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**CRUSH ALERT** (Katinka) on author Orbiting Jupiter (Anne)
Katinka interviews freefic writer Orbiting Jupiter, who talks about why she disappeared off the face of the earth, why she’d be embarrassed if the people in her life read her stories, the appeal of forbidden love, a sequel to ‘It’s Like This’ and moving into darker and dirtier territory…
Katinka: First things first! Your readers feared that you had disappeared for good. What happened?
Orbiting Jupiter: Taking a break from writing wasn’t really a conscious decision. But looking back I think I can identify a few reasons why I petered out:
1. I have a very addictive personality and my addictions go in ebbs and flows. When I’m into something, I am hooked on it and then suddenly I just turn off and become interested in something else. (Please see this comic for an effective illustration (LINK TO: http://www.tickld.com/t/6343)
2. In 2009 I got a real life boyfriend and we spent a lot of time together, which left less time for writing. I was also completing my undergrad and working part time. The boyfriend and I eventually moved in together and it was a couple of years before I even admitted to him that I wrote stuff sometimes, because I am sort of embarrassed about it. Not because I think writing is a petty pursuit, just because I am rather aware of what my writing lacks (plot structure, proof reading, realism). And so I never wanted anyone in my real life to know that I wrote things, in case they asked to read said things. Which I didn’t want them to do because I know my stories need a lot of work, that I’m not really keen to do.
3. By 2010 I was hit pretty hard by depression. It is quite well controlled now but for a long time I wasn’t interested anything but crying, apparently.
4. In 2012, my boyfriend and I got a girlfriend and we tried the poly thing for about a year and a half. It was a great experience for much of the time, but ultimately didn’t work out. At this time, then, I was working on my Master of Arts and had two relationships and two part time jobs and pretty much no time.
Katinka: But now you’re back to writing?
Orbiting Jupiter: I think I am probably back to writing again because: (a) my addictions are cyclical and maybe I’m back on the writing thing for now, (b) my boyfriend knows I do it so I don’t have to “write in the closet” and (c) I’ve finished my MA and have more time again!
Katinka: You have completed 4 stories so far: ‘A Stage and a Bus’, ‘Blood Oranges’, ‘Doorways and Windows’ and ‘It’s Like This’. Then it looks like you have 4 WIPs with pretty promising story lines! Are there stories among those that you still feel like working on? Or would you rather start something new after your break?
Orbiting Jupiter: I would love to finish all my WIPs – mostly because I know how heartbreaking it is to fall in love with a story that never gets finished. Unfortunately, I’m not exactly in control of my imagination all the time. I write in fits and starts and on whatever story I find myself daydreaming about at the time. I am pretty determined to finish ‘Better Now’ because I have done so much on it. Though in the meantime I also did my thesis on sex workers and have had to face the realization that my portrayal of the sex industry is pretty whore-phobic. So that problematizes things for me a little bit. I also think there’s a good chance I’ll finish ‘The Lucky Ones’ at some point. I would really love to finish ‘The Trouble with Thirteen’, but I’m finding my lack of knowledge about the reality TV industry a bit debilitating. Also, I’m a lot older than the characters now than I was when I started and am therefore having a harder time relating to them.
Katinka: In your completed stories, your characters are all teen boys. Their behavior feels extremely realistic for their age. Do you write people your own age? And how old were you when you posted ‘A Stage and a Bus?’
Orbiting Jupiter: Thanks for saying so! I find it easiest to write about people near to my own age. I started writing ‘A Stage and a Bus’ when I was 19. I am now 26 and find it a bit trickier to tap into the high school mindset now: we didn’t even have Facebook when I was in high school, so I have no idea what being in high school is like these days. I suspect social media must play a huge role.
Katinka: Can you imagine writing older characters?
Orbiting Jupiter: One of my WIPs, ‘Muscle Memory’, has characters who are older – in their late 20s and 30s, and I’m having a harder time writing them, as well. I guess it is part of write-what-you-know. I suspect I will continue to write characters who as near my age in the future.
Katinka: It looks like you wrote your debut story in 2006. What got you writing?
