<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Monday, October 31, 2005
Five Questions

I asked M'ris to ask me five questions, and she did. Here are the answers.

1. What drives you most nuts in a protagonist?

Stupidity, especially when combined with whininess and/or behaviour inexplicable other than its necessity to the plot.

Worst offender in recent memory: Meg Cabot's teenage protagonist Jess in the 1-800-Where-R-You books. Rather than doing anything useful when discovering that she can unfailingly locate missing people, our girl Jess avoids just about anyone and everyone of whom she can be of some use, whines about feeling guilty, lies a lot and then pretends that her powers have strangely vanished and thus cannot be Evilly Exploited by the Strange and Menacing Government People. For four books. I mean, it's just so hard for her to have to deal with all the pressure of all those people who want her to find missing kids before they're killed. I mean, come on. Can't she just go hang out with her crush or something?

I wanted to hit her with a stick.

2. What drives you most nuts in a villain?

"Pity me for I have been wronged" syndrome.

Creating a sympathetic antagonist does not mean that every bad guy needs to have a murdered wife or an abducted child in his past. Being abused while a child is also getting very, very old. Not to belittle any of the above, but such things do not give you leave to become a murderer, start wars, create general havoc or anything of the kind, nor should you expect me to feel bad for you because of it.

Yes, Hollywood movies, I'm talking to you.

Pettiness comes in a close second, though.

3. What piece of nonfiction has surprised you most by being interesting?

The first thing that came to mind was T.E. Carhart's The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, which, being about pianos, a piano shop and Paris, didn't seem a likely combo to grab my attention, and yet it unfailingly held my interest. But then it did have the whole personal narrative aspect working in its favour -- I can be drawn into a story against my will.

So maybe Mauve by Simon Garfield. It's an entire book about the colour mauve. It was oddly riveting.

4. Have you stopped beating your wife?


5. What factors feature prominently in your ideal road trip?

Ooh, I can make a list! In no particular order:
- Really good music.
- Good company. Someone to talk to, or who can tell me stories, though I'm perfectly happy with long periods where no one says anything, too.
- Time to get lost. Because I will.
- Snacks, something to drink, plenty of bathroom opportunities. Stops are good, especially if it gives me the opportunity to eat at little restaurants and diners and the like.
- Scenery. Give me something new and interesting to look at. Towns and wilderness are preferred to cities, but if I'm getting cities, then I'd like nice ones, please. No Cincinnatis. (Not meaning offense to the residents of Cincinnati, but let's just say the city left a rather poor impression on me on the drive home from Florida a few years back.)
- Nice weather, as applicable for whatever scenery I'm passing through. No crazy storms of any kind while I'm driving. Ice is also frowned upon.
- Someone else who is willing and able to drive. I love my friends dearly, but am unwilling to take a road trip when I'm the only one licensed to drive (and/or who has practiced driving in the past twenty years). This is why I'm not driving to Madison this week.
- Odd landmarks. I'd rather enjoy taking strange detours to see the world's biggest ball of twine or a particularly lumpy outcropping of rock or a really big pumpkin, even if only to say, "Yep, that's a really big pumpkin."

Feel free to ask me five more and/or be asked questions yourself.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:32 AM


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