were, what they valued, and their relationships with each other remained a consistent touchpoint for me throughout, even when plot elements shifted or surprised me.
Rosann: I love that you’re a little bit pantser and a little bit outliner.
One of my favorite things about OMAM is the links to places and clothing. How long did it take you to find those and research enough to add them to the story?
BH: So, what started as me giggling about the idea of matching suits, and wanting readers to also be able to giggle about it, became a central part of writing this story. This element of Mates really got underway with my best friend reading the first few chapters and asking me, “Okay, but do you have a wedding venue in mind for Zayn? Because it feels like a tall order.” And then we spent several hours one night looking at wedding venues in the UK, laughing and ranking their potential, which led to the venue-hunting in Chapter 5 and set up a grand tradition of linking to pictures of places and not just the boys’ outfits. Over the course of the two years I was writing this fic, I did everything from googling the floor plan of Harrods to going on a virtual walking tour of Paris to watching a Pasta Grannies episode about making trofie and the Fat episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat that talks extensively about Italian olive oil. I don’t know for sure how long the research took overall. But I do know there are countless elements of this story that never would have come into being without it. And, above all else, it was so much fun to do.
Rosann: The little addition of the links and locations takes OMAM over the top for me. It’s a little thing, but it gives the fic so much more depth. And just one final note, Dee has begun dropping chapters to the sequel to OMAM on AO3, called Babes in Boyland.
Thank you, Dee, for your thoughtful and insightful answers!
If you haven’t followed her yet, please follow Dee on AO3 as BananaHeathen (as well as @BananaHeathen on Twitter) and definitely read all the works she has posted. They are all amazing.