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Blossy: I’m here with Annie, creator of Asian Fan Fiction. This interview is strictly platonic. This is purely to understand Asian Fan Fiction and also the Admin behind it. Let's start with the basic introduction...
Online Alias(es): Admin (on AFF for admin purposes), Dreamy Luna
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blossy: Wow. You are 26? That is young considering you started this site in 2008. You would have been 20 years old, correct?
Annie: Yes, I was 20 years old in 2008. Wow, time flies!
Blossy: It sure does! Before we start with the million questions, tell me a little about yourself.
Annie: I'm your typical fangirl who loves reading novels and of course fanfiction about Harry Potter and Asian celebrities, watching Asian dramas, listening to music, reading blogs, Tumblr posts and forum posts about my favorite Asian celebrities, dramas and other subjects such as food and nutrition, etc. I’m a registered dietitian who loves to promote a healthy lifestyle. I love food, sleeping, pilates, pandas, nature. I would love to travel to feed my curiosity. When I was younger, I used to daydream a lot but not anymore. I'm less idealistic and less naive. I guess I'm still idealistic because reading is my escape from reality. When I write, I write for myself. I write to express my emotions. But I don't write anymore because of lack of inspiration and motivation. I'll probably go back to writing when I enter the next stage of my life. I miss writing.
Blossy: So what led you to start your site, Asian Fan Fiction?
Annie: I've been in the fanfiction world since 2001. The primary websites I used to visit were FanFiction.net, HarryPotterFanFiction.com and Winglin.net. I was both a reader and a writer. I also created many lame web sites when I was a teenager but my most successful web site at the time was a French interactive Harry Potter web site. In summer 2008, I was bored and wasn't very happy with Winglin. It was quite hard to find quality fics. The comments section was always spammed with ads. I wish Winglin were more organized like FanFiction.net and HarryPotterFanFiction.com. So, I decided to create my own fanfic archive based on my past experience as a reader and a writer and then voilà, AFF was born!
Blossy: I know what you mean, Annie. It is very hard to find good quality fanfics to read if a website is not organised. How did you get introduced to fandom and fanfiction?
Annie: You have two questions there. I will answer the first one. How did I get introduced to the fandom?
I got into Asian Entertainment ever since I was a kid... I don't remember how old I was but I remember my parents used to watch plenty of TVB dramas (Hong Kong dramas) and Taiwanese dramas. That's basically how every Asian kid gets introduced to Asian dramas. When I hit my teenage years, I discovered I would rather watch Asian dramas than the popular American TV shows. Why? I don't really know. Probably because I thought Asian dramas were far more interesting.
And now the second question, how did I get introduced to fanfiction?
When I was a kid, my aunt often gave me children's books. I was probably one of the rare kids who got excited at the sight of books hahaha! So I grew up reading books given by my aunt and those I borrowed at the school and public libraries. I absolutely love reading. It's my escape. I was introduced to the world of fanfiction because of Harry Potter when I was 12 years old. I was looking for some interesting books at the school library until my eyes landed upon the first HP book “Harry Potter à l’école des sorciers” (French title). I had heard of its great success and decided to read it. Truthfully I didn’t think I would enjoy it but after finishing the first book, I craved for more and read the second and third books! Much to my disappointment, the fourth book wasn’t released yet so I decided to fulfill my craving by reading HP fan fictions on FanFiction.net! (My favorite pairing is Dramione. If you’re a fan, please contact me so we can spazz together!!!)
After watching Huan Zhu Ge Ge (a famous Chinese drama) and TVB dramas (Hong Kong dramas), I wanted to read entertainment news and discuss about my favorite celebrities. That's how I found out about the Cinple Forums, which were linked to Winglin. Can you imagine how happy I was when I discovered Winglin? I remember the golden days of Winglin. It was filled with good quality fanfics... I think lol (I didn't understand much English at that time so I don't know lol). The trend back then was TVB dramas, HZGG and TW dramas so there were a looooot of stories with HK stars, HZGG cast and TW stars. I also remember a few fics with Japanese stars but none with Korean ones. I left Winglin for a while because I was more into the fandom of Harry Potter and when I got back, I noticed a boom of KPop fanfics.
