Congratulations on becoming the seventh most popular story in the Naruto fandom! To put this accomplishment into perspective, as of the 19 August 2015 the top 3 fandoms on the website –in terms of stories submitted– are Harry Potter (~722,000), Naruto (~389,000), and Twilight (~218,000). Seventh place, and rising, out of approximately 389,000 stories is nothing to scoff at. If ranked by reviews and combining the top two fandoms, Dreaming of Sunshine sits comfortably at the 25th most popular story out of approximately 1,111,000.
With nearly one hundred chapters published, you have accumulated quite the fanbase. Thousands of readers, reviewers, writers, artists, and media editors all dedicated to a story you began writing a week shy of four years ago.
When I read the reviews and comments left on your story, I often come across praise, questions about the future of the plot or speculations about certain events. But my questions for you are about who Silver Queen is as an author. How Dreaming of Sunshine came to be and how it has impacted your life. The questions in this interview are aimed at helping readers to get know one of their favorite authors a little better.
The first submission for Dreaming of Sunshine, the prologue, was posted on the 2 September 2011. You wrote this in your Author's Note at the end of the prologue: "Well. The sin of all fanfiction writers. Self-inserts. I can't believe I'm writing one, but the proof is right there. This kind of demanded to be written, and in first person, no less. I'm probably going to be hitting every cliché in the entire Naruto-verse, but hopefully not. Who knows?" Who knows, indeed! It seems you were hesitant to post a SI story, so what changed your mind? What was it about Dreaming of Sunshine that 'demanded' to be written?
Gosh, that's a long time ago now! Four years, can you believe it? I think I kind of figured that if I started posting, the motivation would fizzle out? Which seems a little bit backwards-logic, but anyone who has looked at my profile has probably seen I tend to write one shots. My longest fic (bar the DOS-verse) was ten chapters long, and short chapters at that. So I figured I'd put together one or two chapters of 'look at this idea' and that would be the end of it.
What 'demanded' to be written? I'm not sure, really. It was just one of those plot bunnies that was tenacious and just stuck around. Maybe because when you start with a SI there's an instant factor of investment, of an emotional bond. I just had so many ideas of where this could go, of how things could happen, of exciting things that could be included – some of the rough drafts from that point led to the Gaara fight last chapter, if you can believe it. There are some I haven't even touched yet with Shippuden stuff in them that I'm really looking forward to.
How long did you sit on the idea of this story before you decided to really do it? Did anyone encourage you to do so?
A couple of months, I think? I read Cage of Blood and Circumstance and Only a Moron in quick succession and the idea was formed. I think I held out on it for ages before drafting anything, because it was 'just' a SI and not really a story. And then I put pen to paper because it was just that insistent. And then a couple more weeks before I scrambled those drafts into a prologue to lead into it all.
My sister got bombarded with all the ideas and drafts. Still does, really. She gets each chapter maybe five or six times when its finished, and all the incomplete bits that end up deleted on the cutting room floor. I pretty much thought she would be the only reader for it. But I got some nice feedback on the early chapters, which really helped. Only a handful of them, compared to the number I get now, but it's surprising what one consistent voice of support will do.
When writing your story, what sort of writing tools do you use to organize and plan? Or do you find yourself winging it? Do you have a notebook, like Shikako, full of notes on the 'future'?
Nowadays its pretty much all on Word. I had a mild panic last time my laptop died, because that would be a disaster. Which reminds me that I need to back it all up again soon. But back when I was at uni, I had a whole stack of notebooks, ala Shikako. I went through maybe three or four with drafts? Because I could take them to lectures and just write while I was listening. Or not listening, as the case might have actually been. *cough*. Unfortunately, now I am a Working Adult, that kind of thing is a no go.
Forward planning is pretty rough. I mean, I have a vague idea of where things are going, and vague timelines, but mostly characters just act as they do and take the story places while I'm writing the scene. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Which is why fight scenes are particularly tricky when I want them to end in a specific way, because we have to get there in some manner, rather than just ending up anywhere. And also, fight scenes. I'm sure I've complained about them before.
