A Brief History of Love

Writing Prompt: “Crush/First Love”

I don’t know for certain that I’ve ever been in love.

I’ve had crushes, I’ve been in lust, I’ve had fondness and affection for people, and maybe all these things are love in various forms, or maybe none of them are and I’ve never really been in love. I don’t know.

I remember in fifth grade a boy named Patrick Hurley who, I swore to my best friend Emily at the time, I had a raging crush on. But that wasn’t true. I didn’t care a fig for Patrick Hurley, I only felt I was expected to like someone and he seemed harmless enough as a target. Meanwhile, two boys named Andrew and Craig did their best to get Emily’s and my attention, including attempting to talk us into “kissing lessons.” I was fond of Andrew, despite that awful tail of hair he had (that was the fad at the time); he would sit in bus line with me and draw pictures of houses he would build for me someday.

So there’s the world of contradictions opening: professing love for one person while having actual affection for someone else. I wasn’t even aware of it at the time. Andrew was Andrew and somehow not a viable prospect for that very reason. It’s the plot line of any number of romantic comedies. I don’t know if we’d have had a Hollywood ending, though, because my family moved the following summer.

And at my new school for sixth grade, oh! In sixth grade it was all about Joel. Joel, whose family had only come to the U.S. after being missionaries in Nigeria. Joel, whose parents had named all their children with the letter J, Joel being the oldest of four. He was tan, with sandy hair and vivid blue eyes, tall and athletic, and best of all he lived in bike-riding distance. My friend Sarah and I would make not-so-subtle trips through his neighborhood. We were vultures, circling.

The best day of my sixth-grade life came when Miss Fuller named Joel and me co-captains for Field Day. I don’t remember anything else about that day except at the end of it Joel put an arm around me and kissed my cheek. Bliss!

But Field Day marked the end of the school year, and I was switching schools. Meanwhile, Joel’s family was moving again. No more rides past his house.

Seventh and eighth grades were taken up with Kevin Kessler. We had Honors English classes and were Office Aides together. I don’t know why I liked him—today I can’t even picture him clearly—but I did.

Now here’s the problem with being a focused and dedicated individual. I was so often consumed by whatever current crush was on my mind, I was blind to the possibility anyone else might like me. In fact, I was pretty certain no one could ever like me, which is why I often didn’t bother with anything more than jeans and t-shirts, and it was ages before I considered makeup. Meanwhile, my white-hot attention often sent the objects of my desire running for cover. Even when I wasn’t being obvious, I was. I was too intense, even at a distance. It made me unapproachable. Smart and aloof, I had only a handful of friends, people who’d braved getting to know me. But no one knew me so well that I was willing to discuss who I “liked.” Everyone knew, because I couldn’t seem to hide it, but no one discussed it.

My junior year of high school was my nadir. I cringe to think of it. I had the fiercest crush on Mark Pierce. He was a senior, and we were in public speaking together and both National Honor Society members. Without going into details, I’ll just say I made a fool of myself. Utterly and completely. But I felt powerless to scale it back. It made no difference to Mark; he only wanted to be done with high school so he could go off to college and start a “real life.” He had no interest in me or any other ties to our town. He was preparing to shake it all off and run.

And if anyone liked me during this time, I was oblivious to it. My blinders were on. I would guess now, based on broad evidence, one or two people might have liked me a little. One boy who lived around the corner offered to drive me to school (I often walked when I couldn’t have the car). Out of an acute attack of shyness, I declined. I fear now he took it as a rejection, and that makes me sad. Later he would write in my senior yearbook, “And now you even talk to me sometimes.” I must have seemed like a terrible snob, but really I was just living in my shell.

After Mark, I took a break on crushes. Mark had used up all my emotional energy. A boy named Charles auditioned for the role of boyfriend, and I cast him temporarily, but his need to call every day—sometimes several times a day, just to tell me a music video I liked was on or to tell me he also liked apple cinnamon Cheerios—became oppressive. I might still have kept him on, but I inadvertently broke up with him via postcard. I had remembered he liked Billy Joel, and so on the card I wrote a lyric:

You may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.

In retrospect, not a terribly affirming message. I returned from my visit to my grandparents in Alaska to discover Charles wasn’t speaking to me. A mutual friend explained why. Realizing I was actually relieved by this, I didn’t bother to plead my case of lack of forethought. I just walked away.

I did have a tiny interest my senior year in a quiet, mild-mannered boy named Jon Howard. After my intense feelings for Mark, and Charles’ intense feelings for me, Jon felt like an oasis of calm. This time I did confide in a friend. She promptly began dating Jon behind my back.