Blossy: I have been on Winglin myself and noticed many HK and TW stars. But since then both Japanese and Korean Fanfics have bloomed to becoming more popular. You mentioned you write earlier. Are you a writer?
Annie: I'm just a reader for now. I haven't written anything since 2006 or 2007. I hope I can go back to writing though. I miss it though I prefer reading over writing.
Blossy: I'm curious. What did you write?
Annie: For Winglin, I wrote two stories about one of my OTPs, Alec Su and Vicki Zhao. They were the lead actors of the famous drama Huan Zhu Ge Ge (HZGG). I used to be pretty much obsessed with them. For FanFiction.net, I wrote one story about Card Captor Sakura and two stories about Harry Potter (Dramione). They were all in French. And when I was 16 years old, I wrote a short story. I had to do an assignment called "Personal Project" for school. We could do anything we wanted and I chose to write a story. That was the only story I've ever completed.
Blossy: Can you give us the link to your story? I'm sure many people would like to read it.
Annie: I'm sorry. I can't give you the link because Winglin erased my stories and to be honest, they weren't well-written. As for my stories on FanFiction.net, they are all in French.
Blossy: No worries, Annie. Let's move on to the next question. Since you created the website from scratch, what sort of unexpected experiences did you encounter? And how did you overcome them?
Annie: I didn't create AFF from scratch. I'm not a programmer.
Blossy: Oh sorry. My bad, Annie.
Annie: I'm just a fangirl who likes technology, used to have (notice the past tense lol) too much time in her hands and reads many tutorials on how to install a script, manage it and customize it.
The unexpected experiences I encountered are mostly related to the server. You know how everyone used to complain about Winglin because it was always down? I can relate with the admin of Winglin. It's not always easy to solve server issues.
The 20th of April in 2010, AFF unexpectedly went down. I ran a script to generate a sitemap and it used too much resources. I talked to my former web host and they wouldn't let me have the site back because they suspended my account. I wasn't very happy. Thankfully I had back-ups on my hard drive. My boyfriend and I decided to hunt for a new host and started reading many reviews on all the web hosts. The day the site went down, the admin of asianfanfics.com came on chatango and told me about his host. I read some reviews about it and liked it so I wrote an email to all the members to let them know that everything was in control and the site would move to a new host.
AFF went down a few times since that event. A user usually notifies me and I always contact the host asking for an explanation. So far, the host usually resolves the server issues within 48 hours.
Other unexpected experiences include advertising AFF. It was very hard for me to attract more writers and readers because most of the web sites forbid advertising (which I can understand and agree with). How did I overcome this? I advertised mostly on LJ and a few forums.
Blossy: There is another popular site just like yours called Asian Fan Fics. The name is similar to your website. You must have many people stumbling in by mistake?
Annie: Yes, you're right. Sometimes I get emails from people asking me why their account got deleted. I only delete an account upon the request of the user. I kindly tell them that they must have mistaken Asian Fan Fiction (http://www.asianfanfiction.com) with Asianfanfics (http://www.asianfanfics.com) lol
Blossy: Haha, I think that happened to me once but it was the opposite. I stumbled across Asian Fan Fics by mistake. What did you originally make of Asian Fan Fiction and what do you think about it nowadays?
Annie: I originally wanted to make AFF a simple moderated fanfic archive for writers and readers alike. I think I succeeded. However, I didn't originally plan to make it a tight-knit community with blossoming friendships. That was unexpected and this is what I'm the most proud of about AFF today. I love how we're all supportive of each other. I love how friendly, warm and open-minded everyone is. I know it sounds cheesy but I really feel like we're family. It is thanks to everyone that we have a beautiful community.
