Hmmmmm. I'm going to try to break this down.
1. What was the first story you ever wrote? What inspired you to write it?
My very first fic published anywhere before the public eye was a Quantum Leap/Battlestar Galactica (1978) crossover that lived very, very briefly on the AOL discussion boards back when AOL had less than 500,000 people and you paid by the minute. A friend of mine sent me a PDF of it so that I could post it myself online somewhere. However, it does not live anywhere online, in large part because I haven't gotten around to uploading (truth to tell, I'm not sure I want to). The inspiration for this crossover was actually the result of watching an episode (Experiment in Terra) from the 1978 BSG series that looked, sounded, and felt like a test-of-concept for what later becaome Quantum Leap. The fact that Quantum Leap creator Donald Bellisario was a producer, scriptwriter, and director on the 1978 BSG series is merely a coincidence, I'm sure.
My very first Buffy fanfic posted anywhere was Revelations (as opposed to the first story I actually started writing, which was Whisper). It had two different sources of inspiration. The first inspiration was a challenge that had sprung up on a Xander-centric BtVS discussion board (one that is now long defunct) to write a Xander-centric story set in the as-yet unaired S7. The second inspiration was being sick and tired of reading yet another "Xander's really a demon" fic in which Xander was 1) perfectly okay with being a demon; 2) got a power that was the equivalent of all the X-Men combined; and 3) became Xander-Stu to the zillionth degree. I basically wanted to write a "Xander is a demon" story that essentially shot every single one of those clichés to pieces. Furthermore, I wanted to write a story where the now-demonic Xander was doing something that at first seems pretty evil, yet he and his reasons for doing it are completely in character.
2. Which of your stories received the best response? Why do you think that is?
The story that receives the best response seems to change every 6 months.
The story that received the best immediate reaction was Cuckoo in the Nest. As to why? I think because it's a fairly unique "Xander's real father" story — a subgenre in the Xander end of fanfic pool in which Xander's real father is invariably not Tony, or yes Tony but Tony himself is really a supernatural creature. This story straight up went in with the stance that there is absolutely nothing at all unusual about Xander's family or parents, even if it has been ravaged by alcoholism and emotional abuse.
However, the two stories that tend to become popular in cycles is Whisper and Dismay.
For Whisper, I think it's because the story has been online since 2003 (eons in Internet terms) and it falls into a very, very under-served area of BtVS fanficiton: pure gen. In fact, Whisper lands on a lot of otherwise ship-centric rec lists in large part because it is gen. As a result, a lot of newbies seeking out BtVS fanfic tend to keep stumbling across recs for Whisper in different segments of fandom, enough so that they eventually decide to check it out for themselves.
By contrast, the popularity of Dismay is a complete mystery to me. I don't know why people like it (it's not my favorite), and I can understand why people might be turned off by it if they came across it with no explanation of why it exists (it was meant to be a single chapter in a larger round-robin story). Yet, I've more than once come across people looking for it on fanfiction comms. They don't remember the name, they don't remember the writer, but they sure do remember the plot. I find it pretty amazing, especially considering the frigid reception it got when I first put it up on a Buffy/Xander fanfiction list.
3. Which of your stories received a less favorable response than you expected. Why do you think that it?
This may come as a surprise to people who actually liked the story, but the response to Contrite Spirits was...ummm...disappointing. What really boggles me about the fairly low response to Contrite Spirits was that it got recc'd pretty much all over hell and creation, yet...I dunno. I think the threat of religious themes raising its ugly head may have scared off quite a few people from reading it.
Let me admit right here, though, that my statement about the the response to Contrite Spirits can be considered, ummmm, whining. (Yes, I admit it.) I should say that the response to Contrite Spirits was muted in comparison to many other similar-sized stories I've released onto the Web.
4. Which character do you enjoy writing the most? Why?
It's a toss-up between Xander and Faith, although I have very different reasons for loving to write them.
With Faith, it's because she's a character that originally came from Boston. As another working class Greater Boston Area gal myself, I have Faith's voice down cold. As a result, I can throw her into some pretty outlandish situations and plots and still make her sound like Faith — despite the fact that the story may be stretching it for Faith (See — The History of Humor in the 20th Century as a prime example.)
As for Xander, he hits all my character kinks. A working class schmoe who's life is not prone to being soap operish (or any operish) for anything, be it great love or great heartbreak. Yet, this normal guy finds himself pulled into the supernatural world time and time again because of his very human qualities. The fact of the matter is, Xander can be a real shit at times, but most of the time he's a good man — or at least stumbling in that direction. In many ways, Xander is pretty tragic. Within the world of BtVS, he's nobody's favorite (or least favorite) anything and nobody's best (or worst) anyone. He often keeps pushing forward and fighting, despite the fact that he gets almost zero recognition for what he does contribute. He's what I call a Hawthornian character (as in Nathaniel Hawthorne), because despite everything, he keeps getting up, despite the number of times he gets knocked down.
5. Which character do you enjoy writing the least? Why?
Spike, in large part because I can't stand the character after S4. Also can't stand: Andrew, in large part because he's a character I don't like, compounded by the fact that I have to do so much pop culture research even to write a one-sentence piece of dialog for him. Needless to say, writing Behold LIttle Padawan (Andrew) and The Last Tin Soldier (Spike) have been pure hell.
6. You wrote it and you loved it. Quote your favourite opening line. Quote your favorite closing line. Your favorite title. (Again, links to the stories are always welcome.)
Favorite Title: It's a toss-up between Cuckoo in the Nest for BtVS fandom and The Murder of Crows (Blackhawk Down Remix) for BSG 2003 fandom.
