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From Spoiler-Crypt

Nikki Stafford (’Bite Me’ Author) - Q & A

By The Bard

Wednesday 5 March 2003, by Webmaster

"First of all, I just wanted to say I had a blast answering these questions. I can’t tell you how many morning shows or radio programs or television shows I’ve done where the hosts know NOTHING about Buffy, and I’m so tired of answering the old "So tell me, isn’t it about a cute chick in a short skirt? Do people watch it for the short skirts?" with anything other than disdain. :) I’m thrilled when I go onto any program and the host is actually a fan, but you guys really know how to dig deep and get the really meaty questions. Some of these were stunning, and really made me think. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard at answering questions before!! (oh wait, there was that one time in high school I was applying to work in a grocery store bakery…)

Anyway, thanks for your efforts, and I hope I answered them to your satisfaction. I just have to preface this by saying that unfortunately, I don’t work for the show or go onto the sets, so any of those questions I couldn’t answer (but Joss, my resumé is a mouse click away, so you just let me know when you’d like to see it). Har… har… Thanks again, guys". — Nikki

Q - From PJ - "Why is the photo of Buffy with Angel?" Buffy by herself, Buffy with the Scoobies, Buffy with... well I REALLY want to say Spike, fine: all would reflect a more current feel. But Buffy with Angel? What’s up with that?

NS - You know, I’ve never even thought of it that way! You’re the first person to mention that to me. :) The photo on the front of the book was meant to represent the two shows, not necessarily the two characters. The main part of the book (especially the episode guide) is devoted to Buffy, although I did the smaller, shorter episode guides to Angel, and I feel that Angel (the show) is very much a part of the world of Buffy, even though we haven’t had any crossovers in a while. So when I saw the photo, the idea was to make it look like Angel was back in the shadows, lurking behind Buffy, just as each show shadows the other, and just as Buffy takes center stage in the episode guide but Angel is there as well. (And I still believe he’s very much with her, even though the shows are so far apart these days.)

Q - From spikesdesoto - First I want to comment on how much I love your book, Nikki.. (and I almost didn’t buy it because I had assumed it was based on earlier seasons of BTVS from book cover photo of Buffy with Angel) Excellent, excellent guide to the show. I especially love your episode summaries along with the ’nitpicks’ and ’Oops’ sections. A lot of research must have gone into putting the book together. Do you plan on doing another updated version of Bite Me after the show ends? I hope so! If so - will you be changing the cover photo or keeping the same one.? And will you be adding new behind the scenes info?

NS - Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. So far there’s been no talk of a final, final guide, but maybe if I twist the publisher’s arm hard enough I can make it happen. I’d love to do a more extensive guide to Angel as well. I would love to do a guide when it’s all finished where I could talk to everyone in the cast and get their thoughts back on the whole series.

Q - From Leora Rufus - We know that this is the last season for Buffy, what ending would you like to see for the Slayer and her friends?

NS - What I would *like* to see, and what would make for great television would probably be two different things. I hated seeing Buffy jump off the tower in "The Gift," but it was an amazing ending and I wouldn’t have wanted the writers to have done anything else. I don’t read spoilers, so I don’t have a clue how it’s going to end, but if Spike ended up sacrificing himself for Buffy or the gang, that would be a beautiful end to his character arc, and I could see them having Buffy die at the end simply to finish off her arc. She died in season one, and it was important because only then did she realize her mortality and what it meant to be a Slayer, and in season 5 it was important once again, not only because it showed that this time she was *willing* to die to fulfill her destiny, but it also has spurred the debates over the last 2 years about her friends bringing her back. If she died, we could be pretty certain her friends would let her stay that way.

Q - If there is a spin-off who would be your dream cast?

NS - I’d love to see a show about Spike that is set in his earlier days, back in the 19th or 20th centuries. I’d love to see Max Perlich (Whistler) come back for ANY REASON. :) I was looking forward to the possibility of the Faith spinoff, but now that’s not a possibility. I’m still looking forward to the show about Giles.