Orbiting Jupiter: This is a bit of a long story: In the ninth grade I started writing poetry and posting it online. No, I’m not telling you where you can find it! Through that website I met a few online friends over the years, and one of them was very much into online fiction, which I hadn’t read before. She sent me a link to a Naruto fanfic. That switched my obsession light switch on. I devoured Naruto fanfiction, but ultimately didn’t find it that satisfying because I knew absolutely nothing about Naruto. So I found myself on the original story archive and read lots and lots of slash fiction that made my slashy heart sing.
Then, in my second year of university, my friends from high school and I went to a Panic! At the Panic! concert (again, I knew very little about Panic! At the Disco, we actually went to see the opening band, Jack’s Mannequin) I serendipitously got the idea of a band!fic (which I didn’t know was a thing at the time…I was/am so pop-culture ignorant!). I don’t remember seeing any homoerotic undertones at the concert (and ‘A Stage and a Bus’ is not RP fanfiction). I mostly remember just wishing there were some, and thus ‘A Stage and a Bus’ was born. I know nothing about the artists that make up Panic! and had no intention of basing my story off of them. Except insofar as my story was set in the mid-2000s emo/pop-punk days. I listened to rather a lot of emo/punk-pop. And when I didn’t see exactly what I was looking for on AFF.net, I decided…why don’t I write what I want to read? It was terrifying and exhilarating. I wrote the first chapters came out so easily, because I’d been daydreaming about them for so long. And posting them online and other real live people reading them and even sort of liking them? It was wild. Wild and addictive.
Katinka: What’s your own favorite among your stories and why?
Orbiting Jupiter: Oh jeez! Either ‘A Stage and a Bus’ or ‘It’s Like This’. ‘A Stage and a Bus’ because writing for the first time and getting instant feedback was so exciting and I felt so brave and I have a lot of positive emotions attached to its creation. I was so in love with myself–I remember just reading it over and over again, haha. I also liked the ending for some reason. I know lots of readers/reviewers would have preferred a romantic gesture or a public display but I stuck to my guns: public displays make me kind of uncomfortable and I am also totally guilty of forgiving people who have done really shitty things to me, just because I love them and want to keep on loving them.
Of course, writing ‘It’s Like This’ also felt brave–I think I was a virgin when I started it and had no idea how sex really worked. I felt so edgy and terrified–I was basically just spewing my fantasies onto the internet for strangers to read and hoping they didn’t shame me for them. And they didn’t and it was actually really freeing.
Katinka: ‘It’s Like This’! YES! Many of your readers, myself included, were blown away. What inspired you to include BDSM elements in it?
Orbiting Jupiter: Well, thanks! BDSM was something that has always appealed to me, sexually. I got the idea for “we’re in a relationship but we don’t talk about it” while I was on the bus, and then the chapter one sex scene started off mostly as a jerk-off fantasy (TMI? sorry…I don’t have much of a filter) and then I put the two together. What if it’s not just a relationship but a BDSM relationship?
I don’t know. I think S & M is hot. I like it in my fantasy life and, to a lesser extent, in my real life. Fantasy is fun because communication doesn’t have to be as direct. Like, I know some people find Rylan and Niles’ relationship very dysfunctional and I’ll admit to that – but that’s the glory of fiction: you can experience things without danger. And since it is posted on an adult website, I am not as worried about people reading it and not understanding that.
Then again, since the 50 Shades of Grey thing (which I haven’t read so I can’t offer a personal interpretation of it so the following is based off of what I’ve read about it), there seems to be a public worry about folks mislabeling/misunderstanding abusive relationships as BDSM relationships and I do think there is some merit to that concern. The theme of ‘It’s Like This’, however, is communication, or lack thereof, and so I am not putting forward their relationship as something of which to base one’s own relationship. Also, real people fuck things up or take risks or don’t talk about things, so I think it is fair that characters do the same. Not every piece of art is didactic.
Katinka: You wrote one chapter, a tiny sequel if you like, to ‘It’s Like This’. Will you consider continuing Niles and Rylan’s story?
Orbiting Jupiter: Haha, I feel so badly! I was planning a sequel an then I just lost steam or got distracted by other stories and never got around to writing more chapters. ‘How It Is Now’ is totally a WIP but someone posted it to Goodreads as a complete sequel, so people are reading it, expecting closure, and instead getting nothing but frustration. Again, I would like to finish it. I like Niles and Rylan and would like to carry on with their story, I just worry about it becoming too sappy or not being as good or something. ‘It’s Like This’ has gotten a lot more attention than my other stories. So I feel like expectations are higher and it makes me nervous because I’m awkward like that.