What doubts, if any, did you have when you first began posting the story? Do you still have doubts about Dreaming of Sunshine?
It wasn't so much 'doubts' because that would imply there was an expectation, you know? I just figured I'd throw up the first couple of chapters, laugh it out with my sister and ignore the deluge of 'This is a Mary Sue' thrown my way.
What has been the most difficult aspect about writing this fanfiction?
The longer DOS goes on, the more people read it and want things out of it. And you can't make everyone happy. People who want more this or more that (or less fillers. Have I heard that one.), or expect the story to go in directions I'm not going to take it. Which is always hard, because sometimes those things would make a great story. It's just not THIS story.
What is your favorite aspect about Shikako?
That she has set her mind on something and come hell or high water no one is going to change her mind on it. And that 'something' being meddling in the ultimate fate of the verse is what drives the story forward. She might not like it, or even agree with all her own decisions, but by hook or by crook she'll keep going.
What made you decide to write your SI as being the twin sister of Shikamaru Nara? Were there any other families you entertained the idea of your SI being born into instead?
I think she was always a Nara. I mean, I have other SI's and they're scattered in a variety of clans and places. But Shikako was always a Nara, and she was pretty much always 'Shikako' because it's the excellent kind of bland naming I'm good at. I like Shikamaru, and Shikaku; they're some of my favourite clans. And I thought the Nara were the right kind of 'side character' clans to be near the story but involved in it. And their traits of 'intelligent' and 'not talkative' jive pretty well with me.
The story is labeled as a SI story, but do you still believe that Shikako's character and your own are still the same? Has she taken on a personality of her own? If so, when? In what ways do you and Shikako differ the most, other than the obvious fact that she was raised in a militaristic setting?
Shikako has definitely evolved. Like, even in the early chapters she would have been different from me, because she died and was then highly traumatized by this huge cultural shift. I don't really deal well with new things or new places, especially me-when-I-started-writing-DOS. I think by the time we started actually hitting Naruto plot, with the bell test and Wave Country she would have been coming into her own distinctive characterization. But I would say the Forest of Death could be regarded as the tipping point. Which makes sense, I guess, because it's a decision I would never be faced with making and she was and did.
I think Shikako is way more motivated than I am, actually, and a bigger risk taker, which could in part be because she's playing a higher stakes game. I think she's better at communicating with people, though I do love writing her 'I can't talk, halp, what are words' moments which are, ironically, when she's more comfortable and not trying to play people so hard. I think she pays a lot more attention to the world around her, but that is in part because of the ninja setting and training. And I would like to think she's crueler than I am. We have certainly seen streaks of it in her. Not saying I don't have a bit of it, but she knows which buttons to aim for.
While each of Kishimoto's characters are unique, it is often difficult for viewers to really understand them as we understand those around us. Your story is well known for being realistic in that the canon characters are not one-dimensional –a trap many fanfiction authors find themselves falling into. How do you determine the deeper thoughts, actions, reactions, and personalities of canon characters?
A lot of it just comes to me, sometimes. The recent 'oh my god, Kankurou is a theatre nerd' was actually something that made me laugh and laugh when I realized it. It was a combination of reading some friends tumblr posts about theatre kids (crazy people) and the way that the Puppet Corps almost certainly go undercover as actor types. So that just had to get written into the fic. And some of it is very much trying to explain irregularities we see on the screen – Tenten is said to be perfectly accurate, yet her fighting style is a barrage of weapons that never seem to hit anyone. So maybe she isn't trying to hit, just to box people in and direct them around the stage. Which works fine when you have Neji and Lee to provide the actual take down, but shows as a weakness in her solo fights. And the easiest reason for 'why does she miss' is that she's not even aiming at them, because she doesn't want to hurt them. Which works with all information we have on her. And for some characters, its just because you have to treat them kindly and with respect, not like joke characters. It's easy with Lee, to say he's just eyebrows and enthusiasm and to mock his outfit. But it's not kind and it's very shallow writing. So yeah, he's eyebrows and enthusiasm, but also the boy that rescued a squirrel in the Forest and promised to die for a girl he'd just met.
