Originally posted to the Vault on 4/5/13.
Spike really doesn't get enough love, in the show or in the fandom. Today's Vault entry reminds us that you should always make sure those who are important to you get enough love.
[Slice-of-Life] • 8,600 words
The friends we take for granted are often the ones that leave the largest impact on our lives. When Spike falls seriously ill with a mysterious disease and the ponies strive to nurse him back to health, Twilight Sparkle comes to grips with this very realization about her number one assistant—and friend.
Hit the break for a chat with applecinnamonspice and links to Fire Spores out on the ponynet! Don't forget to grab your own ebook copy over at the Downloads page.
Where do you live?
I’m from a small town about 40 minutes south of Detroit, Michigan. Good old Michigan, 70 degrees one day and 30 the next. Nothing in-between.
What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)
I’m a recent college graduate with a Bachelor of Arts and Communications. I’m on the full-time job hunt currently, meanwhile I’m working part-time in retail.
How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?
I’d heard quite a few guys whose opinions I held in high regard talking about the show, and I kind of put it in the back of my mind for a while and resisted. It wasn’t until my younger sister had the show recommended to her by a friend that I said, “Okay, let’s give this a shot.” So I watched it sparingly and casually for a while, noting exceptional details about the writing, animation, voice-acting and characterization quality. But I don’t think it was until around “Suited For Success” that I began to seek the episodes out on my own. Before I knew it, I had marathoned through Season 2 by June of 2012. I think what struck me first and most prominently about it was the (literally) colorful cast of characters. As a girl who’s had to put up with a lot of crap in regards to the portrayal of women in entertainment mediums, strong female ensembles are a major plus for me—and FiM is abundant in strong female characters who also aren’t afraid to be feminine.
Do you have a favorite episode?
Oh boy, I was afraid of this question. I feel kinda bad because the two-part episodes always seem to wind up higher on my list, which isn’t fair to the regular length episodes. So I guess I’ll split this answer up:
My favorite two-part episode is “The Return of Harmony,” followed closely by “The Crystal Empire.” Both of those really had a sense of suspense about them, keeping you on the edge of your seat. You know everything will turn out alright in the end, but the question is how? The former gave us a fantastically fun villain and brought the entirety of Season 1 full circle in an incredibly heartwarming way. The latter I thought was not only an adventurous season opener, but a great characterization episode for Twilight as well. We see her acting upon the virtues she’s learned throughout the series on a much grander scale that undoubtedly leads into the role she has been destined for by the season’s conclusion.
The 22-minute episodes I love the most include “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”, “The Best Night Ever,” “Lesson Zero,” “Sisterhooves Social,” “Sweet and Elite,” “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000,” “Ponyville Confidential,” “Magic Duel,” “Sleepless in Ponyville,” and “Magical Mystery Cure.”
Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?
Ever since I started watching the show, I’ve gone back and forth between Applejack and Twilight Sparkle for the longest time over who is my favorite. I still don’t quite know if I’ve decided, but for now I’m going to settle on Twilight Sparkle. From the very beginning I saw a lot of myself in her: the way she kept to herself and was reluctant to open up to making friends, the way she sets her mind firmly to a task and will do anything and everything she can to complete it, the way she freaks out over deadlines, her determination to be the best pony she can be, and her utter devotion to those she cares about. And all of that comes through beautifully in Tara Strong’s performance; she really acts the hell out of some of those scenes. Those are just a few of the things I love about Twilight—plus she can be snarky and sarcastic sometimes, just like me. Some of the fan portrayals I find really funny, particularly in parodies like “Friendship is Witchcraft.” Regardless, she is my favorite pony, and contrary to a somewhat popular belief among the fandom, a new pair of wings and a title is not going to make a difference to me. Twilight is still an awesome character.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
No joke, I was drinking Apple Cinnamon Spice tea while getting over a terrible cold and just randomly thought the tea name would make a great pony name. So I made it my signature—even though it was probably the Nyquil talking.
Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?
In first grade, our teacher gave us notebooks to use exclusively as journals where we could write about anything we wanted. Rather than making it a place to jot down personal thoughts, I started to write short stories instead. I suppose the rest is history after that. Despite other interests and career paths I’ve chosen, I always seem to come back to writing—and fanfiction writing has become an outlet for me to both celebrate my passions for certain fandoms and hone my own skills as a writer. I started to write a huge novel-length Harry Potter fanfiction not long after I finished the final book, but I never completed it because too many plotlines, characters, and subplots were making it too complicated. So I decided to stick primarily to one-shots from then on, and have since written fics for anime like Soul Eater and Princess Tutu that are still floating around FF.net somewhere. I also have little drabbles, both MLP and non-MLP, sitting on my hard drive that I’ll never publish, but I like to keep them around in case I decide to flesh any of those ideas out into a longer story.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m actually a singer/actress—my major was specifically in theater. So I get involved in a whole bunch of community theater when I’m not making up stories about adorable pastel-colored ponies. I also enjoy cosplaying and going to conventions around my area. No MLP cons yet, sadly. I wanted to make it to Canterlot Gardens last year but ended up being unable to attend. Should I go in the future, you can bet you’ll see me dressed as Applejack with my sister as Rarity.
Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?