Katinka: Can we expect you to explore these somewhat rougher and dirtier power dynamics more in your future work?
Orbiting Jupiter: Frankly, yes. My ideas for ‘The Lucky Ones’ (one of my WIPs) are going to pretty dark places. BDSM as an escape, more unhealthy relationship patterns. Hopefully I get my shit together and write it. My ideas for ‘How it Is Now’ are also along the dirtier lines, or at least more pervasive. I wonder if Total Power Exchange could come into it, but again I don’t want to freak readers out. (Ok, I write for myself, but I also write for readers. There, I said it. I like people to like my stuff because I’m a human.)
Katinka: You mentioned not seeing yourself as a writer. Don’t you have the ambition to perhaps write professionally and publish your stories?
Orbiting Jupiter: I am not a writer insofar as I don’t want to pursue it as anything more than a hobby. I so very much enjoy writing. I used to very much enjoy acting and then I did an undergraduate degree in theatre and succeeded in a highly competitive acting program there–and when I graduated, I did a few professional auditions and was cast in a couple of fringe productions and by then end of it all, I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I no longer enjoyed it. I found it anxiety inducing and unstable and a little bit toxic: there was so much pressure surrounding how to look and how to dress and how to schmooze and how to drop everything (friends, jobs, family) for a role.
I was hit by a car as a pedestrian in 2008 and have both physical injuries and mental health issues as a result. I therefore find highly judgmental atmospheres to be incredibly stressful. I suspect professional writers have to face a lot of criticism and rejection and I am just not willing to put my fragile little psyche through that. I would happily let someone edit or proofread my stories for online publication (if they promised to be gentle with me!) but I’m not interested in seeking a profit. I want writing to remain something I do for pleasure.
Katinka: You write solely M/M (and we’re not complaining!). What appeals to you about the genre?
Orbiting Jupiter: I’m sure my psychologist could tell you…but I’m not sure. I’ve thought a lot about it and I’ve read what other folks have to say. There’s the “women like to write slash fiction because it is “safe”, it is more voyeuristic, it takes women out of the equation. I think that is an interesting argument but I do enjoy het romance, too (in both the arts and my real life). I’ve also considered the idea that slash fiction writers are privileged assholes who fetishize an oppressed minority and present unrealistic and oftentimes “overly feminine” men. While I definitely don’t want to detract from gay men’s lived experiences, in my own writing I strive or emotional realism over stereotypes. I also don’t believe there is such a thing as “overly feminine” as that is just an example of internalised misogyny.
For me, the main draw to M/M is twofold:
1. As a queer woman, I find fiction featuring non-hetero (or non-monogamous or non-gender-binary or non-white or anything beyond the majority) more interesting. They explore communities and ideologies that are not nearly as present as they should be in mainstream media.
2. Stakes are incredibly high in M/M romances. The patriarchy harms men, too. When a guy makes a move on a woman, he risks rejection. If a man makes a move on another man, he risks not only rejection, but also violence. Even if the other man returns the sentiment, he might not feel safe to act upon it. Or if he does, social stigmatization results. It’s forbidden love. It’s danger–and danger always makes for a more intense love story. I don’t choose to focus on homophobia and hate crimes and stigmatization in my stories because they are depressing and I like happy. Nevertheless, I feel that the threat of violence is always there.
Of course, I am not trying to say that women who love women do not experience similar feelings and systematic discrimination, but I do think that the prevalent North American culture is more accepting of women being affectionate with, loving towards, or physically close to other women. There is a murky line between public presentations of female friendship and female romantic love. I can walk down the street with a woman and hold her hand (granted, I am in my 20s and live in a liberal community) and people might not necessarily assume I’m queer, whereas I think my culture typically reads two men who hold hands as automatically gay (or bi or otherwise not straight). So yes: high stakes = forbidden love = hot sex.
Katinka: What strikes me is that the progression of the plot in your work feels very natural. When reading your chapter notes, it doesn’t seem like you have a plan beforehand and just go with the flow. Is that true?