Q - From Dene Jacobs - With this being the last season of BtVS do you plan on writing any more books relating to the series?

NS - I definitely have a couple of different ones in mind; I did a Xena book after the series was over, and there’s just so much more to say about Buffy.

Q - Would you consider writing about any new series/spin-off that Joss may come up with?

NS - Absolutely. I thought Firefly was brilliant, and was very sad to see it cancelled so quickly. Joss Whedon is a god.

Q - From Jazzlynn - Did you enjoy writing this book?

NS - Very much. It took about a year, and it was sometimes a LOT of work (because I was writing it full-time, but also working full-time on other things). I’m also extremely nitpicky and so I watched every episode numerous times to make sure I had things right, or at least as correct as I could make them.

Q - From Spoiledlilgrl:- Do you think it is time for Buffy The Vampire Slayer to retire, or go on?

NS - I do… I think the show is still fresh and hot, but that’s because of where it’s at right now. An eighth or ninth season would be too much, I think, and Sarah is still young and very talented, and has devoted seven years to this amazing show and character, and I think it’s a good time for her to move on. As I like to say, I love that this show is a "Bloom County" or "Calvin and Hobbes" (i.e. stopped when it was still hot) and I don’t want it to turn into a "Family Circus" (just keeps going… and going… and going….)

Q- From Spikes Pet - What do you think is the biggest contribution Buffy has made to pop culture?

NS - Hmm… it’s made so many contributions. On the most basic level, it’s helped defy stereotypes about young blond perky girls named Buffy… :) It opened up new doors to showing positive gay/lesbian relationships on television. It showed networks that a show doesn’t have to play to the lowest common denominator (this season, could you imagine being someone trying to get into the show for the first time? No other show would take the risks that Joss Whedon takes week after week.) It also has moved into the realm of academia in a way that I don’t think any other show has. There are four serious academic books out on Buffy, and it’s become a topic in university classrooms, and conferences have been built around it. The only show I can think of that has previously been discussed at an academic level in this way would be The Simpsons.

Q - From Katriena Knights - So how does one go about getting a cool gig like writing about TV shows?

NS - LOL! Well, when you see guides like these in bookstores, note who the publisher is, and if you have a particularly favorite show that you think you could write a book about, contact the publisher with your idea. If you have previous writing samples, those are great to include. There are a lot of publishers on the Internet (my publisher is at www.ecwpress.com) and you can check out their lists of books and see if your proposal fits their list (and if it doesn’t, it’ll save you time and postage to find that out ahead of time). ECW Press has only recently begun to do these sorts of books (they focus on sci-fi/fantasy shows and began with an X-Files book back in 1996, I think it was) and they do a great job.

Q - From The Bard - What made you decide to write Bite Me!? Or were you approached to write it?

NS - I originally wrote a book called Lucy Lawless and Reneé O’Connor: Warrior Stars of Xena, and it did so well that I went back to the publisher and said, "Now, I love Xena, but my favorite show is Buffy." And it didn’t go over at all… The publisher thought it was probably a silly little show, but I was able to convince him that I really knew what I was talking about, that this was a respectable show, and that the fans were smart, well read people. That was back in 1998, when the first edition of the book came out and covered seasons one and two. The catch? I had to write and research the whole thing in three months. Gulp… So I did it, but I was never quite happy with that edition, and around season four really started to bug the publisher to let me update it, and he finally relented when the show was in season five. I began writing it then and worked all through season six (and went back and reworked earlier sections), and it came out this past fall. Guess I should have waited an extra year… :)

Q - In researching Buffy did you get to meet any of the cast or crew? And if you did what were they like?

NS - I wanted this book to be set apart from the official books by focusing on the fans and fan reactions to the episodes. So for me, the "celebrities" were the fans at the posting board parties, Little Willow, and the online people that I spoke to, worked with, and got their photos. I was able to contact a few people through others, like Amber and Danny Strong, and they were always sweet. I met some of the cast and crew a month ago at the posting board party (and they loved the book, so I was very happy) and they were all wonderful, kind people.

