In 2006/7 I became completely hooked on 'The West Wing'. For various reasons I'd missed most of it when it was shown on TV, but I bought the first season - and then the whole set.
In early 2007 I discovered a couple of yahoo groups devoted to 'The West Wing' and then got into lengthy emails with another 'fan'. We discussed the episodes and characters, and she also introduced me to the world of fan-fiction. This,according to wikipedia, is defined as "stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work" and is "both related to its subject's canonical fictional universe and simultaneously existing outside the canon of that universe". I read a lot of 'West Wing' fanfiction, some extremely good, some so bizarre that they bore no relation to the characters or 'canon' of TWW.
Following an email conversation with my friend about the lives of the fictional President and First Lady (Jed and Abbey Bartlet) after they left the White House,
It was only intended to be a short story - but somehow it grew. It ended up with 40 chapters and 80,000 words and its title was 'Tomorrow' - the very last word spoken by Jed in the series. My muse had returned, I was writing fiction again! But, at this stage, solely for my friend.
Fate intervened later in the year when I got to know another TWW fan, this time someone who also wrote fanfic. stories. I sent her mine, and she persuaded me to start posting it on one of the yahoo groups which were devoted to Jed and Abbey.
Before I did that, however, I wanted to make sure that my facts and descriptions of Ireland were authentic, so in October 2007 I went across to Galway for a few days. Just for basic research, you understand, but I fell in love with Ireland and have been back about 8 times since then. But that's another story.
In November 2007 I started posting my 'instalments' on the yahoo group. I must admit I was nervous because a lot of the members of the group were far more knowledgeable about TWW and about Jed and Abbey than I was. To my relief, everyone liked it, even when I shocked them with an unexpected twist in the story!
Later, another friend posted the story for me at fanfiction.net, and I started getting reviews from complete strangers. This was my favourite: I started reading this because I love The West Wing, and just couldn't stop reading. You did an amazing job with the characters, I could hear Martin and Stockard saying everything you wrote. Congratulations on writing something so amazing.
If you're interested, you can read it here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4113320/1/Tomorrow
I went on to write (and post) three more fanfiction stories, this time all based on specific episodes in TWW, where I 'filled in' the scenes that we didn't see on the screen. Again I got good reviews e.g.I just totally adored this story - I'm so glad I read it! You got both Abbey and Jed's character perfectly.
Of course, with fanfiction, all the characters are already there for you, you just have to pick them up and run with them! I did invent some of my own in my 'Tomorrow' story and again when I started to write a follow-up about the first year after Jed's Presidency. In the latter, I highlighted specific days - Valentine's Day, St Patrick's Day, Easter Day, Memorial Day and Wedding Anniversary. I followed some of the threads from 'Tomorrow' and introduced others. This became more like writing original fiction.
In June 2008, fate stepped in again. As a result, I left Jed and Abbey enjoying an 'extended' anniversary celebration in Provence and went on to other things. More about that next time!