Howdy, there folks! My first interview of an author who doesn't write on this site! Why? Because she's special. I interviewed her over a month ago, just because she responded to my PM! (Well, no, it took a little longer than that). But anyway-
What makes this author so special? Well, her name is Lavender Gazelle, and she writes on fanfiction.net. After becoming upset at the lack of Taang fanfics, and the inability to find the ones we do have here, I scooted on over to ff.n, where I discovered this amazing story. It has danger, intrigue, dual-benders and pseudo-avatars. It has Taang, a lot of it. It has Kyotoph, new Avatars and old ones. It has Airbenders, and a refreshingly small amount of Zutara. It has 39 chapters, and looks to be nowhere near the end. One of the first Taang series I read, it has fast become one of my favourite. If you're looking for an original plot, with just enough humour, I strongly recommend The Forge of Allegiance!
Where did you get the idea from?
I got the idea from my interest in Taang and the desire to create a story that had no limits. I wanted to write about them and what would happen if everything went in a whole different direction. I also wanted to drag back some Airbending, because as peaceful as they were, I didn't think they could have all been wiped out as easily as they appeared to have been in the series.
How much planning did you put into it?
Honestly, I don't plan. Whatever comes out is whatever it shall be. I listen to music as I write so that has a great influence in my writing. If I need to do research for a certain plot to work then I'll do that, but if no information is given, I'll just type until something fits and makes enough sense, and if possible, it can be weaved into a future plot point as well. I don't use a beta either so everything that is published is purely my own. Well, plot-wise. The characters don't belong to me. I wish they did though.
This has developed into a very complex plot. Did you mean for it to become so complicated, or did you originally intend for it to be a lot less in-depth?
I planned on it being semi-complex at the least. I can write one-shots easily but I don't like to. It feels so … restrained. Like chains are tying me down, restricting my creativity. I meant for it to become complicated, because it gives the story more of an edge to it. There are so many twists according to my audience, and I enjoy writing and suddenly doing a complete u-turn, and ending up somewhere else.
You've given Toph a lot of responsibilities, it's hard to remember that she is still a little girl. Will she and Aang ever have a chance to just be twelve years old, with no responsibilities, at least for a chapter?
Spoilers, but yes. That new Avatar that just dropped in out of the sky? She's there for a reason. Gyatso is already chipping away at her soldier mentality and bringing her back down to earth. I know a lot of people have said things along the lines of "some of the kissing scenes seem a bit older than they are" but that's not an error, I did that on purpose. To show how grown up and mature she is, even though now in the story she's just scraped thirteen.
Why did you choose to keep the story very similar to the canon plot before deviating so much from the original story line?
The original story was good up to a point. I don't understand why Aang didn't protest when Katara made that taunt about Toph's blindness when they were being chased by that giant metal tank in Book Two, and the greatest probable disappointment of all was the conclusion. Bringing a random Lionturtle out of nowhere was just … random. It didn't make much sense, so I wanted to change it.
More importantly, I wanted to change the characters a bit. I mean, in the series, Aang and Toph are twelve, Katara's … fourteen, maybe, Zuko's sixteen and Sokka's fifteen. There's a really big question in my mind about how they can be involved in so much violence, fighting in a war and travelling around the way they do and come out relatively unscathed. Physically, I added some scars to make a point. But psychologically, it's practically impossible.
Are you planning on bringing Azula back to the forefront? What about Katara? And will June be rejoining us?
Ohh, she'll be back. She's going to cause a lot more mayhem before she disappears. And Katara will wake up soon, don't worry. Getting hit by lightning can do that to a person. June may return, I make no reservations. It depends on whether or not the characters will require her services again. Like I said, I don't plan ;)
What made you decide to kill Ozai, instead of having Aang take away his bending?
I killed Ozai because in my opinion, that's how it should have been. I know it was planned in the series for Aang to take away Ozai's bending from the start, but I still felt it was rather like escaping the whole kill-or-be-killed point to it. And bringing a random Lionturtle out of nowhere was just … random. It didn't make much sense. I wanted to find out what would happen if Aang was forced to break his traditions, like Yangchen suggested he do. Actually, it wasn't him who actually carried out the execution, but he was as much responsible for it as Toph was.
What inspired you to have Toph communicate with the four most recent Avatars, and have what might possibly be a better relationship with them than Aang has?
I was inspired by my interest in Yangchen, Kuruk, Kyoshi and Roku. Toph was given her powers by, and I quote loosely from 'Chapter Nineteen: Blue Fire and White Ribbon', "a very powerful goddess attempted to override the Cycle … energy began to escape from the Avatar Spirit and enter three Benders, (…) in the reverse order of the Cycle...". Because she is linked with the Avatar Cycle in this regard, she can communicate with them, and since they unlocked her Air Chakra, they are the ones she speaks to the most since she is comfortable with them.