Q - From Lee - How hard was it to do the research involved to write Bite Me!?

NS - It wasn’t difficult, just time-consuming. I knew where to look, but when I realized I would be researching not only the actors and fans but 189 episodes (with Buffy and Angel combined) it was a little daunting. Watching all of the episodes three or four times and spending every night and weekend (and taking a few weeks off) made me a little tired at times, but it was just so much fun that it’s hard to call it "work." And I’m never happy with the way I do things the first time, so the writing and re-writing made things difficult. Add to that that I tend to write things out in longhand with a pen and then type them, and it makes for a whole world of hurt sometimes…

Q - From luvthistle - You have worked on Lucy Lawless and Reneé O’Connor: Warrior Stars of Xena, and Trekkers and How Xena Changed Our Lives. How do you find "bite me" different?

NS - Great question, thanks, and wow, I can’t believe you know all of my books like that! Bite Me was different in a lot of ways. Warrior Stars of Xena was my first book, so there was a lot of worry involved, and I’d never done that before, and there were almost no books that focused completely on fans like that, so I was venturing into new territory. The original Bite Me was written quickly, and was similar to Warrior Stars of Xena, but the new one was different in that I had a long time to work on it, I had been following the series for five or six years (as opposed to two for the first Bite Me book or two and a half for the Warrior Stars of Xena book) and so there were many years of absorbing storylines, characters, getting into the story, and therefore a lot more to cover in the pages of the book. Trekkers and How Xena Changed Our Lives were taking the fan aspect one step further, where I acted more as an editor on those books (while writing Bite Me, actually) and collected fan stories of why those shows were so important to fans. Those were fun to work on, and acting as an editor I was able to step back and let the fans tell the story. I simply compiled them into a book.

Q - What did you like the most about working on the book "Bite me"? and what did you like the least?

NS - Hmm…. I had to really think about this one. I enjoyed working on the episode guides the most, I think. That’s where the most "me" is in the book and where I’m really allowed to add my own thoughts and analyses. I’m trying to think what I liked the least… Maybe after the book comes out, if you get a particularly nasty response either via email or a review or something like that, it can be pretty painful. I work with first-time authors a lot and I’m often telling them to try to ignore the bad reviews… learn from them, but don’t take them too closely to heart. But the old saying that a writer forgets all of his/her good reviews and can quote you the bad reviews word for word is really true. :) I think a lot of people forget that the name on the book belongs to a human being, and a computer didn’t churn it out. :) I personally don’t think people mean to be cruel, they just do so unintentionally.

Q - From Ramses2 - . Does the online community feed the show in ways that traditional ’ratings’ cannot? Are the network and sponsors aware of the fanbase and so ’ignore’ the Nielsen’s?

NS - I’ve never thought of it that way, but you have a great point. Neilsen’s is such a controversial system… how many of us have actually had one of those boxes on our televisions, and yet we watch Buffy and Angel every week (I’m Canadian, so there is definitely not one on my television). Yet you’ll see a show with dismal Neilsen’s ratings that continues to stay on the air year after year after year, and it’s almost always a sci-fi/fantasy show. Not only do the fans contribute to it by their devotion (you don’t see E.R. fans launching huge "Save Dr. Green" campaigns or devoting all their time to discussing the show and putting up websites… no offense intended to the E.R. fans, of course) but they buy the merchandise and help advertise it by getting their friends on board to watch it. Of course, it’s only certain networks that are able to "ignore the Neilsen’s" as you put it… Firefly had more viewers than Buffy, yet it was cancelled immediately because Fox requires more viewers than UPN or the WB. It’s too bad that so many shows are money and ad-driven, and it’s usually the best shows that lose out… I mean, would NBC have allowed a show in its 7th season to become completely impenetrable to new viewers? Probably not..

Q - Was the character Angel seen as a ’mistake’? Too much backstory given to quickly?

