Links to Cynthia’s works online:
The Beauty and the Beast Reading Chamber
Your name is legendary in our fandom, in spite of the fact that you were surprised to know that the fans still remember you. What drew you to the Beauty and the Beast TV series, and why did you feel the need to write about B&B? Was writing something you had done before being involved with Beauty and the Beast or something that developed out of it? How did you choose that intriguing pseudonym, Cynthia Hatch?
To me, getting hooked on B&B was a little bit like falling in love with all the attendant emotions – roller-coaster highs and lows, seeing everything through a new, intense perspective. The writing came from a desire to hold onto that feeling, to expand on what we were given, which was, of course, never enough. The first Kaleidoscope story (they were all written in the same order they were printed) was just a little exercise to entertain myself. It skewed naturally to the PG side, as I wanted to stick as closely as possible to the actual parameters of the series, imagining where I would take it if I were actually writing for the show. Aside from some poetry written when I was younger, it was my first foray into writing, and because I didn’t expect anyone else to see it, I was totally oblivious to any of the rules or procedures that probably should inform a would-be author. Like most fans, I’ve always been a voracious reader, but I didn’t have any illusions that reading qualifies you to be a writer. If that were true, then listening to Beethoven ought to be sufficient training for playing a decent Moonlight Sonata, and I’m pretty sure it’s not.
By this time, I’d connected with some other local fans who’d also felt the urge to put fantasies to paper and in the ensuing I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours game of Truth or Dare, I was amazed to find that the others enjoyed what I’d written. Before I knew it, their encouragement was compelling me to continue what I’d started, and as we all know, a group of B&B fans on a mission is a formidable force to resist. When the first three stories were done, they literally picked me up and took me to a printing place in San Francisco that could handle the art reproduction, etc. (In 1989, such logistics were not the “piece of cake” they are today.)
I was extremely shy about putting out there what were essentially my own little fantasies, so a pseudonym was a must. Catherine had used “Cynthia Hatch” as an alias, and if it was good enough for her . . . For a long time after Kaleidoscope I, some of my best friends, people I was working with to try to save the show, had no idea that Cynthia and I were acquainted. The first time I came upon a group of fans discussing “my” stories, I got so flustered I turned around and knocked over a hotel convention sign in my haste to get away. But then Cynthia was lucky enough to win some awards and somebody had to go accept them, so after that everyone pretty much knew.
You have written short and long stories, novels and multi-zine plots. Tell us about your sources of inspiration. How do you choose and outline the size and the subject of a story you want to write?
My approach has always been to sit back and “listen” to the characters. Sometimes that marks the beginning of a story, but just as often it may plunk me down in the middle and I find myself following various characters around till a plot takes shape. I never know where I’m going when I start (or how long it will take to get there – hence the short story, novella, novel-size variations in the finished product.) I’m told real writers use outlines, but that sounds an awful lot like work to me, and above all the B&B experience is about joy and daydreams and serendipity. (Then again, that could just be my excuse for having zero discipline.)
The ideal conditions for this kind of intimate writing where you’re tuning in and letting your imagination wander is to curl up somewhere cozy with just pencil and paper. At some point, though, you have to translate the scribbles into something readable and with Kaleidoscope I that meant using a typewriter. I do very little rewriting but I remember wanting to add a sentence to “The Circle” and having to type umpteen pages over again as a result. Hard to believe how primitive things were less than 20 years ago! I was thrilled when friends let me use their computer while they were away. I had just about figured out that you didn’t have to push “enter” at the end of every line when the phone rang. I got up to answer it and when I returned the screen was covered with squiggles; the few paragraphs I’d managed to produce had disappeared. In vain I pored over the User Manual, frustrated almost to tears, when I accidentally bumped the mouse. The screen saver vanished and there were my few paltry sentences, safe and sound. (Yes, children, it was the olden days, shortly after the invention of the wheel.) Now, about six computers later, I still prefer to start with pencil and paper.
What research, if any, do you do for your stories? Do your stories ever include some of your own life experiences? How long does it take to you to write them?
I didn’t do a lot of research with the stories (again, that lack of discipline) except to fact-check, and I did talk to someone from the Metropolitan Museum of Art about their set-up for repairing and restoring artworks, when a story took that direction. It was important that it felt authentic to me while I was writing about it, even if readers weren’t likely to know the difference. In lieu of research, the easiest thing to incorporate is your own experiences, and I’ve actually done that quite a bit. It helped that much of my own romantic history happened in NYC, which was one of the things that drew me to the show in the first place. As for speed, my approach requires waiting for a sense of authenticity, something that strikes me as true to the characters we’ve come to know or a direction that the show never fully explored, so that can be slow. Dialogue tends to come quickly. The fastest and easiest piece I ever wrote was “The Bridge.”