In addition to having well thought out characterizations in your story, you also include many small details about life in the Elemental Nations. For instance, Tsunade's jutsu to cease menstruation, political climates, etc. It is these little details that make a world feel very real. How do you come up with these minute details? Do you use other sites or resources as a reference or do you come up with them on your own?
I love trying to do world building. Why is this thing where it is, why is it what it is? I was inspired a lot on Tsunade by the essay 'Before Hokage and After' which is a huge defense of her. And also because (as an adult woman myself) having a period while camping is The Worst Thing and it was either 'have a reason why ninja don't' or 'complain about it endlessly'. I'm sure we can all be thankful to Tsunade. Also, I was doing physiology papers at uni, so you might find the earlier chapters had a lot more detail in those kinds of areas because it was fresh in my mind. If I include something specific, I usually try to make sure I'm vaguely right about it, via Wikipedia and google searching. I just lost maybe an hour trying to find a name of a bunraku writer who wasn't 'Chikamatsu' because in Naruto-verse we already have a named 'Chikamatsu'. Not saying he couldn't have been both ninja and author, but yknow. And that was a completely pointless thing, because I only name dropped and didn't even describe the play.
Throughout your story you will drop small comments and oftentimes these comments will be brought back much later in the story. Do you put those there on purpose or do you find yourself rereading what you've written to bring them back?
I have so many ideas that I just want to cram them all in. But yes, a lot of things are foreshadowing intentionally. Not telling you which ones, though~
When you first began writing Dreaming of Sunshine, who was your favorite canon character and why? Are they still your favorite?
Shikamaru, probably. I think he's still up there. Surprisingly both Ino and Sasuke grew on me, and I didn't like either of them at the start. Originally, I didn't even intend for Sasuke to be on board with staying in Konoha, but I was rewatching the early episodes while I was writing and they reminded me of what he was like before the Tsukiyomi/Curse Seal thing sent him off the rails. You know, I got a lot of reviews complimenting me on characterizing him so friendly… with lines I lifted straight out of the episode. Which is how his later Shippuden behavior has sort of overwritten his characterization for so many of us. And Ino had so little screen time that there wasn't much to work with – but the more you look at it, the more that the thing that stands out about her was that she was kind. She befriended Sakura when she had no one. Asuma's dying words were to tell her to look after her team. So Ino now has a much bigger part than I ever thought she would.
Who has been your biggest encouragement when writing Dreaming of Sunshine? What has motivated you to continue writing throughout the years?
Everyone. Ahaha. No, um. My sister is still pretty invested in it. And I talk with a few others a lot. Erimies, who writes Clan of the Samsara and a few other things, is a huge help in bouncing ideas and keeping the enthusiasm going. There are a few people who PM me. And I love seeing all the fanart and fanfic that gets made for DOS. Those are always inspiring. It's a big circle, you know?
How did you first become interested in writing? What exercises did you do to become better?
I don't even know, guys. Uhm. I was one of those weird nerd kids, big surprise. I read pretty much every book I could get my hands as soon as I could read (and then fanfiction. The rest is history, as they say.). Writing followed suit pretty much as a matter of course, I think? I don't ever remember starting to write. I had reasonably good teachers all the way through school, who encouraged entry into competitions and what not. Other people have all these tips and tricks and things, but mostly I just … wrote. What sounded good in my head, put it on the page, see if it still sounds good. Sometimes it doesn't always.
What helps you visualize/what do you pull from when writing fight scenes?