NS - Personally, I don’t think it was a mistake (I’m not sure if this is something you guys have been discussing on the list, since I’ve never actually heard this before, but I’m intrigued). His backstory was given in the 7th episode of the first season, but it’s a backstory they’ve been able to build on for six years now. I really enjoy the character, and think he’s one of the most original characters on television. I know some people don’t approve of the return of Angelus, but I love every minute of it. :)

Q - There are some things taken to be absolute truths, such as: Buffy was to end up with Xander. Xander was Joss. Spike was only meant to be on a few episodes. (And yet the visual evidence suggests that none of these are particularly true.) Can you shed light on any of these?

NS - What great questions!! Man, you’re really making me work here! LOL! As far as I know, all three of them were originally the case. Joss is hilarious in interviews, and notice how many times someone will ask him something that might be hurtful (like not liking a movie he did or something) and he covers it up with a quip, the same way Xander always does. And if this whole epic story is from the maniacal mind of Joss Whedon, then, like Xander, he really wears his heart on his sleeve to have come up with such heart-rending Gothic tales. Both Joss and James concur that Spike was only supposed to have been on for a few episodes, and Joss is great at reworking things to fit what the fans want — Anya was only supposed to have been on for a few episodes as well, but she’s a regular now. I love the idea that he takes some ideas but knows to not take all fan suggestions too seriously. It’s sort of the opposite of how Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert treated the whole Joxer thing over on Xena, "Oh, you don’t like him? Well then, we’ll just sign him on for ALL 22 EPISODES! Bwooohahahaha!" (Personally, I loved Joxer.) So instead of fighting back and taking the more egotistical path of, "Hello? I am the writer here, so buzz off with your stupid opinions" he actually listens to the fans, and that’s probably why the show is as successful and amazing as it is. I mean, the guy hired Mere Smith, a fan of the show, to be one of the writers! This is a man after our own heart.

Q - Joss says trust the tale not the tellers. Repeatedly, the writers will appear, say things that outrage and the story unfolds quite unlike what they say. Do the writers do this on purpose, or are they all social misfits?(Except for ultimate Drew who is a god)

NS - I am LOVING these questions. Unfortunately, I’m not one of the writers so I really don’t know what the answer to this would be. I love that Joss loves to throw out red herrings to throw off the people who love spoilers, "Oh, you heard someone’s gonna die? You didn’t hear about Anya, did you? Oh, good, didn’t want that to get out…" And I’m wondering if the rest of his crew have that same wicked sense of humor… And I agree… Drew is to be worshiped. :)

Q - FromPJzallday - I was just wondering in light of a few people’s comments about the SMG interview for *Entertainment Weekly* magazine, what are your impressions of SMG’s relationship/interaction with the rest of the cast/crew is OFF-screen (between takes, on breaks, etc.) Does she even have anything to do with any of them? What about other cast members? Do they get along well?

NS - Unfortunately I don’t work on the set at all, so I can’t answer this definitively, and I certainly wouldn’t want to speculate. The only thing I will say is that the rest of the cast seems to have only good things to say about Sarah, and I had heard that Julie Benz was nasty in one report and I met her, and she was an angel. So I’m thinking, to say that Sarah is a diva on the set is the juicier story, and whether it be true or not, will sell papers, so the papers print that.

Q - I also wondered about snacks on the set? What sort of food is available for cast and crew?

NS - Same with this question; sorry, I have no idea. :)

Q - When you were talking with JM, did he giggle? (I just love to watch him laugh. He’s got such a wonderful smile when it’s spontaneous.)

NS - You know, he actually did giggle, when he saw the title of my book (and then he wrote "Bite Me!" on the inside of it, which made Alexis Denisof laugh, so he wrote the same thing… they made my YEAR). :) He’s really quite shy, but wonderful to talk to, and just has such an enthusiasm about the show and as I kept walking away he’d grab me again to tell me something else. It’s so great to see someone so genuinely happy about their job.

Q - From spikette55 - If there is a spin-off or a new continuation of Buffy in someway, Would it be considered that Spike could be a watcher? Thoughts from S-4 Restless I think, where Xanders dream had Giles and Spike swinging, and talking about being trained to be a watcher?