The psychological approach is evident in your writing. “The Bridge” comes immediately to mind…
The psychological approach has always appealed to me, because it offers another way to view a situation, one that provides an interesting contrast to my own tendencies as a die-hard romantic. I’ve always enjoyed stories told from different characters’ viewpoints. How much of truth is factual and how much is distilled through the filter of our own experiences and beliefs – that’s fascinating to me. A perfect illustration came as a result of the story mentioned above. I received more passionate mail about “The Bridge” than anything else I wrote; I could open two letters in a row whose readers were totally convinced I had absolutely opposite motives in writing it. One would hate it for the same reasons the other loved it. Some would read it almost exactly the way I “meant” it, and others saw things that had never entered my head. It taught me a very interesting lesson – that a story belongs as much to the reader as to the writer; what they take from it may not be what you meant to give, but it’s valid all the same. Realizing that you really have no “control” over a piece of writing, once it’s left your pen, is actually liberating. It reaffirmed my desire to write for myself – and not to a market, which is a great advantage that zines have over professional publishing. You write what you want to read and if someone else enjoys it, that’s great. If someone else is troubled by it, well, that’s interesting too – at least they felt something and didn’t just doze off.
Your writing not only tells us the story of what happens to your characters, it often gives us a clear view into their minds as the story unfolds, as if you knew their souls. Care to explain your own vision of Vincent and of Catherine? What do you especially like to write about in their relationship?
Of course, the heart of B&B was the relationship between Catherine and Vincent. Theirs was such a unique story – not just for the obvious, mythic reasons, but because of the pacing, the gentle way their feelings unfolded. Their romance stood in stark contrast to the glib, sexually-driven couplings we were used to seeing in the media. It allowed a closer examination of the elements of love. What happens when you find someone who holds all the missing pieces of yourself? Can you ignore that and go on with the life you’ve planned? How do the dynamics change when you find the other person’s happiness is more important to you than your own? And then there’s those pesky obstacles. So many interesting avenues to explore!
At the same time, the framework of your stories is always extremely well-crafted. How do you go about planning a story where so many details have to piece themselves together into a believable whole? Your language is rich and evocative. What importance and what attention do you give to the style of your writing? To the dialogues?
The show was certainly the most visually compelling I’d ever come across on television, but as a reader, there’s a natural urge to fill in those non-visual elements we’re used to in books – what the characters might be thinking and feeling, as well as doing. Then too I’ve always loved the rhythm of language. What I’m writing needs to “sound” right, particularly, of course, the dialogue. The repetition of words – even simple pronouns – can jar the reader out of the mood you’re trying to set. The exception I made was for Catherine and Vincent to continually use each other’s names. They did it in the show, and I always felt they would take great pleasure in just saying the words.
Your evocative style is particularly evident in the lovemaking scenes. How do you deal with them? Are they especially difficult to write?
Love scenes are hard because I think simply describing the “mechanics” can place the reader too firmly as an observer. The power of love-making lies in the intense feelings it creates and that’s very hard to express.
The Kaleidoscope series is among the best loved in fandom, the favorite of many and a true milestone. Did you have the general plan outlined in your mind when you started to write? Was the idea of Kaleidoscope II as a dream there from the beginning, or did you make that decision after writing it?
Yes, Kaleidoscope II was always meant to be a dream for the simple reason that, after the first zine, I couldn’t decide between two directions I’d like to take. This was a way to do both. Dreams had always been an intriguing element in the series and, as fans, we were all reading our own interpretations into every little look and bit of dialogue; it seemed a natural way to explore one of those options. In the introduction to KII, I carefully worded something about the dream which I knew would be taken at face value by most readers, but which I also meant as an attempt to “play fair” about what I was about to do.
And now let’s talk of the controversial masterpiece “The Bridge”. Would you tell us about your thoughts and your purpose when writing this story? How did you conceive it? How long did you take to write it? How did you feel, dismantling “the dream” in such a credible way? Did you expect it would turn out to be so controversial? Care to tell us about the reactions you had to that story?
“The Bridge” was the one story that sort of sprang into my head fully formed; I just had to fill in the details, and it was a direct response to a statement by Ron Koslow. Up till then, I’d hoped that the creator of our story that began “once upon a time” would see that it had a “happily ever after” ending. Then Koslow announced that Vincent was more beast than human, and the romance was doomed because such a union would always be “impossible.” Still attempting to stick to the network’s parameters, I tried to salvage a “happy” ending within their rules. That was the purpose of “The Bridge,” and then I happily went back to Vincent’s world as we’d come to know and love it.