Ah, fight scenes. So, I always think a fight scene should say something more than What Techniques We Used. There's the motivation of why they're fighting, where they learnt the techniques they used, where they last used the techniques they used and what they did there, and who said the thing they're thinking of right now, and what morals you want to take away from the fight… and also what techniques they know, how strong they are, what they could make up on the spot to counter something unexpected… There's a lot going on. And then you have to juggle that with pacing. If it's a fast paced fight, you can't cram in a lot of exposition, which slows everything right down. So you have to be clear, but concise. If the POV character gets blindsided by an attack, the audience should too – but then it has to be explained so the readers know what happened. It's a lot, right?
What improvements, if any, do you think you could make as a writer?
I think we all know that plotting is my weak point. I like doing the 'in between' scenes, after the fighting but before the next scene has started, where everyone can get together and snark and worry. And I have trouble juggling huge crowds of people, which is a problem in arcs like this where there are 12+ people to worry about in any given conversation. Those are things to work on.
What do you love most about writing fanfiction? Or about writing in general?
There is something really satisfying when you put out a good chapter and everyone just goes 'EEEEE'. Which was the basic reaction to the Gaara fight. So yeah, the feedback is important. I still wrote a lot before I started posting fanfiction, but I don't think I would still be writing DOS if it hadn't got such a huge response. I kinda love making plot twists, and unexpected turns. Sometimes I just have a bright idea and go 'that's perfect. So evil. I must do it'.
What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment in regards to Dreaming of Sunshine? For example, are you more proud of your writing style, fight scenes, characterization, etc.?
The characterization. Absolutely. And that everyone else likes the characterization. People who don't like such-and-such character, but like them here and tell me so aren't rare.
Before sitting down to write a new chapter, what (if any) routines, rituals, or habits do you find yourself doing? What sort of things do you find inspiring your muse more than most? For instance, Agatha Christie would soak in a bathtub eating apples while thinking up the plot for her next story and Virginia Woolf wrote her stories while standing.
Nothing like that (unfortunately (?)). I usually have the latest chapter open on my laptop and it goes either in drips and drabs or all at once. Sometimes I get an immediate idea for something in the future and write that and save it for later, but mostly I just work as 'what comes next'. Music helps sometimes, which means the tumblr and Soundtrack threads are great. Sometimes I take a break to draw or AMV when the words aren't flowing right, and to try re-motivate myself.
When Dreaming of Sunshine fanart began to really take off, what were your thoughts?
I loved it. I think the first other person that drew fanart was Lucife56? And her art is gorgeous. So I was really thrilled. And then it just kept coming and coming and people started doing other stuff as well.
Currently, many authors are writing their own fanfiction of your fanfiction. What are your reactions to these takes on your character and story? Do you find they help give you an outsider's perspective on certain aspects of Dreaming of Sunshine that you may have not noticed?
It's always interesting to see what other people think of the story. Everyone is entitled to their own headcanons about what goes on behind the scenes and what not. They're great to read. I think some of them fit really well with the story, while others are AU-but-still-interesting. It does always surprise me what people can come up with that I didn't intend, though. I've had a few reviews point out things I never saw.
Has it ever been difficult balancing the duties of your day-to-day life while simultaneously authoring Dreaming of Sunshine?
Eh, sometimes. But life goes on, as they say. DoS is more flexible than working hours, so fits in somewhere or other.
What kinds of reviews/comments are the most helpful to you as an author?
I'm not sure about 'helpful' but I always like the kind that go 'this particular thing was what I liked because it was funny/insightful/x'.
Is your mind ever blown away by the magnitude of appreciation your story has garnered?
Yes, always. *laughs*
When reading through the comments on the forum for your story, We're All Just Dreaming of Sunshine, what kind of thoughts run through your head? Are there any particular comments that stood out to you? Made you laugh? Made you think?
Sometimes you guys get really close to something I'm intending/writing. And if it's something I intend on being a surprise!twist I'm always worried. I might have to change it if its too obvious! But I do like reading over the discussions and everyone's different opinions on things. I love seeing all the fics, as well. Some heartbreaking AU's going on there.
What songs did you listen to when you first began writing Dreaming of Sunshine back in 2011? What about the songs you listen to currently? Are there any songs you really believe represent the story well?