Blossy: We're thankful to you too. Hmm... your website has strict rules. What's the reason behind it?
Annie: Yes, I agree that AFF has strict rules but to me they are necessary in order to give readers and authors a pleasurable experience.
I'm going to explain the rules stated on the site: http://www.asianfanfiction.com/viewpage.php?page=rules
Title & Summary: "Please read and review", "Untitled" and "I suck at writing summaries, just read and find out!" are very unattractive. Writers won't attract readers that way.
Disclaimer: The disclaimer is extremely important to protect the author. Authors write stories about real life celebrities and borrow their names. The stories don't represent who they are in real life. We're fangirls... We can delude ourselves but let’s face it: we don't know who they really are when they're away from the camera. You don't want your favorite celebrity to sue you because you made him a murderer in your story, right?
Categories, Characters, Genres, Story Types, Warnings & Ratings: They are mandatory to classify each story and help readers find what they want to read.
Chapter Notes, Story Text & End Notes: Author's notes are separated from the chapter to make everything neat. In-text author's notes are very annoying and spoil the reading experience.
Reviews: Writers are always excited when they get an email notifying them of a new review but it's very disappointing when the review in question is an advertisement for a graphic shop. And for most readers, it's just annoying and a big turn-off to read "I will update when I get x amount of reviews." Silent readers will always be there. Most of them will probably never write a review but we can't force them. And obviously, flaming/trolling is not tolerated.
Originality: Plagiarized stories are not welcome obviously.
Alternate Links: You're not allowed to post an alternate link to your story posted on another web site because... what is the point of posting your story on AFF if you're redirecting your readers to another fanfic archive? (besides advertising your story on another web site?)
Character Chart, Banner & Poster: There are strict rules for the size of images because, in the past, people used to post HUGE images and these made the layout break. Not everyone has a large screen. It also makes the site pretty when you scroll the stories page and see that all the banners are the same size (700 x 110 px).
Story Standards: First off, I want to clarify that English is my third language and I do make mistakes. However, I make an effort to check my spelling and grammar. It's very important for writers to proofread their stories in order to give readers a pleasurable experience. If the plot is very interesting but there's an obvious spelling or grammar error in most sentences, it's a turn-off for most readers and they can get easily distracted. The format is very important because it's difficult to read then the chapter is a one giant block of text. Too much spacing between paragraphs makes the text looks choppy. Very short chapters (less than 500 words) and switching POV back and forth 3-4 times within a chapter interrupt the flow of the story. Unnecessary special characters, emoticons and netspeaking make the whole reading experience distracting.
Inappropriate Content: Inappropriate content such as incest, adults having sex with minors, bestiality, etc. is not accepted because of my server host. Stories written in script form, application stories, "you" stories, etc. are not accepted because, to be honest, they are my pet peeves, and I believe they make the reading experience distracting for most readers.
Blossy: What happens when someone breaks one of the rules? How do you resolve it?
Annie: I simply send an email to the person, explain the rules and ask if he/she could edit the story. People are always nice and understanding. When I decline a story, I send an email, explain why, delete the story and let the writer know he/she can edit their story and submit their story again.
Blossy: Did you have any trouble regarding your rules?
Annie: Always. The most trouble I have with is the size of the banners, the format of the story, length, spelling, grammar (especially verb tenses), PWP, stories written in script form, "you" stories, stories with "_____ (insert your name here)", etc. Yes, I am aware that most people don't read the rules.
Another trouble I have is that some writers make the changes requested in the first two chapters but they don't bother proofreading their stories anymore for the other chapters because their story has been validated. This disappoints me. That's why I've added a new rule regarding the unvalidation of stories.
And another major trouble I have is plagiarism. It's clearly written that I moderate stories and I don't approve plagiarized stories...
Blossy: To be honest, I myself don’t like “you” stories. If I read a story I want to read it either as a First POV or 3rd POV. Because of this rule of yours, I stick around Asian Fan Fiction. I think the rules are great way to keep the website organised. But it must be hard to maintain the site alone. How do you manage it while juggling your offline life?