Toward the end of my senior year, a family friend (he was a pastor-in-training) began asking me out. His name was Greg, and he had red hair and, of all things, a beard. I wasn’t all that interested, but Greg seemed like a safe way to gain dating experience. He was unfailingly gracious, always polite, and my parents loved him. But he was boring. It wasn’t long before he asked to walk in the park with me and, parked on the steps of the gazebo, he broke up with me. Gently. It didn’t hurt a bit, actually, because I simply didn’t care.

At that point I was where Mark Pierce had been the year before: ready to leave for college and start fresh. I didn’t date much my freshman year—in fact, I went on exactly one date, with Matthew from my French class. We went to play racquetball, which I’d never done. I twisted my ankle. He never asked me out again, and French was awkward for the rest of the semester.

My last big crush started my sophomore year. I had landed a job at a little family-owned copy shop, a place that did photocopies, printing, binding, and offered some typing and graphics services. We sold office supplies and Tic Tacs and had a soda machine that only cost a quarter per can. That alone probably brought in most of our foot traffic.

Danny was one of my co-workers. Blond, blue-eyed, smart and funny. Kind. I liked him as a person long before I started to fall for him.

We didn’t hang out much outside of work, though we did go to the movies a couple times and out to coffee houses once or twice. Something about Danny felt very safe, and I was able to be more myself around him. For the first time in my life, I was wondering what it would be like to share space with someone; I pictured Danny and I reading books beside a cozy fire. And yet for all that, there was very little about the situation that was romantic. I only knew I liked this person and wanted to be around him and spend time with him.

But Danny was a couple years ahead of me in school, and upon graduation he joined the Peace Corp. He was going to Mali. I agonized over this; how could he leave? Finally, I did one of those foolish movie-type things: I sent him a letter telling him how I felt.

To his credit, Danny took it all in stride. He wrote to me from Mali, even sent little trinkets. He had the courtesy not to mention my letter.

It wasn’t until I had moved to Boston for grad school and Danny had settled in New York for law school that he told me he was gay. By that time I’d met the man I was going to marry, and so the announcement had little impact on me in the romantic sense. I did feel a bit stupid for not having known, but then I’ve never had good “gaydar.” Which may be why I got asked out by more women than men in college. Maybe I give off a vibe I’m not aware of. But that’s something else again.

Somewhere in there, I began working on a film set. An actor got into the habit of pulling my hair and calling me “Pigtail.” (And yes, he knew my name, even used it sometimes.) It was such a juvenile thing–all the things he said and did were grade school ways of getting attention. I knew I should be flattered, but I mostly found it confusing. And all the while a location scout named Marcel had become my best friend on the set. My fondest memory is of he and I hanging out during an early-morning shoot, singing “The Way You Look Tonight” rather badly because we were so tired. Marcel gave me candles at the wrap party, to this day the best-smelling candles I’ve ever owned. They smelled like fresh-cut grass. I wish I knew where to find more, or where to find him, because I think I took him for granted as a friend, and I also think maybe he “liked” me just a little. If I knew where he was now, I’d ask him.

Eventually I graduated, spent a year trying to decide what else to do, then moved to Boston grad school. At that point I’d decided to start fresh again. I would focus on my work as a writer, on my career, and love would come in its own sweet time. Which, as it turned out, was day one of my first class. Not love exactly, but the kind of real, long-term relationship I’d never had before.

I spotted Scott sitting across the room when I walked in the door, and I thought, “That’s the boy I’m going to marry.” There was no question in my mind about it, and no echo of love or passion in my brain, either. The statement was a simple fact, something I was as sure of as the sunrise.

Scott dressed in the flannel grunge style popular at that time. He wore a flatcap, backwards like Samuel L. Jackson. He slouched in his chair and oozed nonchalance, insubordination. “Impress me,” his attitude said, “bet you can’t.”

I tried talking to him a few times. It seemed so inevitable, our being together, I figured I might as well get us started. But Scott was reluctant. Or, as it turned out, shy. I had almost given up, was starting to think my usually keen intuition had short circuited somehow, when Scott finally began to open up. We got assigned a project together (Scott’s doing). We met for coffee. Went to a couple movies. Scott cooked for me. Took me to a nice restaurant, then away for a weekend in Maine.

By the end of our first semester we were engaged.

We wrote our theses and planned a wedding for immediately after graduation. I gave up plans for an internship in LA because Scott wouldn’t have been able to go. And I gave up plans to move closer to family and friends because Scott felt we had more opportunities in New England.

Well, my instincts had been right in picking who I would marry. They never promised I’d get everything I wanted.

Scott has taken care of me, though. I can’t fault him there. He loves me, and as little as I know of love, I guess I do love him, too. It isn’t the kind of passion I felt for those teenage crushes, but one is expected to grow out of that kind of thing, and relationships are supposed to evolve into something more staid and mature. Grown-up love.