Orbiting Jupiter: Thank-you for the very kind compliment! And, yes, I’m sorry to admit, it is totally true. I rarely start writing with a plot structure in mind. I tried to do so with Better Now, but it absolutely did not end up going in the direction I wanted it to. As a reader I am not very plot driven – I often find myself skimming until I find the next dialogue – but I do respect people who can write great plots and I also acknowledge that strong plots can strengthen and give purpose to the characters, but I’m just balls at coming up with original ideas.
Katinka: So how does a typical book of yours come together?
Orbiting Jupiter: My stories come together rather episodically. They start with a pretty straightforward daydream: two boys who are obviously meant to be together. How do they know each other and why aren’t they together yet or if they are together, what is the complication in their relationship. Then I write that out and hope that a new daydream will kind of leap off from there and inform me of what might happen next. I love drama (okay, I’m totally guilty of melodrama) and extreme situations that would never happen because I think they are exciting and fun, but I also love believable, human, earnest, confused characters. I tend to blend these two things together and see what happens.
I am also a total sucker for tropes and clichés. I don’t really mind a cliché plot line so long as the characters are likeable and the romance seems legit. This is probably why I can read kid!fic or H/C fanfic or Coffeeshop!AU fanfic pretty much forever. I don’t really mind either way where the characters are, I just care that they fall in love and it makes me feel nice feelings. This probably makes me super shallow but I just tell myself that all the Greek masterpieces where just retellings of Homer over and over again. (This article really helped cure me of my fanfiction/non-original plot shame. Though again, hats off to people with original plots! You’re incredible and I’m super jealous of you!
Katinka: You usually post one chapter at a time. How do you handle getting stuck? And what to do when you’re not pleased with a chapter after all? Does that happen to you?
Orbiting Jupiter: I’m not exactly faithful to my stories. If I get stuck, I abandon them until I don’t feel stuck anymore. Or I daydream EVEN HARDER until something new comes along. If I post a chapter and then change my mind about it, I just change the chapter. Then I post at the beginning of the new chapter: hey, I totally changed that last chapter, so you might want to re-read/skim it for continuity’s sake. That is one of the perks of posting free fiction. It’s amateur hour. I’m an amateur. I write for a hobby. It’s not my job. So if I fuck up, I forgive myself, fix it, or ignore it and then move on to more nice things. Like kissing.
Katinka: How important is feedback from readers for you?
Orbiting Jupiter: I love feedback. I hate to admit it but honestly, if I wasn’t getting any feedback I probably wouldn’t still be writing. I’d limit it to daydreams. I find it pretty remarkable that people take the time to not only read stuff I put out into cyber-oblivion, but also take the time to say a nice thing to a stranger. So yeah, it means a lot to hear from folks. It feels really cool to have someone be like “I saw this thing you did, and I understood it, I got something out of it”. It is a unique connection. Attention, emails, enthusiasm – I’m a glutton for it. Also: in terms of support, if someone wanted to make me some cover art I would be really stoked on that. I can’t draw/photograph/etc. for shit, but I think it would be nice to have covers.
Katinka: You mentioned being obsessed with reading M/M yourself. Do you have any recommendations?
Orbiting Jupiter: I adore M/M fanfic. I guzzle it like water. My AOF username is umbrellaless22 and my recs are here (be warned: I ship pretty much every M/M ship that ere did sail). As for freefic, I’ve been out of the freefic loop for a long time. I definitely recommend stuff by Blue GhostGhost. Find her here.
Also, on adultfanfiction I recommend authors lime green and tangerine
My WIP ‘The Lucky Ones’ is inspired by their story ‘Birthday’, which they never finished and it broke my heart.
Katinka: Is there anything we haven’t touched upon?
Orbiting Jupiter: I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to email me and coming up with these questions and making me feel like a popular princess. I feel very lucky to have so many folks rooting for me. I’m always up for chatting or exchanging fic recs if anyone is interested. I can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Katinka’s review for Orbiting Jupiter’s work: https://boysinourbooks.com/2013/11/10/freefic-week-review-the-work-of-orbiting-jupiter/
Orbiting Jupiter on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4807995.Orbiting_Jupiter
Orbiting Jupiter on Adult Fan Fiction: http://members.adult-fanfiction.org/profile.php?no=1296793761