Without questions this book has been my finest discovery this year, I pimped the crap out of it as soon as I finished reading it, and I only wish I could have a super power like hypnotism or mind control so I could MAKE everyone read it...So given my *ahem* enthusiasm for this gem of a book the very kind and incredibly talented J.C. Lillis author of HTPaMH has not only agreed to grace us with a visit at the LL's Words, but she's gone on Skype and gotten us some facetiming with the boys...YES!!!! ABANDON IN DA HOUSE BABY!!
Brandon and Abel my favorite thing next to a nice chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc (and those who know me personally understand the weight behind that statement) have also spent some time with us and have indulged us answering all our questions. We could not be more excited to share this with you, Those who have read HTRaMH like Laddie and I, and are now desperate fangirls or fanboys of Team ABANDON enjoy!! Those of you who have not, sit back grab a straw and start chugging on this koolaid baby! You can thank us later.
LL: So we absolutely loved HTRaMH, Brandon and Abel were so incredibly layered and wonderful. Were you inspired by any particular fandom to write them and if so, which of all the fandom boys inspired Brandon and Abel?
JC: First of all, thank you so much. I’m blown away by the nice comments about the book, and you guys were the first to notice it and get the ball rolling. I’m so grateful! (I’d promise you my firstborn, but she’s five already and highly suspicious of strangers.)
So as far as inspiration: I’m a serial fangirl, so I’ve been following one fandom or another pretty much my whole life. The idea behind HTRaMH came from my general fascination with the drama surrounding real-person fic—not only the controversy it causes within fandoms, but also its potential effect on the people being shipped. I mean, if you’re a seasoned entertainer, you probably expect stuff like that and laugh it off. But how weird would it be to go on a reality show as a sheltered teen, get famous within weeks, and then find out that people are shipping you with another contestant and writing this eerie fic version of you? How would it affect you psychologically—especially if you actually DID have feelings for the other person?
I didn’t base Brandon and Abel on anyone in particular, but those were the basic questions I started with. Hearing about the slash fandoms for American Idol got me thinking I’d make the characters reality-TV contestants, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a whole book set in that universe. I also knew I wanted both characters to be gay and out, because I didn’t want to do a sad unrequited-love thing or a coming-out story. So I cycled through a bunch of options and then hit on this idea that they’d be heavily involved in fandom themselves, as co-runners of a vlog dedicated to their favorite sci-fi show. (I loved creating the show-within-the-book. Castaway Planet is a weird blend of Lost, Star Trek, and vintage B-movies and I wish it were real so I could ship Cadmus and Sim.) I thought it would be funnier if Brandon and Abel were vocally opposed to slashfic about their TV crushes—the idea of anti-slashers finding themselves slashed was irresistible to me.
LL: Brandon's struggle with his faith was an incredibly raw and touching part of the book. Were you afraid that presenting his inner conflict would turn off readers?
JC: I’m glad you liked that piece of it. Yeah, I definitely knew that was a risky move. I didn’t start planning the story with “unresolved Catholic angst” on the drawing board; it’s something that kept insisting itself as I thought about Brandon and his obsession with a TV android who’s not sure if he wants to be human. And it’s also something that’s very, very close to my heart, because I struggled with Catholicism, sexuality, and belief in God since I was a young teen and only recently made peace with who I am and what I believe. I felt like I could write that aspect of his inner life convincingly—though I’m a girl and my specific experiences have obviously been different.
The big challenge was working that aspect into a book that’s basically a romcom for fandom geeks. I was concerned that it would overwhelm the narrative. A lot of Brandon’s inner conflict mirrors my own (the superstitious thoughts, the memories of things he’d heard at church and at home), and in my experience, that can be a pretty consuming thing when you’re 18 and desperately trying to figure yourself out. I kept an eye on it, toned it down a little as I edited, and tried to weave it into the plot in logical places so it didn’t bog the whole story down or overshadow the humor.