Favorite Opening Line: "Sometimes stories just get lost." — The Missing Bits
Favorite Closing Line: "The thing is someone has to tell this girl a simple truth, one that got somehow lost among the multiple apocalypses, destinies, prophecies, and Powers playing humanity like chess pieces on a board: If you’re going to save a world full of people, you have to save them one at a time." — Ishmael Sings of the White Whale
Bonus, Although You Didn't Ask, Favorite Line of All Time: "Anyways, I tease him about it. Just tell him that Gracie’s another dumb blonde in a long line of dumb blondes. She’s like, the Chosen One of Dipshits." — The History of Humor in the 20th Century
7. Do you identify with one pairing? If so do you tend to write mostly that pairing? When you don't- what inspires you to step off the beaten track.
My favorite canon pairing is Spike/Dru, although I've never written a single story about it. My favorite fanon pairing is Xander/Faith. Oddly enough, even though I am considered a Xander/Faith shipper, it's rare for me to move out of the mode where I'm writing them as people who are sort of stumbling their way into a friendship (romance, notoriously, is not to be found). How into it am I? I actually wrote a ship manifesto for Xander/Faith, which is hilarious considering my overwhelming gen story selection.
8. Do you re-read your fic? Why or why not? Do you have a favourite fic to re-read?
I don't usually re-read them for fun. I've been known to re-read them if I were picking up a WiP where I left off, if I'm reposting it somewhere, etc. So, it's completely random in that sense.
9. Some writers find writing difficult. For others, it comes easily. Tell me about the experience of writing for you. How do you write? When? Where? Do you plot your stories or just start writing. Which of your stories was the easiest to write? Which was the hardest?
Hmmmm, half my stories are the result of challenges from other people, the other half sparked on my own. The inspiration for what I write and how, isn't really easy to describe. Each story has a different inspiration and come from a different place.
Oddly enough, the light and fluffy one-shot stories (stories for which I am not known) I can bang out in zero time at all when so inspired. For example, The History of Humor in the 20th Century, Deep Thoughts (On Protective Eyewear) by Alexander L. Harris, and The Slayer of Pine Cove, California were written in mere hours.
Stories in which an unreliable narrator is in the lead spot (stories for which I am known), tend to take a lot out of me, in large part because I'm writing from the point of view of someone I truly hate or disagree with. Of these, Cuckoo in the Nest was the most uncomfortable to write, and The Last Tin Soldier has been the most difficult to write.
10. How has the delivery of fanfic changed since you first started in fandom? Where did you first start posting? Do you have a web site? Do you maintain it? Did you belong to lists? Do you now? How do you find new fic to read?
When I first started in online fandom in the early 90s, fanfiction was in the process of moving from hardcopy fanzines to online Websites and discussion groups. In fact, I have a couple of pieces in Battlestar Galactica (1978) fandom that are only available in hardcopy. That said, most of the fanfiction I wrote during that time period was published to mailing lists, which, in turn, had archives that were maintained by volunteers.
After a little bit of a sabbatical, I returned to online and fandom was again in transition, from mailing lists/discussion groups and private Websites, to third-party archives and blogs/journal sites. I've mostly transitioned to posting via blog/journal with some side-posting to third-party archives.
11. No shows = no inspiration. Let's face it, it's all been done, right? Or has it? How do you find inspiration in the Buffyverse? Do the comics help? Do you consider them canon?
Unpopular opinion alert! The Buffy comics are not terribly good, are they? I mean, they're competent, but the art, pacing, and storyline is meh. It reads more like Joss wanting to keep the milking the cash cow until something better comes along. Compare to say, oh, Alan Moore, Nail Gaiman, Garth Ennis, and Alan Davis and you can just see pretty clearly that Buffy is strictly amateur hour. Oh, the heck with that. Will Eisner, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby will never be topped in the comics realm. Why? Because these dudes did it first and did it with panache. Everyone else is standing on their shoulders. Period.
So, ummm, no. I'm more than happy to go with the standard that most fandoms go by: "Comics canon is different from movie canon is different from book canon is different from television canon." I only use television canon. The rest is a waste for me.
As for where I find inspiration, the really good thing about having Xander as your favorite character is that the television series gave people just enough information about him that you can make a pretty good sketch outline of who he is, but neglected the character for three solid years — which gives you lots of room with which you can play with him. It's the spaces left unsaid in all of the characters that I find inspiration. That, and having fun "demonizing" RL trials and tribulations (literally) and putting them into stories.
12. Feedback - how important is it to you? What sort of feedback do you like to receive? Do you leave feedback when you read?
Is there anyone out there who doesn't love feedback? I adore feedback. Even better, I love it when people get into debates with each other in the middle of feddback because some idea that I put forward in the story sparked it. Heck, I love it when people react in ways that I couldn't even possibly foresee. I'm good with con-crit, and I'm good with typo picking, but when people start debating each other...well, that's quite the high.
13. How has fanfiction changed your life?
Through fanfiction, I've made some new friends, got to do some interesting things with interesting people, and made connections to people all over the world. So, yeah. Definitely.
14. Do you write professionally? Did you before you started writing fanfic or did fanfic pave the way?
I've been getting paid for writing in RL since I was 17, and before I started writing fanfiction (believe it or not). In fact, I started writing fanfiction while I was still a newspaper reporter. My primary motivation was because I thought it was an interesting writing exercise and allowed me to use "writing muscles" that I didn't normally get to use when writing for publication. So, you might say my RL job(s) paved the way to fanfiction, and not the other way around.
15. Final thoughts. I am sure I missed something- talk to me.
Wow! This was incredibly thorough. I have no idea what else I can add here.