NTMI: Good evening, everyone! I'm here this evening with Jan, better known as Starhamster42, the owner of Makikai and his amazing amulet. Hello, Jan, welcome to... well, wherever this is.
Starhamster42: Hello, scriptfox! I'm honored to be here.
NTMI: The pleasure is all ours, I'm sure. So, the first question is how did you find Neopets?
Starhamster42: Well, it was almost a summer ago when my friend Vuffi Raa sent me a quick one-line e-mail about this really cool site she'd found called Neopets. I was curious, so I clicked the link.
NTMI: And it took you to Neopets. What happened then?
Starhamster42: I created my first account under the name of CayKai and my first pet, Atuarre. It was easy to get hooked - it was the summer, I was bored, and the site had that wonder of wonders, free games! I loved how Neopets had everything all in one place - not just virtual pets, but entire worlds, storylines, villains...
Starhamster42: From the very start Neopets grew in my imagination.
NTMI: I can certainly sympathize with that! But eventually, CayKai wasn't enough, and we needed Starhamster42. Why choose that for a name?
Starhamster42: Well, I've always been a bit obsessed with hamsters - they're not just cute, but can be quite smart too! They're the only pets I've had, since I'm horribly allergic to cats and don't really have much time to spend with a dog.
Starhamster42: Star because I've always loved astronomy, and 42 because, as any Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan knows, it's the Ultimate Answer!
NTMI: I see. Is this your way of hinting that you're the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything?
Starhamster42: Hehe, not at all... though my friends do call me a know-it-all
NTMI: Well the next time they say that, just tell them, "Of course I don't know it all, I just know more than you do!" But now that we know what the name means, how did it first manage to sneak into the Neopian Times?
Starhamster42: All my craziest (but best!) ideas usually come late at night, and this one hit me as I was trying to get to sleep. I'd been thinking of writing a story for some time, but had no idea what to do yet.
Starhamster42: Strangely enough, the idea consisted only of the two words: "Rubber Chicken." And it all went from there!
NTMI: So we go from fighting with a rubber chicken, to a mysterious amulet with destructive powers. Quite a leap! Does that mean that Maki and the Amulet was your first submission?
Starhamster42: Yes, it was my first, though if it got rejected one more time, it probably would have never been.
NTMI: Now that you've got three series, an article and a short story to your credit, do you ever look back at it and say "How did it ever get in?"
Starhamster42: Oh yes, many times. I still cringe at some points looking back at that first series - it's very rushed and poorly worded in many places. But then again, everyone has to start somewhere!
NTMI: And you certainly don't stay at the same place you start! Now that you've had more experience, though, what do you like writing best?
Starhamster42: I had a lot of fun writing my single article - it's still amazing to me that I got more neomails over that one piece than I did for everything else combined! However, I think I'll stick with my stories.
Starhamster42: The problem is that what starts out as a short story usually ends up as a series... being stingy with words has never been my strong point!
NTMI: Well sometimes you just get too much plot to fit into a short story! And speaking of plot, where do you get the ideas, apart from those late night 'keep me awake' imaginings?
Starhamster42: From everywhere, I guess! From books I read, from random school projects - the idea of Maki swordfighting came from a Latin project with gladiators - from television... usually my ideas come in snatches of phrases or pictures, not an entire plot at once.
NTMI: In other words, they come in scenes that you have to make sense of by creating a plot to hold them?
Starhamster42: Exactly! I had no idea where I was going with Maki's story when I started writing, it was just for fun at the time I wrote the first series! I simply improvised as I went along and gathered new ideas and scenes in my head.
NTMI: How detailed do you require your plot ideas to be before you start writing?
Starhamster42: Actually, the entire Shadow Usul story was supposed to be Maki's dream, but it was converted into a story by my overactive imagination.
Starhamster42: For some stories, the plot has to be absolutely set in stone before I start writing - like MaltaAre's story. The only problem with that approach is that I end up knowing what I want to write, but can't find the words.
Starhamster42: For other stories, I just throw in random pieces as I go along for variety, like Dunari's speech about Grackle Bugs (a personal favorite!)
NTMI: Lol... while the Bugs do their thing!
NTMI: How long does it take to go from initial idea to finished story?
Starhamster42: It depends. I can have the entire story finished in about one or two days if I'm very determined, or can drag it out for weeks and months on end without getting very much done. I think it depends a lot on the amount of work I have from school and how good the idea is to motivate me to write it.
Starhamster42: Or even if the idea isn't good! Motivation and being able to see it in my mind is what counts.
NTMI: Ever get an idea that is so good that you can't rest or think about anything else until you have the story written?
Starhamster42: Yes! Or at least until I have the scene written... I've had an idea about Enti and Meepits that has been on my mind for some time, popping up in various guises and begging me to write it. It's only a matter of time before it appears in a story. *Grins*
NTMI: We can only wait, lol! I notice you said you got a lot of feedback on your article. What sort of feedback do you usually get?
Starhamster42: I got 0 feedback mails on my last series, which I was very disappointed about. The response to my article was generally a lot of, "EXACTLY! Thank you for spreading the word!" And for MaltaAre's story, an unexpected (for me, anyways, though I think I should have seen it coming) flood of "I think my Zafara likes your Zafara!" So far, no real hate letters.