Or maybe I traded in or up or something. Passion is like a shiny sports car, fast but also not equipped for everyday use. Affection, and the kind of love that comes with it, is a sort of reliable family vehicle with a good warranty. It has four-wheel drive and seat warmers and can get you over rough terrain.

Every now and then a sports car will catch my eye, and I think it might be fun to go for a test drive. Then I remind myself that the thrill is fleeting, that in bad weather a sports car would be useless. I stick with my SUV. Roomy and comfortable, and it fits all the kids.

More “Scandal”

I continue to mull over “A Scandal in Belgravia,” trying to pinpoint what it was that left me somewhat unsatisfied by it. One issue is, perhaps, the unevenness in tone. The episode is front-loaded with howlingly funny one-liners and exchanges, only to cut steeply into the dramatic. I’ve wondered whether that was the intent, to show some kind of major shift and change in the characters’ lives, but I’m not convinced that much thought was involved.

Then there is the Christmas gathering scene during which (without giving too much away) a major development occurs and the party more or less disbands. My problem with this scene is that Sherlock receives the news, and we go immediately on to the next thing; the viewer is not privy to the actual dissolution of the assembly. This seems like a small thing, but I liken it to, say, a scene in a movie in which a character realizes his relationship must end, then the next scene is him standing in an empty flat. The viewer knows what has happened—they have broken up—but have been cheated of a key moment, the one in which the breakup actually occurs. You may ask how this could matter for a simple party scene, but it does on a very subtle level. If Sherlock or John were to announce that the party is over, that’s one thing. If Sherlock were to simply exit the flat, leaving the party to slowly separate, that’s something else. It speaks to the internal mechanism that works the series of relationships involved. Action and reaction. Sherlock is hardly the type to be the “life of the party,” but maybe he is a kind of glue. Or are he and John required to work in tandem? Maybe when you subtract either one of them, it’s simply no longer a celebration (bad news notwithstanding). But the true dynamic cannot be ascertained because the scene that would cue it is missing.

Any actor will tell you the key to a character is figuring out what he or she wants, and that’s another big question mark in “Scandal.” Even if the character doesn’t know what he wants, the writer and actor need to have a firm grasp on it, but here it isn’t clear. Though the goal is simple enough at first, things quickly devolve. Sherlock does not seem to want Irene Adler, except perhaps as a playmate—his sexuality, or asexuality, remains unresolved—and if the whole were merely a game of oneupmanship between them, it might have played out quite well because then motives would be understandable and easily acted upon. That alone would have been entertaining to watch. But the relationship, such as it is, develops a mushiness, a lack of focus and definition, that becomes something of a slog. And again, this may have been intentional, the idea being that whatever is between Sherlock and Irene starts in one place and ends somewhere else, but the vague nature of the journey makes the whole of it a tad tiresome. There are no milestones. Sherlock is a decisive and action-oriented character, animated even when thinking—this is necessary to make him worth watching for any length of time—but in “Scandal” the brakes go on and action grinds to a crawl manifested in endless violin playing. This is designed to speak to Sherlock’s state of mind, one supposes, but in execution actually says very little. Sherlock Holmes in many incarnations has long been an emotional cipher, so readers/viewers are used to not knowing how he feels (or if he feels), but when he does—and he obviously is supposed to here—it helps to have a little more insight than excessive use of the violin is able to convey.

One suspects that if it were only a question of having someone “on his level” to play against, Sherlock would be equally infatuated with Moriarty; indeed, “The Great Game” came close to just that. The situation with Irene is different, however, though what prompts the difference isn’t made explicit. Without knowing why Sherlock does the things he does, reacts the way he does—is he being chivalrous? is he in love?—I as a viewer found the resulting miasma confusing. I don’t think the script itself necessarily requires blatant answers, but I did feel like the actor should have known in his own right what was going on internally with Sherlock so that he could articulate it, even if only to show: Sherlock doesn’t know how he feels; he’s trying to figure it out and/or bury it. Is the violin playing Sherlock’s attempt to express himself? Or is he trying to distract himself? I’d guess the former, but then more questions follow: To what end? Is he decompressing? Looking for sympathy? What does playing the violin achieve for him? What does he want?

I’m pulling all this from a week-old memory now, of course, and I may think and feel differently about any or all of it when the episode airs. I’ll give another accounting then, when I’m able to write about the specifics of the episode without spoiling it for anyone. There’s a chance there is more to the emotional undertow than I am remembering, that the plot, too, is more cohesive than I am able to recall. Fans of the show will like the episode regardless; they will be too happy to have new episodes after such a long hiatus to be very picky about any of it; indeed, one must brace for the wave of gushing and excited online chatter sure to come in “Scandal”‘s wake. The producers, writers, actors and network have nothing to fear on that score. Sherlock will continue to be a hit, and “Scandal” will be an iconic episode for having introduced a new take on Irene Adler and ostensibly a new depth of character for Sherlock himself, though I would say in retrospect that in “Scandal” Mycroft is the one who comes off with the most fleshed-out personality; indeed, there seems to be a very clear notion of who Mycroft is, what he is capable of, etc., which is part of what puts the wateriness of Sherlock’s usually equally defined person to shame.