Annie: Yes, sometimes it's hard, especially when I have many stories in the submissions queue, other AFF projects (new layout, forum, etc.) and school. It takes time to judge if a story should be validated or rejected. When I reject a story, I always send an email to explain the reasons. I'm not happy every time I have to decline a story because I know the author will be sad or angry.
Mmm... how do I manage it while juggling with my real life? I have to admit that AFF was my main priority before. I neglected my studies for AFF but a few things happened and I decided to find a balance between AFF, school, family and friends. I don't know how I do it, I just go with the flow.
When I get home from school/work, I check my emails and validate/decline stories. When I'm very busy, I only respond to urgent emails (someone lost his password, the site is down, someone is trolling on chatango, etc.) and validate the stories from regular authors because it takes time to judge a story written by a new member. And when I'm so busy to the point that I can't even be in front of the computer to validate stories, well I have to wait for the next day and so on.
Blossy: Annie, it was a pleasure getting to know more about you and your website. But I'm afraid the questions are not over yet. I have asked many of the AFF members if they had any questions to ask you, and they have! I must warn you, they are mainly personally for you. Haha, hope you don't mind.
1. Your hobbies beside writing and reading?
Watching Asian dramas, listening to music, jogging, doing pilates, hanging out with friends and family. A hobby I would like to explore is cooking. I like cooking but I get lazy because my mom always cooks. Nothing tastes better than our own mother's cooking!
2. Do you love travelling? Any plan to visit Malaysia? ^-^
Yes, I LOVE travelling! Malaysia isn't part of my plans but it might be later. I don't know if I will be able to travel in the next five years. It all depends on many factors.
3. Challenges when handling AFF (website / members etc)
Most of my challenges are technical challenges:
- Making the layout compatible with browsers. Oh, Internet Explorer, you know how much I love you. *sarcasm*
- Making the layout mobile and tablet-friendly.
- Tweaking the bookshelf feature to add three shelves and so we know what chapter we left off on.
- Basically any new feature I want to add that requires skills in programming, because sadly I’m not a programmer (I wish I was!).
Challenges that are related to the members:
- Finding a way to keep the members coming back to AFF. That's why I try to spice up the site with many events such as the fic exchange, the anniversary fest, the masquerade ball, etc.
- Finding a way to encourage the readers to interact more with the writers on chatango, the tagboard, etc. For example, we have the anniversary fest, the masquerade ball, etc.
- Finding a way to encourage the silent readers to come out of their shell and post simple reviews.
4. Any problems to maintain AFF especially donations from members?
Not at the moment, thanks to every donation I got! It's highly appreciated! ^_^
5. First fanfic you read or wrote?
The first fanfic I read was a Harry Potter fanfic written in French. I was about 12-13 years old. And the first fanfic I wrote was a Card Captor Sakura fanfic, also written in French. I was 13 years old.
6. What prompted you to create AFF?
I'm going to ignore this question because I've already responded to it earlier. =)
7. What do you think sets AFF apart from the other fan fiction sites?
I'm mostly familiar with Harry Potter fanfic sites and other fanfic sites from other fandoms (Star Wars fanfic sites, Twilight fanfic sites, etc.). While those fanfic sites are more centered on a particular fandom, I think what sets AFF apart from them is that AFF is a site for many entertainments (HK, TW, KR, JP, CN, etc.) but we all get along despite our differences and cultures and we respect each other. Of course, not everyone appreciates the other entertainments but so far I haven't seen any "entertainments wars", which I'm very grateful for. And another thing that sets AFF apart from the other fanfic sites is that I don't organize writing contests. I hate the idea of writing contests because I think everyone has the potential to write if you practice and if everyone supports each other. And contests create competition, and we all know that competition isn't always fair. It's not always about the talent but rather the popularity. Okay, can you tell I'm a Hufflepuff? -_-
