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U.N.C.L.E. Fan Fiction Author Spotlight

We spoke to British U.N.C.L.E. author Liza Jones recently, and asked her about her techniques for creating stories about the characters. Here's how she said she got started:

The background of this frippery is that I started writing MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. fiction just in time to be published in Kuryakin Files 16. To date I have written just three short stories and two novellas. I began my first novella ("The Dick Whittington Affair") in response to Lisa Madden's request for hurt/comfort stories for an all hurt/comfort zine. However, it expanded into my first MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. novella and has been described as "cute". Is that good?

I then began "The Wrong Professor Affair" as my real contribution to Lisa's hurt/comfort zine and, blow me, the same thing happened. However, this time I also included a shorter story at the beginning (to date I have written four short stories and nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!) "The Lochinvar Affair" was a kinda Mary Sue story for a friend, but after I had fulfilled my obligation to my pal, I then started enjoying myself. By the way, Sir Walter Scott's Lochinvar is my absolute all-time favourite romantic poem, so I enjoyed writing this story around the verses.

What was the first U.N.C.L.E. story you ever wrote?
"Slaves of the Sahara Affair" for Kuryakin Files 16.

Why did you write it? As a favor for someone or divine inspiration?
I spent time in Morroco in the sixties and I wanted to write a MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. story set in an exotic location. I remembered a few things about my time there, e.g., the value of a dinar at the time and translated that into the value of a $ at the time. Also there was the incident when was walking in the market in Marakesh with my friend Anne and this Canadian bloke called Barry and an Arab tried to buy Anne and me from Barry!

Had you been thinking about that Sahara one for a while?
No - not really. My original story idea that had been in my head was what turned into Dick Whittington.

So when you sat down to write, did you just do that? Or was it mulling around in your head for a while
No I just wrote.

What made you do Sahara then?
It was thinking about exotic locations that I was familiar with and then the slave bit kinda jumped to mind when I remembered the incident above.

Did you write stories before U.N.C.L.E. or was this your first dip into this kind of thing?
This was my first fiction.

How do you get started?
Dunno - I just wrote....I started by thinking where might they go that's exciting? Then what might happen there? ...why are they there?...and of course, what do I want to happen? (h/c) exciting things... them looking and sounding good.

This is the crux of why I write, I see it as a jolly good romp - just like the TV programme. I like to have fun and, apart from the obligatory chunk of hurt/comfort, which I quite enjoy, I want the guys to be good friends and have an exciting time. I am frequently criticized for not writing enough angst, but I'm not very good at it, so I leave it to those who are.

Had you been reading zines a lot before you started the story? I mean, what made you sit down and say I am writing an U.N.C.L.E. story today!
I read The Balzar/Foley Collection and some Kuryakin Files, which I loved. Then I read some early stuff, some o which was pretty dismal. I figured "I could at least do as well as some of this and quite possibly better" I already had some stories in my head.

You started watching the show way back when, right?
Right. In black and white.

Did Illya grab you right away or was it something else?
I was already in love with DMc from Armchair Theatre. When I saw him on U.N.C.L.E. well... I thought that is really him! May I say a word in defense of NS? My IK needs him. My IK likes him. They like each other. It's part of the equation. It makes them who they are. Consequently - I like him too. If IK thinks he's all right - he's fine by me. Some people neglect him too much - I think

What's your hurt/comfort theory?
Wow - that's a question and a half - give me a sec. IK is a bloke - he's tough and able. But I have a strong (very strong) mothering instinct. Now if that is to be applied to the likes of IK.... D'yer get the picture?

What inspires you?
To start with, I love MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and always wished there were more shows to watch. Pat Foley commented recently and others have observed, that my writing is very like the show and that is what I am trying to achieve - I'm making new episodes, previously in my head, and now on paper. Other than that, I draw on personal experiences, places I've been, people I've known and superimpose on these memories an U.N.C.L.E. adventure. I work quite hard at keeping the dialogue snappy - I don't want to make the reader work too hard and I don't want to bore. I hope I achieve that at least - if I please as well - that's a bonus.

What's next?
At present I have little time for writing. I am working full time and am also in training for the London Marathon. I am currently working on a short story and once I have finished that will embark on another novella. I would also like to collaborate, as I feel this might help to drive me forward.


Liza talked in detail about her novella The Wrong Professor Affair, available from Northcoast Press:

TWPA is in two parts simply because that was the way I wrote it. I finished the first part and left it for a while. Then I decided I could carry it on and write a whole new episode, showing what everybody did next.

One of my problems was that I kept getting odd little scenarios that I wanted to use, but they didn't quite fit in with the plot. This particularly applied to the h/c sequences, simply because the writer can't keep beating, shooting and torturing the heroes and expect them to perform well. This was when I had the idea of using dreams. After writing a couple, I found they gave me enormous freedom to do whatever I wanted. However, I did try to give them some kind of purpose and not be totally superfluous.

The dreams also enabled me to have more fun. I hope the readers enjoyed them too.

I know my writing lacks depth, but then so do I :-).

I have not yet dared to set a story in the U.S. because I know that's where most of the audience is and my knowledge is sorely lacking. However, I am hoping to collaborate with someone soon, who can hopefully also stop my Solo sounding too British - whoops!

TWPA starts on an unmarked island (in fact its working title was "island") and stays there, although the eponymous wrong professor himself leaves very early in the story and we never really get to know him. We do meet his daughter, Rachel and albino villain, Joeseph Winterman. Rachel's a bit of a crazy, mixed up kid and Winterman is not insane.

Actually a demonstration of my laziness in writing was that I first described Winterman as having white hair and then thought, 'no, he should be young.' But I couldn't be bothered to go back and change him, so I made him albino.

Part two (called "The King of the Castle Affair") starts in New York but then I chicken out and it continues in the U.K. We meet Rachel (and her Dad v.briefly) again, plus Winterman and a new character Jen. I also re-used a character invented for Dick Whittington, an English U.N.C.L.E. agent named Theodore Hewitt. I was a bit worried about him after DW and I wanted to be sure he was all right.