All-Time Favorite Movies

I was thinking about this last night because, for whatever reason, the old film Summer Magic sprang to mind. I love that movie, but I almost never remember to put in on any of my favorites lists.

So I started thinking about other movies I’ve loved, ones that might not always end up on obvious lists. The Innocents, for example. Rope. Okay, that one could be obvious.

So here, in no particular order, are my all-time favorite movies . . . At least the ones I could think of while sitting here.

  1. Summer Magic–I spent a summer when I was 9 or 10 watching this repeatedly on the Disney Channel. I sing “On the Front Porch” to my daughter at bedtime each night.
  2. Rope–so tightly written and directed; a Hitchcock classic.
  3. The Innocents–Deborah Kerr stars in this old take on “The Turn of the Screw” and the result is awesome.
  4. Now, Voyager–I get sucked in every time.
  5. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil–while I can’t love the choice to create a love interest for John, thanks to the stellar cast this film stands as one of the rare moments when the adaptation is as good as the book.
  6. Young Sherlock Holmes–probably the most influential film of my childhood; I used to come home each day and pop it in the VCR while I did my homework.
  7. Clue–still a go-to for stormy nights.
  8. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels–such a funny, clever little movie.
  9. The Uninvited–by which I mean the old 1944 film, which is truly spooky.
  10. The Haunting–the 1963 one, of course. So chilling.
  11. Raiders of the Lost Ark/Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade–okay, obvious again, but these two films were also backbones of my childhood. Raiders is the first film I can actually remember seeing in a cinema.
  12. All the fantasy films that came out around the time I was eight, including Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, and The Last Unicorn. These became sleepover staples.
  13. Anything starring Cary Grant.

There are others. I know there are. I keep wracking my brain over which movies I feel I absolutely have to own, you know, the ones I had on VHS and felt the need to convert to DVD and then (when available) Blu-Ray. That’s sort of the gold standard, isn’t it? Spending that kind of money repeatedly on something?

I could add more recent films that had an impact on me: Jurassic Park, The Matrix . . . These two hold the record for films I’ve seen in a cinema, 10 times and 7 times respectively. In high school it became a bit of a gag for my friends to take me, yet again, to Jurassic Park. That was back when movies stayed in the theater for more than two or three weeks.

And Gone with the Wind is what I curl up with when I’m sick. I tuck up on the sofa and sip tea and watch Scarlett manipulate everyone around her, everyone but Rhett because he’s her match. Too bad she doesn’t see the truth of that until he walks away.

In college my friends and I used to rent a bunch of movies at a time–we’d pick a genre and rent one or two films from each decade, then have a marathon as we worked our way through chronologically. I discovered a lot of great movies this way.

I knew pretty early on that I wanted to work in film and television (thanks, Mr. Spielberg!), and the above are just a handful of the reasons why. I’m lucky to do what I do, even in the modest amount that I do it.

What I Believe.

This was a writing prompt . . .

What I Believe.

That’s a bit broad. Are we talking religion? General life principles? Hmm.

Let’s start with the fact that I don’t believe life on this planet is some kind of cosmic accident in which the right forms of matter combined to create, well, everything.

There’s a great old story about Maimonides having a debate with another scholar or a student regarding evolution. Maimonides says that there must be a G-d; the other person disagrees. Then the scholar excuses himself for a moment (presumably to relieve himself, or maybe because he wants to go speak to someone across the way), and when he comes back, Maimonides shows him a beautiful poem written on a piece of paper. “Where did this come from?” the scholar asks, and Maimonides tells him, “I spilled some ink and this poem appeared.” When the scholar scoffs and says that’s impossible, Maimonides tells him, “And yet you expect me to believe the same of all life on Earth!”

So yes, I believe there is a G-d or Creator of some kind. And I’ve seen evidence in my life that He (or She, but let’s face it, most people go with the male pronoun as a default) takes an interest in things. I’ve seen angels and I’ve seen spirits, and I’ve probably taken these things for granted most of my life. I gave up trying to convince people of any of it a long time ago, though I get irritated when I feel like I’m being humored.

I have Catholic and [non-denominational] Christian roots and I’m married to a Jew, so if we’re talking religion, I take a wide view. I refuse to pin myself down to any one thing here because I feel like faith is something that one renews daily, something one works and reworks. The day you believe you have all the answers is the day you stop growing and learning.