I don’t regret addressing Brandon’s difficulties with faith. It’s something that lots of young people struggle with—often in silence, because they’re afraid of upsetting or alienating their families. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get comfortable with the fact that I didn’t believe certain things I was taught in school and church, and I would’ve loved to read a book like HTRaMH as a younger person. I would’ve felt less alone, I think.
LL: ABANDON That word kind of embodies most of the themes of this book. Brandon's summer to get away from all the guilt in his home life, for Abel to finally to try and catch Brandon, of the freedom that an internet identity gives people, how the anonymity allows for so much to the point of recklessness and cruelty, of letting go of ideals and paradigms that we build from characters/actors we fall in love with. This story holds so much, so many layers. Can you tell us a bit about how you weaved it together?
JC: Wow, thanks—that’s like a huge compliment in question form! Well, I try not to be too conscious of theme the whole time I’m writing, because I don’t want to wallop readers too hard with it. I came up with the ABANDON portmanteau pretty early in the process as I was thinking up good names for my characters, and it did seem like a word that hummed with all kinds of possibilities. I liked that “abandon” can mean embracing freedom or leaving something behind, because Brandon has to do both before he can make a go of it with Abel. But I didn’t think too hard about making all the other elements align with the theme. I just developed the characters, nailed down the basic story arc, and hitched a ride on the RV to see where we were going.
It was really tough sometimes. When I came up with the structure—six sci-fi conventions over six weeks—I thought “oh, I have a roadmap to follow; maybe this’ll be easy to write.” But SO MUCH happens on a six-week road trip, and I agonized over what to show and not show. I ended up with reams of deleted scenes. My number-one priority was to keep the book as fast-paced and funny as possible, while still developing Brandon’s inner conflict in a way that didn’t feel cartoonish or over-the-top. Plus I had to figure out which cast member they’d meet at which tour stop, when to start dropping hints about the secret Abandon fan community, how fast things should evolve between Brandon and Abel, what Bec’s involvement would be, etc. It got so tricky that I actually had to walk away a few times, not sure if I’d ever finish. I’m glad I did, and I’m REALLY glad fellow fandom geeks have been slowly discovering and enjoying it. That makes it all worth it. My laptop’s even forgiven me for all the times I cursed it out at one a.m.
LL: After that WHOPPER of a question we just want to know, who is your fave fanfic writer? Or at least the fandom.
JC: Oh, wow. . .I’m probably going to date myself with this answer, because I don’t read as much fic as I used to. I used to read tons of X-Files fic, some Star Trek (TNG and Voyager; I wasn’t really an original-series fan). The only fandom I ever wrote for was Carnivale, that HBO show that lasted for a couple weird seasons in 2003-2005. My good friend and I wrote like 10 or 11 songs for Carnivale: The Musical!, which was incredibly fun. I was also involved in a small Yahoo community of fic writers/artists at the time, and this girl who went by Vorona wrote great fanfic. I was shy about fandom back then and went by a pseudonym, so I never got to know her personally, but I still think about her sometimes.
I’ve also read some fics in the Game of Thrones fandom that I’ve enjoyed as much as the actual books. I probably shouldn’t say that, right? I hear George R.R. Martin hates fanfic. I guess I understand the impulse to “protect” your characters on some level, but in my gut I just find it so weird when authors lay the smackdown on fic writers. I actually wrote the showrunner’s rant in HTRAMH as a response to writers who don’t want anyone else playing with their creations. I really do believe that when you put characters out into the world, you give joint custody to your readers. If they want to take them out for a wild weekend, that’s their right, and also THE BEST POSSIBLE compliment to you as a writer. Seriously, if real Brandon/Abel fic ever popped up somewhere, it would make my life. Celebratory snickerdoodles would definitely be baked.
Brandon and Abel
[The boys videoconferenced in from their college dorm rooms—Brandon from Loyola Maryland, Abel from Temple. Abel’s wearing his puffy red vest; Brandon’s got on a new Castaway Planet t-shirt.]
ABEL: Bran? You there?
BRANDON: Yep. Hiya.
ABEL: Aww, look at your desk! You’ve got like eighteen books with a thousand Post-Its. You’re such a nerdling.