No, I never guessed how controversial the story would be. As I’ve said, the response was tremendous. Many found it “disturbing,” which seemed appropriate; I was disturbed by the necessity of accepting Koslow’s vision of doom. I did feel bad about the fans who said I’d “destroyed the dream” for them. That certainly wasn’t my intention, but again the truth comes as much from the reader as the writer. The most gratifying thing was that it did seem to stir emotions and generate a dialogue about where the show would or should be headed. Perhaps because it sparked such diverse reactions, “The Bridge” remains my beloved step-child and my favorite of all the stories.
The unusual SND “When angels fall” is the other long novel you wrote. What can you tell us about it?
“When Angels Fall” gave me an opportunity to take another direction – this time from the point where the second season ended. I could not conceive of Vincent being much fun to be around if he thought Catherine was dead. How to keep them apart and still have a functioning hero? Again, the answer seemed to lie in the depth of their love – Vincent wants her to be happy. He has trouble believing that he could give her the happiness she deserves. If he thought, however, that she had chosen to pursue her “happy life” away from him, he would do his best to accept that. It would be typical of his noble character to believe this was the way things should be, no matter how it hurt.
From that point, I did conceive this zine more like a conventional novel. I love reading mysteries and psychological thrillers, so I tried to structure it with intermingling plot lines that would all converge at the end. While I still didn’t outline or plan exactly what the ending would be, I did resort to index cards. Many of the scenes were written out of order, so then it was a matter of shuffling them and fitting them in together in a way that would keep up the pace.
Do you have your stories edited and proofread?
I was fortunate to have a friend who began writing her zines at the same time I did. We both felt very strongly about our own visions for the characters. She (Pamela Garrett who wrote “One Day a Rapture” etc.) wanted to write about the things that couldn’t be shown on TV, while I was sticking closer to what could. So we never presumed to actually edit each other’s stories, but we took full advantage of our abilities as proof-readers, something we felt was very important to the finished product, both in tribute to the writing that inspired us and out of respect for the readers who might choose our zines.
What do you consider the greatest compliment you've received? Did you ever get a review that really touched you?
Over the years, I’ve received many letters that truly touched me. Just finding that others have enjoyed what I’ve written is incredibly gratifying. The positive feedback I probably value most is when someone says I’ve been true to the characters or they could envision a scene I wrote as part of an episode.
Who are some other B&B authors whose work you particularly enjoy?
A few of my favorite B&B authors (and I mean a “few,” as I know some of my very favorites will have fallen victim to this “senior moment”) are Pamela, of course, Sally Wright, Kathy Cox, and the incomparable P.S. Nim.
Are you or have you been involved with any other fandoms in the same way? In RL were you a closet "beastie" or did your friends and family members know you're a fan? How did B&B affect your life?
I’ve never been involved with another fandom. My family was great, contributing artwork and putting up with me visiting drainage tunnels and other peculiar behavior. B&B definitely affected my life in a very positive way. It reawakened my love for Shakespeare and poetry, affirmed that even commercial television could be a source of great inspiration and brought me into contact with wonderful people I otherwise wouldn’t have known. As a result of finding such enjoyment in writing, I took a job at a major Bay Area newspaper, where I worked my way up to writing and editing.
Are you still writing? Do we dare hope that another B&B story might be lurking in your mind?
I can only assume that whatever abilities I have come from a strong identification with the love story and the conviction that love, after all, is everything. It used to be a joy to access those emotions and bring them to paper, but now, having lost my own soulmate, they are so intermingled with pain that it’s difficult to write. Suffice it to say, that I’m not much fun to be around, my wedding ring has never left my finger and any attractive strangers – red-haired or otherwise – are not likely to get my attention.
Any advice you would give to beginners?
To beginners, I can only say “do it.” I had no idea that anyone else would be interested in my little daydreams or that writing them down could be such a fulfilling experience.
Thank you so much for this chance to revisit a really special time. I’m always happy to do whatever I can to share the dream – whether through access to my stories or questions someone would like to discuss. Have a wonderful Winterfest and be well!
Thank you, Cynthia Hatch, for this interview, and for the beautiful gifts that come with it: four stories never posted online before -- we are honored to attach them to this interview
“Interplay” – from the zine Tunnelcon I (1990)
“There is a Season” – from the zine Great Expectations (1993)
“Mysteries” – from the zine Tunnelcon III (1994)
“Hat Trick” – from the zine The Hat on the Bench in Central Park (1997)
and, last but absolutely not least … the permission she gave to post online her novel “When the angels fall” (1992). Good souls have taken time to scan it, and the first installment will be posted on CABB soon. Don’t miss it!
Winterfest Online, January 2005