I believe that history and science should inform religion and not the other way around. I believe these things can all co-exist in harmony so long as everyone remains open-minded. Once the blinders go on, everyone loses.

I believe meditation is a wonderful way to center oneself. I define “meditation” as anything that works for you: prayer, yoga, reciting a poem or the rosary. I believe thinking for oneself is a form of self-empowerment, and that one should never be made to feel like they have to apologize for that.

I believe in the powers of kindness and music, among other things. I believe in being open to new experiences, and that to say “never” is to tell a lie, except when saying you never know.

I believe “love” is a generic term, a placeholder, and the sloppy man’s catch-all, fit only for rhymes and song lyrics. Don’t tell me you “love” me; tell me how you feel.

And I believe in being prudent but also living for today and now because no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.

What’s In a Name?

I was thinking about how I’ve gone from my given name, which doesn’t even begin with an M, to my nicknames–including the diminutive of my given name, which does begin with M, but also other, unrelated nicknames that coincidentally also begin with M–to simply, well, “M.” It might seem at first that I’ve been reduced somehow, but I don’t think so. I feel more like I’ve been pared down a bit, distilled into the most necessary elements. I don’t need all those other letters; the one works just fine and packs more power in less space.

It also serves to illustrate how I once had rather diffuse energy, going off in all directions, but now I’m starting to concentrate that energy into certain channels. Instead of a red giant I am now a white dwarf, smaller and brighter and hotter than before.

I wear a necklace these days, sort of a good luck charm (and I gave a similar one to my female lead in “The K-Pro”) that reflects this sense of myself I’ve developed and am continuing to develop. They will know me by my necklace. It’s the international maritime signal flag for the letter M, which looks something like:

Of course, those who know what the flag means might be confused about what I’m trying to convey. So to be clear

  • NO, I am not married or dating anyone named Mike
  • NO, my vessel is not stopped and making no way (though sometimes, when I have writer’s block, it certainly feels that way)
  • NO, I do not have a medical doctor on board

It really is just my initial, a visual summary of me–the person I am and aspire to be.

Doctor Who Movie Rumors

Okay, so this is something I find interesting: today I received an e-mail from Variety, to which as someone in “the industry” I subscribe. It announced that David Yates–helmer of some of the Harry Potter films–was teaming up with the BBC to do a Doctor Who movie. NOT one that has anything to do with the current television program, mind you. The movie would be all new, its own thing.

This makes sense in a broad audience appeal kind of way. You don’t necessarily want to launch a movie franchise that requires viewers to slog through a lot of backlog. Look at the X-Files movies. Hell, I watched that series and still didn’t understand those films. Never mind people who went in cold.

Now there’s no script and no cast yet, just some big names behind getting the project off the ground. (By the way, if they want a script, I’d be happy to oblige . . .) Other, previous attempts have not borne fruit, so there’s reason to think the odds of anything happening are 50/50.

But what I really find intriguing is the protest-too-much reaction I’ve witnessed on Twitter. So many people in the DW camp coming out and saying that it’s just a rumor, there’s nothing in it. Really? Because I can usually trust Variety. I won’t say they’re always right, but Yates had some quotes in there that made this project sound very possible. So why the fuss? Do they see this as a rival instead of a boost? Do they only want a DW movie if Moffat and Smith and co. are involved?

The issue of creative control is always a touchy one. And fan loyalty plays into the dynamics as well in terms of planning big projects. Anyone who’s had to adapt a bestselling, much-loved novel knows that. And here is a possible recasting of a cult classic television program, so there’s bound to be some strong feelings involved. Though in the end it’s a legal issue of who has rights to what, whose contracts say what and so on.

I, for one, am curious to see what comes of it, if anything. After all, people had reservations about the television show, too, when it rebooted in 2005. They had doubts when David Tennant was replaced by Matt Smith, too. But it’s all turned out okay so far. Why have so little faith now?

Wait and see is the watchword. (And maybe consider Benny Cumberbatch for the film version of the Doctor. We already know he can rock a scarf.)

My Wikipedia Entry

I was thinking about what a Wikipedia entry for me might read like. I’m not worthy of one yet, perhaps, but I intend to be. Why not get a head start?

It would be under M Pepper Langlinais, of course, because that’s the name I write under, so I suppose that’s the name people would search for. But when you looked me up, the article would probably start with my actual name. So:

M Pepper Langlinais

Amanda Langlinais Pepper (17 December 19** – present), better known as M Pepper Langlinais [prn. long-leh-nay], is an American author and playwright.

I’m not putting my actual birth year here for everyone to see, thanks so much. You’re allowed to take a guess based on the following information: I grew up playing with My Little Pony and watching Indiana Jones movies, even though I was probably slightly too young to be seeing them.

Meanwhile, I’m sure I should say more after that opening line, but I haven’t thought of what yet. So we’ll move on.