BRANDON: It’s a ruse. I’m at Swallow at the Hollow every night. Are those cinnamon jelly beans?
ABEL: Drive up here and you can have some. [Grins, chomps a handful.] ‘Kay, so before we start, I would just like to point out that Bran has finally FINALLY pitched that baggy-ass Castaway Planet shirt and replaced it with an elegant slim-fit version courtesy of his sweet and thoughtful boyfriend.
BRANDON: My biceps look glorious. I’m told.
BRANDON: You have our friends?
ABEL: I do indeed. [Fishes Plastic Sim and Plastic Cadmus out of his vest pocket, where they’d been spooning. Stands the action figures on his freshman Media & Cultural Studies textbook.] Okay, ladies: we’re ready. Whatcha got for us?
[After some serious crooning and possibly a bit of baby talk to express our delight to see our most favest boys and we are ready for our questions]
LL: So, we know that Brandon had a favorite Abandon fic but, Abel, what was your favorite Abandon story and why?
BRANDON: Oh God.
BRANDON: Don’t even say what I think you’re going to say.
ABEL: I don’t—
BRANDON: [whispering] The steampunk AU?
ABEL: Wha—no! That one’s just ours. Guys, he’s a tiny bit shy because we read this amazing steampunk fic right before we—
BRANDON: PLEASE STOP TALKING.
ABEL: Sorry! Sorry, sorry. Okay, so all joking aside, I think I’ll have to go wiiiiiiiiith. . .a retro robot fic.
ABEL: That’s good stuff, Bran.
BRANDON: Not the one where we’re nineteenth-century vampire hunters.
ABEL: Nope. The one where we’re cowboy vampire hunters.
BRANDON: I’m incredibly glad I missed that.
ABEL: Shush. It is stunning.
BRANDON: So are we hunting cowboy vampires, or cowboys who also happen to hunt vampires?
ABEL: The latter. We’re herding sheep in Wyoming, see, and one bright summer morning we wake up in each other’s arms and all the livestock’s been exsanguinated. So we arm ourselves with silver stakes and tromp off into the woods that night—
BRANDON: Does this end with us getting stuck in an elevator?
ABEL: No, but you kick some vampire ass and it’s SUPER dreamy.
[We struggle to regain control after this display of adorableness and move on to Q #2]
LL: Now that you two are together and Abandon had a bit of a hand in it do you think you'll ever find a way to get along with those crazy Cadsim shippers? Not their leader but some of those girls have to be okay, huh?
ABEL: Well, ACTUALLY. . .should we spill about the drama in the Cadsim comm?
BRANDON: If I say no, will you do it anyway?
ABEL: Of course. Miss Maxima’s out. Dethroned. willabelle’s the mod now.
BRANDON: No one cares.
ABEL: Well they should, because it was the most FLAWLESSLY entertaining piece of Internet theatre I’ve witnessed since the Abandon community melted down. Apparently Miss Max banned cavegrrl94 from the comm and then got in this epic dustup with mrs.j.cadmus about it, so mrs.j.cadmus got all her friends to post SCATHING reviews of Maxie’s new “Android Immortal” trilogy, and then when Miss Max found out—you know that scene in Ghost Rider where Nicolas Cage’s entire face bursts into flames? Like that.
BRANDON: And then. . .mistakes were made.
ABEL: Meaning Miss Maxima posted five grody photos of mrs.j.cadmus at CastieCon, getting it on with some old dude in assless chaps and a tinfoil Xaarg hat.
BRANDON: Long story short. . .
ABEL: Miss Max’s reign of terror hath endeth. Willabelle’s cool. We’re five episodes into the new Castaway Planet season and things’ve stayed pretty chill. We visit their fanjournal a couple times a week. They’ve got a handful of new fic writers who are definitely a cut above.
BRANDON: “Replacement Parts”?
ABEL: LOVE that fic. It’s hurt/comfort but you don’t feel grimy reading it. Seriously, when Sim told Cadmus “Perhaps you should stop treating love as I treat a malfunction, Captain”? I teared up.
