A few weeks ago a newer Phile texted me and asked if I'd read "Seeds of Synchronicity" and "Diametrically Opposed" "back in the day." She continued to exclaim the stories were SO F*CKING GOOD and through her excitement, I was transported back to those days of pain in 2001 and 2002 while we anxiously awaited updates from this week's author. Meet mountainphile! She's been writing fanfic since childhood and her way with words is timeless. If you haven't read "Seeds of Synchronicity," that's your first mission as soon as you're done reading this interview. It's a long casefile that goes AU at the end of Season 7 and is a William-free zone. Mulder and Scully go back to Aubrey, Missouri, to "confront old demons and lay new ones to rest." It's as gripping to read now as it was when I followed it as a WIP.
While the "Seeds of Synchronicity" universe gets a lot of well-deserved attention, mountainphile's standalone stories are just as worthy of praise. "I Know You" is one of the sweetest post-Millennium stories I've ever read and the slow burn of it is so right for Mulder and Scully. Given that it's almost Christmas, "What Child is This" and "A Midnight Clear" will boost your holiday spirit. Mulder and Scully are living under assumed names in Colorado and their chance encounter with a little boy may have you reaching for a box of tissues.
We talked with mountainphile about inspiration, a little fanfic history, writing, and of course, The X-Files.
How long have you been a Phile?
Though I knew The X-Files existed during the very early seasons and even saw a preview or two, I wasn’t immediately drawn to the Mulder/Scully dynamic enough to watch it every week. Then, I’m not sure how, I discovered the chemistry and was obsessively addicted. The first XF movie blew me away! In fact, back in the day of VHS tapes, I insisted on recording every episode of an XF marathon from the beginning of the series through Season 6 or 7. Every. Single. Night. My husband, thankfully, was a good sport.
What was your first episode?
It was during Season 5, but I’m not sure of the exact episode.
How long have you been writing fic?
I wanted to write fic from the moment I realized other people were doing it and I began feedbacking favorite XF authors. Paige Caldwell was one of the first to encourage me to take a stab. My debut XF story, “I Know You” was posted to Ephemeral in December of 1999. I chose the name “mountainphile” simply because I live on the western slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing stories since 2nd grade when I discovered how brilliant a concept it was to highlight dialogue with quotation marks and breathe life into characters from my own imagination! The next step was to make homemade books with illustrations, which I read to classmates on the playground. My original characters were wild horses, tomboy orphan girls, and a kingdom similar to the “The Princess Bride” in which a lovely queen meets her handsome prince during the course of a siege. As a young girl I began expanding upon TV shows I watched, not realizing at the time that it was considered fanfiction, creating new episodes and characters for “Bonanza,” “The Man from Uncle,” “The Avengers,” and even the beginnings of a novel loosely based on a female James Bond-type spy. I still possess several pages on onionskin paper of a group-fic written about The Beatles, based on their movie “A Hard Day’s Night.” Plus, I read books incessantly. All of this was a great foundation, inspiring me to complete my college degree in English and Creative Writing.
Who is your favorite XF character to write?
Scully has always been my favorite, with Mulder a close second.
Are there any XF characters you dislike or find too difficult to write?
The Lone Gunmen never came easily or engaged me. Several of my stories include Skinner, Smoking Man, Reyes, Doggett, and minor characters, though they weren’t my main focus.
Is there a story you're most proud of or that's a favorite?
“Seeds of Synchronicity” is a beloved child, as is its sequel “Diametrically Opposed.” Both were written as works-in-progress, or WIPs. That process was an adventure in itself, of planning, continuity, research, and plain old discipline, as well as an impatient readership waiting for the next installment. I actually grieved when the final chapters of each novel were finished and ended my intimate relationship with these characters after so many months, including those who were original. I’m also partial to the three-part “Miraculous Series,” the “Trespassin’ Series,” and my two Christmas fics “What Child is This” (Scully’s POV) and “A Midnight Clear” (Mulder’s POV.) There are also a few shorter pieces that really please me.