Early Life

This is where they will post information about how I’m an only child and lived in Texas for a lot of my childhood.

Education

Langlinais attended school in Georgetown, Texas, and later Lewisville, Texas. She graduated as 18th in her high school class of 370 students and went on to get a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, then a Master of Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston.

As an undergraduate at UT, Langlinais focused on screenwriting and cultural media studies (pop culture and fan psychology) and interned on a motion picture set. Her secondary concentration was in classics, specifically Greek and Roman history and mythology. But it was a course in parageography, taught by Dr. Douglass Parker, that opened new doors for Langlinais’ writing, specifically by guiding her to create the fictional world of AElit. This would later be the basis for her Masters thesis.

Also while an undergraduate, Langlinais participated in the Shakespeare at Winedale program and portrayed Corambis (in later drafts, Polonius) in a first quarto production of Hamlet.

Influences

Langlinais credits many of her teachers and college instructors as being influential in her work. But it was her early love of movies, and later television, that made her want to become a screenwriter. Langlinais was especially influenced by such films as Young Sherlock Holmes and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and later by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jurassic Park, and The Matrix. Television series such as MacGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation were also favorites, and Langlinais’ undergraduate final project was a spec script for The X-Files.

Okay, so now we segue into my actual work, right?

Works

Although Langlinais wrote poetry as an undergraduate, she abandoned it shortly thereafter to focus on prose. In 2004 her short story “A.B.C.” was published in Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine. She would later include it in an anthology of short stories titled The World Ends at Five (2008).

Langlinais’ writing slowed to a stop between 2005 and 2010 due to the births of her children in 2005, 2008 and 2009. She began writing again late in 2010, but it was a request from friends that started her on the path to playwriting. Langlinais received an e-mail from friends who helped run a community theater asking if she would consider writing a short play for a directing workshop. “Warm Bodies” (2011) was the result.

Discovering that she liked the format of writing for the stage, Langlinais now focuses primarily on playwriting and short stories. She is best known for her Sherlock Holmes stories and her novellas about British spy Peter Stoller.

And then we list all the stuff I’ve written, but I’m not going to bother; the key stuff is over on my Bibliography page, and there’s a lot of little stuff besides . . . Oh, but what about my personal life?

Personal Life

Langlinais met Scott Aaron Pepper while they were both graduate students at Emerson College. They married in 2001.

That’s about all I really need to say about that, I think, since the kids got a mention earlier.

Okay, so that’s what I have for now. I’ll improve upon it as I go, but it’s good for starters, don’t you think?

A Writing Meme

1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

When I was an undergrad (this appears to be the day for undergraduate nostalgia), I took a course called Parageography, which is “the study of imaginary places.” It was developed and taught at the University of Texas at Austin by Dr. Douglass Parker, who structured the course as partly literary–we read things like The Wizard of Oz and Orlando and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–and partly creative writing in that we were required to come up with our own, well, worlds. We made languages and maps and all kinds of things. My world was called AElit, and I wrote part of its holy book (the Teuchos) in actual AElitian. I came up with an extensive theology, etc. I even started writing a novel based in this world, and I hope some day to finish it. I go back and tinker with it now and then.

2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?

How many characters do I have in what exactly? Right now I’m writing a play with two characters and a third poised to make an appearance later on.

3. How do you come up with names, for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

If I’ve got a character fleshed out enough, the right name will come to me. I’ll cast around for a bit until something fits. Same for places. I couldn’t begin to tell you where I came up with AElit except maybe I had been looking at a bookshelf with an old encyclopaedia and thought I’d like to use an “ae.” Or maybe it was an archaeology text. For my deities in that particular world, though, I used Greek and Latin roots. Like the goddess of death is Telamenos which, if I’m remembering right, means “ending spirit.” I recall a different Classics professor being very excited by that for some weird reason.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Well, you know, I started out writing stories based on movies and television shows that I liked (which is why I went into screenwriting later), so all my early characters were borrowed. Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, etc. I guess one of the first stories I wrote that was original is one I sort of came up with while playing with my best friend. We were the Hemlock sisters and we solved mysteries. I was Elizabeth and my friend was Lauren, and we lived with our Aunt Miranda (“Aunt Randi”). Later I wrote a short Hemlock sisters story for a reading class. I still have it somewhere, I think.

5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?

Good God, I don’t know. Akkad and Sekhmet are probably my youngest in terms of age; they’re just shy of 13. And Tithendion would be the oldest, since he’s basically the father of the gods. But the Hemlock sisters are oldest in terms of when they were created. And these play characters (Arthur & Dilly) are youngest, I guess.

6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?