She has a good relationship with them partially because she is not the Avatar. And she doesn't have a good relationship with them all—she hates Yangchen with a passion, thinks Kuruk is a bit of a joke, butts heads with Kyoshi on a near-constant basis, and hardly ever talks to Roku. I'd say the only one she has a good relationship with is Kyoshi.
Will you ever go into depth about how Aang and Toph got together?
Yes. In fact, either you're a mind reader, or you're popping ideas into my head. I'm thinking, "yes or no?" about a sort-of 'turn back the pendulum' couple of chapters, where I delve back into the time before the defeat of Ozai and go into more detail about that. No ideas yet, not even a 'well, if I do, it'll be good because...'. Just, 'go back a bit, yes or no?'
I went through the reviews, and I think I only saw one bad one, about a minor character. How do you feel to know that so many people love and enjoy your work?
It makes me happy and feel that it was definitely a good idea to publish the story, as opposed to keeping it private. I love that the readers are so engaged and enthusiastic, I just wish that they would interact more with me as well.
What would you say to people who haven't read your story, but want to know what it's about? How would you sell it beyond just reading the summary?
Have you ever wondered what would have happened if, rather than having his Bending taken away, Ozai had been killed instead? Wondered what the reaction would have been, or what would happen if Toph had been his romantic interest instead of Katara? This story is about struggles and hardships, about growing stronger and keeping true to friends and family. It's about loving through thick and thin, about having responsibilities, having power beyond the norm and the thought processes behind using that—for good and bad. It's about tolerance, seeing the good in people rather than just their appearance, and moving forward against the flow of the tide to get to where you need to be.
How far will the mother-daughter relationship between Toph and Kyoshi extend? Why did you want to give them that sort of relationship in the first place?
Who knows how far it will go? It might work out, it might not. When Yangchen was training Toph, I didn't feel a certain spark. Yangchen was rather bland, Toph obviously didn't take her seriously and was actually very frustrated with her methods of teaching. When I wrote about Toph meeting Kyoshi in 'Chapter Six: Whispers of the Lost Wind', there was just an immediate click. It was like a sudden punch in the face, it just made sense. I thought back to that when I was listening to some music and I just started seeing all of these epic battle scenes between the two of them, and without understating it, there was a massive explosion of ideas.
Then they started training, I just liked the sense that they could get closer, while still occasionally arguing and snapping at each other like I imagined Earthbenders would do. Then one day I just smiled to myself reading over the Kyoshi Island chapters, and I just thought, Toph really needs someone like that. It can work out. Kyoshi can be the person Toph can fall back on. And Kyoshi needs someone to protect and nurture, who can get under her skin but at the same time be brave enough to do what others hesitate to do, to be there for her when she needs a friend.
You've released 35 chapters. How many more have you planned?
My brain doesn't decide these things, my hands do. I listen to music and drink tea as I write. When I do, I don't plan what happens here and what goes on there. I just let my imagination take me places and let my fingers do the talking. All these plot twists are a result of sudden whiplashes of ideas that come around. One moment it's going this way and suddenly the characters are thrown into another situation and something completely different is happening.
What are you most proud of? What are you least happy with?
I'm most proud of the fact that so many people enjoy it, and that I can still try to make them happy. I'm not very happy with … hm, I'd say the comatose part with Katara, and the fact that I'm low on ideas for what to do with Toph and the Airbenders.
Do you know where this story is going, or are you letting the characters write it?
Characters write it, definitely. The story is all over the place. But that's what makes it so fun!
There are very few original characters. Will the newest one, introduced in the latest chapter, have a big role?
There aren't enough original characters, you're right. And yes, she will have a major role in the upcoming chapters, when I write them. When the songs switched on a scene break and I decided to drop in a new character, I had no idea she would turn out this way. Reflecting on it now, it's a way of shocking the audience by having a character like her show up. It relates to the earlier question about Toph having so many responsibilities. You'll have to read to find out what happens.
Who are your favourite characters, and which relationship do you love the most?
Originally it was Taang. Now it's Kyotoph. Kyoshi and Toph are just adorable, how they go at each other one chapter and then wordlessly make up the next (because they're both too stubborn to admit their own mistakes). Kyoshi is so much stronger and bigger than Toph, but is always so careful not to hurt her, and Toph really looks up to Kyoshi and goes to her when she needs advice. Their bond has the potential to grow into something powerful. After all, Earthbenders look after their own, no matter what.
One of my longer interviews, I hope you enjoyed it. If you do go on to read this, don't forget to leave a review, and let her know what you think! I promise, any Taang fan won't be disappointed!! This is Fruipit, signing off~!