NS - That would be wonderful… I could definitely see him as a watcher of some kind of whatever Slayer succeeds Buffy. Could you even imagine a better redemption for him? And there have been Restless moments this season (Andrew and Jonathan’s dream in "Storyteller" featured the Cheese Man in the background; Buffy was given Nikki’s bag, and in "Restless" we saw her reach into that bag and put the mud on her face) so it wouldn’t surprise me that it would all come down to that. In fact, we should all watch Restless again, figure out what hasn’t yet been played out, and that will probably give us clues to the finale. :)

Q - From Steve Oldham - Nikki, In OMWF when Anya said "Uh, Dawn may have had the wrong idea in summoning this creature but I’ve seen some of these underworld child-bride deals and they never end well. Maybe once." Do you know what the Maybe once is referring to, I’m assuming it has something to do with something in either Mythology or Fairy Tales,or maybe it has no meaning. I just wondered if you knew?

NS - Wow, you guys have the best questions! I know I keep saying that, but these are amazing. I laugh every time I hear this line, and I would give anything to know if it actually referred to something… I looked around when working on the book but couldn’t find anything, and I’m wondering if it’s yet another red herring of Joss’s… you know, make the fans look for something that DOESN’T EXIST. Sometimes I wonder if the First Evil will be revealed in the series finale and it’ll be Joss Whedon. LOL!

Q - From Overworked - Nikki there have been many series in the past that have captured the imaginations of its fans and developed into fandoms. Do you think that the fans of BtVS have taken the image and possibilities for fandom to new heights?

NS - Love your screen name (I often feel that way myself). I really believe that the Buffy fandom is a unique one, mostly because it is one that has changed so much throughout the course of the series. In the beginning, it consisted mostly of teenagers, mostly female, and the show was seen as a guilty pleasure. Now I don’t know a single Buffy fan who is ashamed to admit that he/she is a fan, and I know ministers, professors, academics, musicians, poets, writers, you name it, who watch the show. Men and women in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and up, and while there are still some younger viewers, most viewers are in their 20s and up because they’ve been watching the show since the beginning. (And to the younger viewers, I applaud you for having the insight to watch something so articulate and intelligent.)

Q - From Marylou Tringali - Will David Boreanaz be doing any movies this year after ANGEL wraps for the summer?

NS - I can’t say for sure because I hadn’t heard anything, although I heard the other day that a British newspaper was reporting that he had signed on to be Superman. I sort of rolled my eyes at that one (if this were true, why aren’t all of the newspapers writing that?) until I read this morning that an American newspaper is reporting the same thing. I’ll believe it when I hear him say it, I guess. Other than that, I haven’t heard anything further.

Q -From Jana - Thank you for taking the time to do this for us, Nikki. I’d like to ask you what project you are working on currently? (whether or not it is related to BTVS/Ats) and if you could tell us a bit about it?

NS - Actually, right now I’m taking some time off from the writing. :) A lot of people ask me what I’m working on, and I hate always saying, "Actually, I’m taking some time off…" but that book took a long time to write, and my friends and family were starting to think I’d moved to Antarctica or something, they were seeing so little of me. When I’m not writing, I’m an editor, so I’m working with other authors on their books and it’s keeping me very busy.

You guys are amazing, thank you so much for these great questions!

= = = = = = = About the Author and Book: Nikki Stafford is the Toronto-based author of "Bite Me! An Unofficial Guide to the World of Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The book contains episode guides up to season six of Buffy and season three of Angel, bios on the 14 major cast members of both shows, a killer trivia quiz, reports on the posting board parties from 1998-2002, a tribute to Little Willow and the online fandom, a guide to the best Web sites and more. Nikki just returned from the 2003 posting board party in L.A. where she met James Marsters, Alexis Denisof, Joss Whedon, Andy Hallett, Julie Benz, James C. Leary, J. August Richards and Vladimir Kulich