With so many archives to choose from these days, where is the best place to find your work?
I believe my stories can still be found on Gossamer and a few other specialty XF sites, like the Enigmatic Dr. and Whispers of X. Since Geocities disappeared, my website and fic have found a home in Forte’s amazing “The Basement Office” where she so generously makes space for Musea, of which I am a member, and several other renowned fic authors.
You've been well known in the fandom for a long time, do you still write for XF or have your skills been focused elsewhere?
Since “A Midnight Clear” my writing has taken other avenues, including journaling, compiling family history through story, and recounting events from my life and childhood. However, I’d love to have the time to try my hand at original fiction as well. It will happen.
If you do still write XF fic, where does your inspiration come from after many years? If you're not, is there anything in particular that caused you to stop writing XF fic?
Most of the last fifteen years I’ve been the full-time office manager in my husband’s CPA practice. I no longer have the endurance to burn the candle at both ends like I used to, getting up at midnight and writing fic until three or four in the morning, and then driving to work! Sleep is now my friend.
If you still read (or write!) fic, do you think fanfiction has changed over the years?
I’ve been sheltered over the years by remaining primarily within the XF fandom. These days it would be a rare thing to venture out and see what other fic-doms are doing, as I’ve been often unimpressed at the quality of the work. I realize anew the value and benefit of honing my writing chops under the guidance and alongside such an array of amazing, skilled XF writers, betas, and discerning and appreciative readers.
I often see your stories recommended on tumblr and shared by new fans, does that longevity surprise you?
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m unfamiliar with tumblr, but it thrills and humbles me to know that new fans still seek out and enjoy my stories.
Have you written your own original characters outside of fandom?
Some years ago I wrote an adult medieval fairy tale, which I’d intended to expand into a fantasy novel with entirely original characters. There were also stops and starts on a few strange Stephen King-esque mystery stories that need development. Someday, perhaps, when time permits.
Anything you’d like to share about your writing process?
I need a quiet place in order to be creative and productive, which I realize is common for many people who write. But I also find it best to focus my brain into a “zone” of sorts, to mentally insert myself into the action of the scene I’m imagining. There I can feel the emotions, see the colors, sense the dangers, sounds and smells by immersing myself into what my characters are experiencing – and then describe it all. For me, characterization of Scully and Mulder, in particular, was key when writing XF fic, and I’ve been honored to have discerning betas who worked with me to sharpen and elevate my stories to a higher level of accuracy.
What do you find most difficult about writing?
The time commitment for writing and my present work schedule don’t mesh well, otherwise, I’d be more productive in the craft. When I had time, it wasn’t always conducive to creativity, so my muse would see I was compromised and sometimes sulk or abandon me. Writing takes concentration and sweat and intensity. And it’s one of the most exhilarating and rewarding things a person can do.
Do you have a favorite author? (fanfic or published!)
There are so many authors I admire, both in the fandom and out in the published world, that’s it’s impossible to pick one favorite!
Is there any advice you'd give to aspiring writers?
To write well, you should read what good writers have written. Seek out stellar authors who tell stories that engage, intrigue, and inspire you. When writing, give your imagination wings, take a premise, and run with it. Make it your own, with the nuance and life only you, as its creator, can bring to it. Still, always listen to the betas and advisors who guide your work, even if it means altering or scrapping the piece, and starting over. Rewriting isn’t necessarily a chore, but a new opportunity to better polish your story. And all the while, keep reading.
Anything else you'd like to share that I missed?
The X-Files fanfiction community has been so gracious to me, allowing me a platform to sharpen my writing skills and to broaden my friendships, both online and in real life. I’m grateful and honored to have met such amazing XF writers and XF readers over the years, some of whom will remain very special friends throughout my lifetime. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share and to show my appreciation to everyone.
Thank you to mountainphile for talking with us!