NTMI: Those seem to be pretty rare, thankfully. Unless, of course, you decide to step into the Chia-Lupe war saga. Anyhow, what would you tell someone else who would like to get into the Neopian Times?
Starhamster42: If you get rejected, don't get angry or depressed; think of it as a learning opportunity. Look over your story and make any changes you want - often you'll see mistakes you've missed. But overall, never, ever give up. Believe in your work, because it's a part of yourself.
NTMI: Would you ever suggest someone totally scrap a story and start a new one?
Starhamster42: Hmmm... harder to answer, this one is; I know how horrible your work looks after it's been rejected for the first time. My advice is not to scrap your story, but save it and try working on that other idea. Then see which one you like better and submit one or both.
Starhamster42: Be proud of your work; don't submit something you don't believe in or is only half-good. Put your heart and soul into the words and it will come back to you, one way or another.
NTMI: And don't believe that your readers will never know the difference! But as you read the Neopian Times, what sort of fault or faults do you tend to find?
Starhamster42: I dislike chatspeak with a passion; authors who put smiley faces or misspell words in dialogue get on my nerves. Those mistakes are so easy to avoid.
Starhamster42: There's not nearly as many cliche Pound stories as there used to be, but there's a disturbing new trend towards superhero/action/adventure comics, which are pretty boring in my opinion. I just want a good comic I can read in one sitting and actually laugh!
NTMI: Funny that you should mention that. Wasn't it oddhatter herself who said much the same thing recently?
Starhamster42: I think so. The last comic I laughed at -- and I mean hard -- was the Dysfunctional Petpets one where they were playing tennis with a Weewoo. I never thought I'd have to say this, but I miss funny comics!
Starhamster42: It's a shame that the Moo Strip has ended and the Cheesy Neos are becoming less common. They will be greatly missed.
NTMI: One sense of humor + an ability to draw... you'd think it'd be easier to find. But now that we've talked about the contents, what about the layout. Anything about the Neopian Times layout that you'd like to see changed?
Starhamster42: To deal with all the comic series, I'd suggest a special section just for them. I'd also love to see an option that would let you skip to a specific section of the NT for different weeks - it's incredibly annoying when you want to find one short story to have to click a week, then click on Short Stories, scroll down, "Nope," click another week...
NTMI: Or change the week links to change only the week and leave the section the same?
Starhamster42: Yes, an option like that would be nice. Right now I'm just relying on your index as a shortcut.
NTMI: That was the general idea when I started it, lol. So what has been the best part about being in the Times?
Starhamster42: I've only received a few fan-mail letters so far, but I love hearing from readers. It's an incredible feeling to know that someone out there has read your work, to realize that people all over the world can be talking about your story or article this instant. Those readers are the best part for me.
NTMI: What about the worst part?
Starhamster42: I haven't had any hate mail yet, though from the ones I've heard others share, I know that's probably the worst - to log in and see that lovely message across the top of your screen. I'd also rank "not getting any feedback" right up there with hate mail; it hurts when your beloved piece is totally ignored.
NTMI: All that sweat poured down a rathole, so to speak?
Starhamster42: I guess you could say that! Plus you end up with a feeling of "What did I do wrong?"
NTMI: Yuck. Well forget about the wrong part, what have you done, period. What else do you have on the Neopets site besides your Neopian Times submissions?
Starhamster42: My pets! *Hugs them all* It's amazing how these bunches of pixels can live in the imagination.
Starhamster42: When I'm not chatting in my guild, NTAG, I'm usually playing card games (though my newest addiction is Defenders of Meridell).
NTMI: Been there, done that, got the medal to prove it, lol. Any other stories out there on the net that we should know about?
Starhamster42: No, not really, though I want to start putting some of my random Neopets ideas on FF.net. Other than that, the only writing I've done is for my school's Literary Journal and the entries in my UJournal.
NTMI: What sort of goals or ideas do you have for your writing in the future?
Starhamster42: I love writing, but I think I'll mostly just be writing fanfics, no novels or anything (yet!). But you never know when a caffeine-induced idea might just make you an esteemed novelist!
NTMI: That's true! Ok, and one more question. Just why is there a blue zafara with the name of Starhamster42 ??
Starhamster42: That blue Zafara was created during some dark days on my old hangout, the NeoQuest chatboard. It's my emergency pet; I figured that if I ever got frozen or left Neopets, I'd leave an explanation on that pet's page.
Starhamster42: I'm not worried about being frozen now that I've left the board, but I didn't want to put the pet in the Pound, so the Zafara is still there.
NTMI: Which probably says a lot about the Neoquest board. Well, that's about all the questions I had. Was there anything else you wanted to tell us about?
Starhamster42: I want to wave a big hello to all my great friends, especially Taryn and Allison from the ScienceFiction Club - thank you all for helping me find my place and being there.
Starhamster42: And for everyone else out there - May the Force be with you... always!
NTMI: I'd think that says it all. Thanks for talking with us, and best of luck in your future writing!
Starhamster42: Thank you, I've enjoyed it.
Would you like to read all of Starhamster42's pieces? Just click here to check her out in our database!