Mostly it’s important that I be alone. Not just in the room, but the whole house should be empty. And I’ve found it difficult to write where I currently live for whatever reason, so I travel a lot to write. Mid-afternoon and late at night are best for me. As for computer or pen and paper, I do both. Sometimes it depends on the story, sometimes it depends on where I am and what I have access to.

7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?

Music inspires me, so I get a lot of ideas from it. But that’s usually when I’m driving and listening to the radio. And there are songs that make me think of my characters. I do sometimes listen to music while writing, too, but most often I don’t.

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

I’m not sure what I write. Fantasy, I suppose, and sometimes mystery. I started a YA novel that I never finished. I’ve got a paranormal romance novella going at the moment. Which is funny because I’ve never read any paranormal romances. I do like to read mysteries and historical biographies and Regency romances. I used to read a lot of fantasy, too, but got bogged down by so much of it.

9. How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

I haven’t a clue where they come from. I usually start with a situation, I think, and populate from there.

10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!

My fanfic characters get into way weirder situations than my original ones, but let’s assume you mean my originals. Well, Seladion and Amaurodios get kicked out of Argyros (think of angels being booted from Heaven and you have the gist), David and Andra have a past history as Greek gods, and in one of my plays two of the characters are possessed by ghosts.

11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?

I guess this depends on the project, but I often enjoy writing Seladion because he’s just so sly and can be so nasty. It’s fun. Akkad might be my least favorite, since he whines a bit.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world­build­ing? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Oh, the AElit stuff by far. I trenched in and created something very complex there. A whole other language, in fact, and snippets of their literature (plays, prayers, inscriptions).

13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?

It’s funny because AElit isn’t actually my favorite culture to write, which may be why I haven’t finished it yet. I’m having fun with the film set culture in “The K-Pro.” And I also like setting things in ancient times, Greece and Rome and Egypt.

14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I have a map of AElit but there’s no digital file.

15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!

I like a lot of Neil Gaiman’s work. Stephen King, too. These guys know how to tell a compelling story.

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? 😉

I write attraction. I write sexual tension. And sometimes there’s even some actual sex, though I’m of the pan-the-camera-away type, so my readers usually only get a taste of the foreplay and the aftermath.

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

Of mine? “The K-Pro” has two protagonists, and I like them both because they are very real but also just slightly unreal. Being incarnations of Greek gods does that to a person, I suppose.

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

Him in “Warm Bodies” maybe. There’s something weirdly malicious about him . . . It’s a short play, but I could see taking that character and doing some more with him.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Alfred in “The K-Pro.” He was just going to be a funny but annoying co-star but he’s been given a bigger role than I originally planned.

20. What are your favorite char­ac­ter inter­ac­tions to write?

Banter. I’m a dialogue person (screenwriting again, and now playwriting I suppose). And I’m good at character-driven interpersonal relationships.

21. Do any of your char­ac­ters have chil­dren? How well do you write them?

Some of my characters are children. They’re definitely more difficult to write. I have to think about what I liked and did at that age and hope I don’t sound dumb.

22. Tell us about one scene between your char­ac­ters that you’ve never writ­ten or told any­one about before! Seri­ous or not.

I can only think of fanfic scenes I scrapped. Like Sherlock’s first encounter with Charles Whitcombe–I had to know in order to write the rest of that story, but I never actually wrote the mental scene I came up with. Or there was a scene with Sherlock and John in a church, and Sherlock gives John his coat because John is cold and his jacket isn’t heavy enough.

23. How long does it usu­ally take you to com­plete an entire story—from plan­ning to writ­ing to post­ing (if you post your work)?

Depends on the story. Some come fast and some have taken years (and continue to take years).

24. How will­ing are you to kill your char­ac­ters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most inter­est­ing way you’ve killed some­one?

I don’t have a problem with killing a character off, even a major one. Writers have to be fearless in that way, and be willing to go where the story demands. That said, I’m not sure I’ve had any especially interesting deaths.

25. Do any of your char­ac­ters have pets? Tell us about them.

In my unfinished YA novel, there was a cat named Nacho.

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your char­ac­ters? Do oth­ers draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite pic­ture of him!

Oh no. I can’t draw. I’ve tried, and I dearly wish I could–I even took classes. My brain just doesn’t work that way, though; what I see comes out as words not pictures. So instead I cast my characters. For example, Dixon in “20 August” was a young Ewan McGregor.

27. Along sim­i­lar lines, do appear­ances play a big role in your sto­ries? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about design­ing your char­ac­ters.

Well, I mean, I describe my characters but I try not to belabor the point. I don’t know how it is for most people, but when I start reading a book, I almost immediately formulate mental pictures of the characters on my own, often regardless to what the author has written. So unless it’s just that important that he or she look a certain way, I touch on it and move on. Though I do like eyes. I’ll often talk about someone’s eyes.