Oh jeeze, I don't even know. Most of my DoS related songs are on the tumblr playlist somewhere. Turns out most of my music is super depressing once you start listening to the lyrics, who knew?
What's your favorite food?
Chocolate. Not even going to lie. That's a food group, right?
What's your favorite color?
Do you currently have a favorite book or television series?
Too many, I think. Harry Potter counts, because who doesn't count it as their favourite book. I would say Lord of the Rings, because I'm a fantasy nerd, but they're heavy reading. Maybe Discworld. And I've been rereading Lee Childs Jack Reacher series lately. They're good.
What was the first anime (or manga) you ever watched (read)?
Dragon Ball Z. Without a doubt. Our tv station played reruns of the Freeza saga for like a year straight. You'd get to the end and it would start all over again. But that's also the first fanfiction I got into to, so you can thank it for a lot.
When did you first begin your interest in Naruto? What attracted you about Masashi Kishimoto's story? What are your thoughts or feelings on the manga having come to an end?
I think the first episodes I watched were of the Lee vs Gaara fight? Which was probably a good thing, because it was the highlight of the early season.
I honestly haven't been reading the manga for a while now. I lost interest during the war arc sometime and never really picked it back up. So the ending never had much impact on me. Or the next gen stuff.
What currently provides inspiration for aspects of your story? For instance, I've noticed you seem to like Fullmetal Alchemist. Do you find yourself inspired by the sealing/alchemy on the show and get ideas for the story from it?
Yeah, FMA is great, and provides a reasonable comparison for the sealing, which isn't explored in Naruto a whole lot. I think I take inspiration from basically anywhere, so it's kinda hard to say.
How has writing Dreaming of Sunshine impacted your life? How have you grown as a result?
Well I'm definitely writing more. And still in the Naruto fandom, which is a surprise. I tend to rotate through new fandoms as something catches my eye, read everything, then leave again. I'm not sure that's 'growing' though. ;)
Are there any scrapped ideas or plotlines for Dreaming of Sunshine that you're at liberty to share with us?
Oh, let's see, what was completely scrapped and not repurposed? Obviously a few filler arcs were scrapped, because people got very impatient to start moving along. Originally Sasuke tried to leave but was successfully retrieved, but that was scrapped when his character changed and he would never have done it. I toyed with the Aoi situation (from Land of Tea) actually sending Jiraiya to Hidden Rain early. And being killed three years before he was supposed to die. And Naruto never going on his training trip. But keeping the major villains out of the picture is important while the kids stand no chance against them or they would just get murdered– so the Shippuden timeframe stuck.
Other than writing, what other hobbies do you have? What activities do you enjoy?
I like reading, obviously. And watching anime and tv shows. I go to Karate and play indoor netball sometimes. Not very exciting.
If you ever got the chance to speak with Masashi Kishimoto, what you want to talk about? What would you want to say most? Is there anything you want to ask about his story?
I don't know that I would, really? I mean, I know there are people who would love to talk to their favourite authors and stuff, but I've always just been happy with the works as they are. If its in the story, it's in the story, and if its not, then that's what fanfiction is for, right?
Out of all the characters in Naruto, whom would you want to be best friends with?
Tough question! Most of the Konoha Twelve, probably. Ahaha, that's a bit greedy, right? Ino, then. She's great at being a friend.
Out of all the characters in Naruto, who would you say your best friend(s) in real life are most like?
Probably some weird mix of Kiba and Kankurou. Nerdy people with animals.
Do you have any tips or encouragements for prospective authors out there?
Absolutely give it a go. There are hundreds of great articles out there about any technical help you need, way better than I can say it, but if you have something to write, then start writing. You can only get better at it.
Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans out there?
Thanks for reading! I appreciate all the reviews!
So there you all have it! I'd like to thank Silver Queen not only for allowing me to pick her brain, but for also writing such a wonderful story. If you haven't read 'Dreaming of Sunshine' then you should definitely do that right away!