8. What's your idea of a good fanfic?
A good fanfic is a well-written story with correct grammar, correct spelling, a good balance between dialogue and narrative and a plot that keeps me on the edge of my seat. A great fanfic is all of the above plus all the characters are flawed. No Mary Sue. If the plot is really good but there are too many grammar and spelling errors, unfortunately I'll overlook the plot. If I read and review your story on AFF, just so you know, I don't intentionally look for errors... I don’t spend time looking for errors. They just pop out for me... XD In my review, I will most likely point out the errors I suddenly notice. Please don't take it the wrong way when it happens. I'm aware that no one's perfect and no story is perfect. I do this so you can improve. We learn from mistakes, don't we?
9. What's your ideal date with your ideal fanfic character?
Mmm... I'm a very simple girl. My ideal date is anything as long as I can spend some quality time with my ideal fanfic character so we can find more about each other and form a connection.
10. If you had to create your dream cast of drama actors, who would they be? (They can be across all entertainments -> like Roy Qiu x Inoue Mao etc.)
My dream cast would be all my OTPs together in the same drama! haha XD Let's say Matsumoto Jun, Inoue Mao, Oguri Shun, Mukai Osamu, Mike He, Rainie Yang, Roy Qiu, Puff Guo, Aaron Yan, Joe Cheng, Ariel Lin, Chen Qiao En, James Wen, George Hu, Annie Chen. Hum this is gonna be awkward because Roy is Rainie's ex-boyfriend and she hates him. I know my dream cast is really long and I have no idea what the plot would be. Maybe something with romance, comedy, mystery and suspense all together!
11. What's your favourite kind of music and why?
I love listening to ballads, pop and instrumental music. Ballads and instrumental music because they make me feel relaxed. Pop music because it makes me feel happy. I do occasionally listen to hip hop, rap and dance music because of my boyfriend... but they're not my favorite type of music. Actually I can't stand rap music at all.
12. When it comes to AFF, how much of your time does it take to maintain it? Is there anyway we could make it easier on you?
This is a good question... I never realize how much time I spend on AFF... let's say a minimum of one hour per day when everything goes well. I think everyone is doing a great job to make it easy on me already. =D You guys welcome new members on the tagboard and chatango, help new members find their way on AFF, help me promote events/challenges, etc. Another way to make it easier on me is always proofread your story before submitting (whether your story is validated or not) or get a beta-reader. Regarding the trolls on chatango, please don't feed them. Ignore them and warn a mod or the admin (me). They're just seeking attention and we shouldn't waste our time on them.
13. What are your future plans for Asian Fan Fiction?
- Conduct a survey to ask people if we should update the list of characters since many celebrities have left their bands and some bands have disbanded
- Fix the birthdays calendar.
- Fix the F.A.Q. section.
- Keep the forums active
- New activity: Monthly Drabble Challenge
- Maintain the annual events and activities: fic and art exchanges, masquerade ball, anniversary fest, etc.
- Any new ideas I might come up with
For those who are wondering if I’m planning an app for AFF. I’ve been thinking for a long time and after doing some research, I’ve decided not to hire a developer to create an app. It is very expensive to create and maintain an app for both Android and iOS. You might suggest that I can ask for donations but we’re a small community. If I win the lottery some day, you can be sure I’ll hire an app developer right away!
Blossy: It was a pleasure doing this interview. Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. The AFF members will be pleased to get to know more about you as I have. Is there anything you'd like to say before we wrap it up?
Annie: Thank you, it was fun doing the interview! Thanks Blossy for being very patient with me. I know it took me a long time getting back to you for some questions. XD I’d like to add that even though I’m much less active on AFF now because I’m trying to build my career in real life, I regularly think about my AFF family and my passion for reading and Asian dramas remain the same. I LOVE YOU GUYS AND MISS YOU ALL!
Blossy: Well then readers, hope you enjoyed this Interview Corner like I have. This isn’t over. I will come back again with another interview with be it a writer or a reader.