28. Have you ever writ­ten a char­ac­ter with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties? Describe them, and if there’s noth­ing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

Oh, I’ve written people who walk with canes or something. Nothing major.

29. How often do you think about writ­ing? Ever come across some­thing IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

I think about my characters and stories a lot. While driving, when a song reminds me of them, when I see or hear or read something in the news I think I can use . . . In stores I’ll walk past clothes and think, so-and-so would wear that, or I smell cologne and think, he’d smell like that. I feel like it’s important to know these things, to know my characters intimately.

My Day as Associate Producer

When I was an undergrad, I scored an internship working for producer Lynda Obst. It was a volatile film set (I was later told by an old pro that it was one of the most difficult he’d ever been on), but I fought my way through it–odd hours, weird requests and all. Some of the other interns had money and connections; it was clear they’d been given their jobs via networking. (One of them drove a Lexus.) I was just little, lowly ol’ me, keeping my head down and doing my best.

One intern got booted. I heard a lot of different “reasons” and stories about why and what happened. In fact, I heard a lot of interesting stories about a lot of things–and experienced a few firsthand–none of which I’d repeat for fear of being sued for libel. But ask me out for a drink sometime . . .

I had a lot of bizarre tasks, including long phone calls with someone in the L.A. office while, between us, we tried to draft an afterwords to a book. I remember the topic being primarily about alpha males in the industry or something. One thing I did enjoy was reading scripts that had been submitted. Most were not great, a few were okay but nothing I’d personally be interested in going to see, and one or two were really good. As someone getting her degree in Radio-Television-Film with an emphasis in screenwriting, it was good experience.

Now one day on set, things fell apart. Actually, I think they’d probably been well on their way by the time I arrived on set for my shift. I was in the trailer checking Lynda’s e-mail while another intern (and it only occurred to me years later that this guy might’ve had a crush on me, poor thing, but I’m the kind of person to be kind of oblivious unless hit over the head with it) went to bring me some lunch. I distinctly remember it was chicken fried steak, my favorite. And I remember the associate producer storming in and being dumbfounded that I had someone bringing me my lunch. I guess maybe I’d overstepped? I don’t know. To this day I don’t entirely understand her reaction.

But then the AP disappeared. She’d walked off (some said she’d quit). And Lynda came in with Mary McLaglen and whoever else was producing, all women, and I don’t know if it was that I just happened to be sitting there, but Lynda said, “You’re associate producer for today.”

Huh?

Because I had no fucking idea what that meant. What was I supposed to do exactly? I’d never watched our AP do much of anything because I’d always been too busy with whatever she’d given me to do.

I spent the rest of that day following Lynda and the other producers around. I attended rehearsals. I answered Lynda’s cell phone when she was too busy (it was usually her son calling). At one point that afternoon we all went back to the trailer and looked at tabloids and industry rags. Mary said to the others as I settled down with some magazine, “Look at her. She’s taken right to it.”

I guess. But I felt like a kid dressing up in her mother’s clothes.

The AP came back later that evening. She thanked me for covering for her, which I suppose was her way of relieving me of duty. I remember when we wrapped, she wrote me a nice note about my “can-do attitude.” I recently heard that one of the most important things to have in the industry is a willingness to step up to the plate, so I guess this was a great compliment in a way.

Lynda suggested I go to L.A., maybe work in her office there, and to this day I sometimes wish I had. But I was so close to my degree, and I couldn’t see leaving my education unfinished. Formal education, that is. My working education came from that internship, and especially from my day as understudy.

Hallowe’en

Yes, I do prefer it with the apostrophe, thank you. The apostrophe shows a letter has been removed. That is the function of apostrophes.

I like Hallowe’en, I suppose, though I find the roots of the holiday more interesting than its current incarnation. My minor was ancient and classical history, after all; I’m designed to find old things interesting. (And yet I also study pop culture . . . So I guess I find some modern things interesting, too.)

I enjoy dressing up, and I like having an excuse for it at least one day out of 365. (When I modeled in college, I had more excuses to dress up but also never got to pick my own clothes, so that didn’t really count, I don’t think.) I’d be more excited about the whole candy aspect if I were a kid, but once you’re grown up and can have candy whenever you like, that part of Hallowe’en loses its shine. We’ll take the kids trick-or-treating tonight, though, and we’ll probably eat a fair amount of the candy that is collected if only to keep the kids from having too much of it.

On the other side of the holiday, I don’t like gory things. I find psychological thrillers are more to my taste. So while I’m happy to read Stephen King–and he can be graphic, but he does also have a relatively subtle touch and doesn’t tend toward gore for its own sake–I don’t go see movies like Saw or whatever. Just not at all my thing.

And tomorrow is All Saints’ Day. I will make a gris gris, probably out of the dried rose on my desk.