I love any author that has this uncanny ability to actually carry the reader away to a fictional world and leave all the problems of the real world behind them for a few hours. So J.K. Rowling is definitely among my favorites. As a teenager I loved reading Meg Cabot, who continues to have a great streak in young female-driven novels to this day. And as a child I read a lot of classic Judy Blume, especially the Fudge series which is hysterically funny.
As far as Fimfictions go, my recent memorable readings include shortskirtsandexplosions’ “Fear and Trembling” which is an incredibly poignant read that made me tear up quite a bit, PinkiamenaPiePrincess’ “The Battle of Fort Book”, device heretic’s “Dictated, Not Read”, DJ Lowrider’s “A Simpler Time,” and on the crack comedy side, milesprower06’s “Letters From a Disgruntled Friendship Student.” So many of his entries had me in stitches!
Stephen King believes that every author has an “ideal reader” – the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?
I don’t think there is a specific person that I write for. I mean, I suppose if I myself am satisfied, then I must be in a good place. I guess I write for people who enjoy stories with characters put in very real situations, situations that anyone can relate to on some level. It makes both the writing and the reading experience much more intimate, and makes feeling for the characters and their struggles second nature.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?
Keep writing! Write every day if you can. Even if you know it’s going to be crap, write it out anyways. Any time you get a new idea, write it down somewhere or you’re bound to forget it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in writing for fanfiction particularly, it’s that it takes a thousand sparks before you write that one story that, for one reason or another, catches fire. And it will happen when you least expect it.
What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)
I usually start with a mental outline, including which characters will be involved, what role will each of them play, what is the overall message, how do we get from Point A to Point B, and so on. Because this story all took place in one location (Twilight’s library and bedroom), I actually had a picture in my head of the layout—where everyone was, where they moved to, whether they were standing or sitting, etc. Then when I begin actually writing, the most important aspect to me above all else is that the characters are fully present. My sister is my initial editor/prereader and the first question I always ask her is “Can you hear the characters’ voices?” Because of how vital this is to me, I wind up reading a bunch of my dialogue out loud. It sounds strange to read my own work out loud, but in the end I think it ultimately pays off.
What inspired you to write Fire Spores?
Well I’ll tell you this, I certainly didn’t go into it thinking “This is it. This is the fic that’s going to get me over 10,000 hits on Fimfiction.” I still can’t believe it.
Honestly, it all started when I was searching around for MLP fics by character and I realized that there were hardly any Spike stories—which is a shame because I love the little guy and think he’s vastly underrated. So I started to brainstorm what I could write if I were to write a story about Spike. I thought about how complex and unique the relationship between himself and Twilight is, being that of best friends, sister and brother, and parent and child all rolled into one. But I was still stuck on that, as there were many many possibilities of where I could go from there.
I think I was either rewatching or reflecting on the episode “Dragon Quest” and taking note of the sequence where Twilight goes through her entire library to find information on dragons for Spike, only to come up empty-hoofed. I remember thinking, “Wow, ponies know nothing about dragons, yet Twilight’s had one in her care for years. That’s incredibly risky, I mean what if Spike got really sick or something?” And that’s when it clicked, it was literally like a switch was turned on in my brain. The idea slowly began taking shape: a way to explore the relationship between them, a way to make this a lesson Twilight could learn, a way to work in the rest of the Mane 6 so they came together like a family, and a way to write all of this in such a way that it could feasibly slip right into the canon of the show.
Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing Fire Spores?
I wanted to make a conscious goal for myself to write it in the style of an episode, to find a balance between lightheartedness and drama while staying true to the essence of the characters. And that, not surprisingly, proved to be the hardest task of all. I still think it turned out a little more drama-heavy than I wanted it to, but it seems to work within the overall frame of the story.
Another tough spot was giving each of the Mane 6 a moment to shine. I understand now more than ever how tough it must be for the show writers when they have an ensemble episode to pen. I knew Fluttershy was going to play a significant role, I knew Rarity and Twilight—the two most important ponies in Spike’s life—needed a moment together, and I knew this all needed to flow together into a sort of climax. Creating the puzzle pieces was easy, it was making them all fit that was the challenge.
When you set out to write Fire Spores, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?
A lot of people have commented that this story made them cry—and believe it or not, that wasn’t my original intention. It was a direct result of the unfolding story. It got to the point where the characters in their own voices were writing the story for me, and before I knew it I was in the thick of an incredibly emotional and devastating scene. Although there were moments, such as Twilight’s shattered reaction, that I actually did draw from personal experience. Nevertheless, the fact that the story evoked such an emotional response from so many people does make me happy and feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.
But as far as what I actually intended, it was to drive home the fact that we really cannot afford to take people in our lives for granted, no matter how long we have known them. At any moment they can be snatched from us by forces beyond our control, and it’s important to cherish the time that we do have with them. I went in knowing beyond a doubt that this was going to be the moral, the letter Twilight wrote to her mentor at the end of it all, and that it is indeed one of the hardest lessons she could ever learn about friendship.
Where can readers drop you a line?
At my Fimfiction account, applecinnamonspice! Feel free to leave me a PM or comment, feedback of any kind is always appreciated!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Continue to be the awesome fan community that you are. Create, express, enjoy each other’s company and enjoy the show that brought us all here in the first place. There truly is nothing else like this fandom, so let’s continue to make it thrive together.
Also, the girls in this community need to be more vocal. C’mon ladies!