BRANDON: You’re so easy.
LL: There's something wonderfully fantastic about being a geek among geeks. Are there any more Castie-Cons in your future?
ABEL: YES. Definitely!
ABEL: No ifs. CastieCon 1 is in Atlanta next summer; we’re totally taking the RV.
BRANDON: Dad’s selling it.
ABEL: He’s been saying that for six months. If he sells it, I WILL BUY IT.
BRANDON: Aww. You’re cute when you’re impractical.
ABEL: We’ve even got a place to stay. Dave lives 20 miles outside the city. I mean, he and Bec broke up like two months ago but they’re staying friends.
BRANDON: She’s mad at him now.
ABEL: No! Why?
BRANDON: She said purity balls were creepy and he called her narrow-minded.
ABEL: I will call that boy later.
LL: Abel, we know you got some kick-ass snakeskin boots and a jacket on your roadtrip as well as some other awesome knick knacks. What is your favorite thing of all the stuff you picked up on the trip?
ABEL: Can I tell them about the bracelet?
BRANDON: Aw, crap.
BRANDON: Let me tell it, because you’ll get all melty. We were in this thrift store in Phoenix and I saw this ID bracelet, like the kind he gave that guy Jonathan—
ABEL: Who completely smashed my heart.
BRANDON: —and so I bought it while he wasn’t looking and held onto it, and then after all the drama died down later on, I. . . [Blushes, mumbles into hand] . . .got it engraved.
ABEL: “TEAM ABANDON.” [Flicks Plastic Sim and Plastic Cadmus; they topple over and clatter to the floor.] That was supposed to be a dual swoon, sorry.
LL: You've met all of the major players on Castaway Planet and some of them weren't what you were expecting. Now that you've gotten a glimpse of who they are in their everyday lives do you have new favorite characters or are you sticking with Cadmus and Sim?
ABEL: Well, I have to say that Bree LaRue is like 41% more interesting since she chopped all her hair off and went batshit. They wrote it into the show this season, have you seen it? Her character gets possessed by one of Xaarg’s demons and she’s off in the forest hunting giant alien pig creatures with a nail file.
BRANDON: Whatever. Still Sim and Cadmus for me, all the way.
ABEL: Don’t you hate the whiny streak Cadmus is on this season, though? [holds up Plastic Cadmus] Oh, I’m so emo! No one’s as tormented as I am!
BRANDON: You should totally write some fic about it.
LL: So Brandon have you attempted to write more of your own fanfic or have you left that to the shippers?
ABEL: Oh, we write our own fanfic every day. . .
BRANDON: Will you quit it? Nah, I can’t really bring myself to do it. Once the new season started I actually tried to write a Cadsim fic but I’d get three sentences in and then just pound the delete button. I’ll leave the fic to the experts.
LL: And FINALLY...you know we HAD to ask this! Are you guys going to keep dating now that you are in different colleges?
ABEL: Oh, we tried, but then Brandon had this torrid fling with his Shakespeare professor, and we broke it off.
BRANDON: I really just wanted someone to read me sonnets.
ABEL: We’re kidding. He’s my boy.
BRANDON: It’s been good.
ABEL: I mean, we’ve had issues—
BRANDON: Everything’s fine.
ABEL: Except his dad won’t have me over for Thanksgiving.
BRANDON: Mom’s working on him.
ABEL: Whatever. You’ll come to my house for pie, right?
BRANDON: Is “pie” code for something else?
ABEL: Yes, but there will also be actual pie involved.
BRANDON: Cool. Don’t forget those two.
ABEL: These guys? [Holds up Plastic Sim and Plastic Cadmus] They packed their bags yesterday. They can’t wait to see you, Tin Man.
BRANDON: The sentiment is mutual, Captain.
ANNNNDDD that is all from our peeps from How To Repair a Mechanical Heart we hope you loved this visit as much as we did! Our thanks to JC Lillis author extraordinaire and one of our favorite internet ladies. Make sure you stop by her blog to hear about her new projects and news from Brandon and Abel.
Thanks for stopping by!