Questions for the Author + What Happens After TOSOT

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Question from Ely: @Mara: (oh my, I've been dying to ask this) 1. How was the idea born? What did inspire you? 2. Do you have any soundtrack/playlist/music inspiration for writing? 3. What's the hardest part of writing TOSOT?

Answer:

1) Well, after finishing my previous fanfic (Me, Myself, and Two of You), I sort of languished, not knowing to write next. I compiled a list of ideas and then just let it sit for a few months. In the end, two ideas stood out in my head - the 1st was kind of abstract and philosophical, and featured the kids getting accidentally involved in an alien war and discovering that the leaders of both sides were actually in love. The 2nd was a flash-forward to the kids' own futures, where everything was sort of dystopian/messed up. I liked the second idea better, but at the time I was posting the fanfic on nick.com, and the rules stated that the JN gang had to be the same age as on the show. So I sort of hybridized the ideas somehow; I projected the concept of love/war onto the future JN gang, but kept the story within the nick.com guidelines by having it all be told from the perspective of the current JN gang. Hence, the alternate universe.
There were some plot points that I knew from the get-go, like the fact that megalomanium had turned Jimmy evil and that Aurora would meet up with Future Libby at Shangri Llama. That said, I also had a lot of ideas that I eventually scrapped - for example, Future Libby was initially going to have amnesia and not remember anything that had happened between her birthday to her arrival at Shangri Llama. Also, Dictator Jimmy was going to be a more conflicted character, sending Aurora messages when he was in his "lucid" state. However, I tossed this idea because I decided that, being the genius that he is, Jimmy could have used ANY window of remorse/guilt to find a cure for himself or to undo some of the bad things he had done. I wanted the battle to be between Aurora and him, not so much between his "bad and good sides". Solution: he doesn't have a good side.
Unfortunately, I don't think this translated well into Aurora's character. Many of her actions/feelings suggest that she is conflicted toward him, despite all the horrible things he's done. But without the duality of good and bad within him, she just kind of seems like a masochist LOL. Luckily I think the reader is left with the impression that more is going on beneath the surface than meets the eye.


2) Why yes, yes I do.
Specific associations:
- Tomorrow by SR-71 (Main TOSOT theme)
- Desperado by The Eagles (Aurora)
- What have you done? by Within Temptation (DJ/Aurora)
- Umbrella by Rihanna (Future Libby - don't ask)
- The Way You Like It by Adema (DJ)
- Everybody Wants You by Billy Squier (Nav)
- One of Us is Going Down - Sick Puppies (DJ/A)
- Lilac of Damnation - Mois dix mois (Future Sheen)
- Dearest by Ayumi Hamasaki (Shangri Llama)
- Отпускаю by Макsим (Aurora)
- Going Under by Evanescence (Aurora)
- Come Clean by Hilary Duff (Cindy)
- Eye of the Tiger (Sheen, LOL)
- Frontline by Pillar (April and Aurora)
- I Can Count on You from JN Soundtrack (kids)
- I Will Survive by Stephanie Bentley (Aurora)
- If I Ain't Got You by Alicia Keys (Aurora and FL)
- Only the Good Die Young (Nav)
- Somewhere I belong (Aurora)
- Waiting for the World to Fall (Sheen/Libby)
Random songs:
- 24 by Jem
- 4 Minutes by Justin Timberlake and Madonna
- Pretty much anything by Linkin Park LOL
- Desperation Song by Carbon Leaf
- Die Another Day by Madonna
- Not Quite Paradise by Bliss 66
- Our Solemn Hour by Within Temptation
- Thnks fr th mmrs by Fall Out Boy
- Red Fraction by Mell
- Because Tomorrow Will Come by DBSK
- Ballad of Serenity by Joss Whedon
- Mind as Judgement by Faylan
- Carolina in My Mind and Fire n Rain by James Taylor
- Cosmic Castaway by Electrasy
- Behind These Hazel Eyes and Gone by Kelly Clarkson
- Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5
- Here with Me by Michelle Branch
- Inside the Fire by Disturbed
- Into the Fire by 13 Senses

...There's more, but you get the idea.

3)Oh jeez...probably a combination of finding time and finding inspiration. When I have time, I lack inspiration, and when I have inspiration, I don't have time.



Question from Macey and Ely: @MARA- Try to list all of the scrapped ideas you've had for TOSOT. I always like reading about those~ @Mara: Did something come suddenly? Something that you didn't plan and that just appeared in the story (it happens to me very often).

Answer:

Things I scrapped:
-Future Libby was originally going to have amnesia
-Dictator Jimmy would have been a more morally conflicted character
-Nav was supposed to be...well, not just a criminal, but a bad guy. His suave, charming exterior would've been just a cover for a much more ruthless nature - but in the end, I just liked him too damn much, and made him into a good guy.
-Aurora was originally going to be a lot colder, but somehow Cindy's underlying fiery nature came through a bit more. I actually am grateful for this - I like the cold exterior coupled with all the repressed feelings.
-Lee wasn't even supposed to be a feature character at all. But, somehow he managed to insert himself into the story. More on this below.
-Aurora humming a song to herself in one scene. Which I wrote. Ye Gods
-A whole page of one-liners. It's really too bad I didn't get to use them - some were quite good, but they just didn't fit anywhere.
-3 pages full of chapter names. Actually, a lot of my major plot points were linked to chapter names I came up with. Just as many didn't go anywhere.

Things that came to me out of the blue:
-Pretty much everything that happened during their trip to the asteroid for repairs. I was basically just killing time.
-Lee being romantically interested in April totally came out of left field. He was just a super minor character, but then all of the sudden my mind went !poof...he can be used further! Then as soon as I made him a tour guide and the means by which the characters learn about Planet Gorlock, he started to develop a personality, and I realized he was in love with April.
-Nav having a longstanding crush on Aurora was totally unexpected. The more I wrote, the more I realized that Nav seemed to keep hitting on Aurora despite being engaged to April. Instead of trying to fight it, I gave it a backstory.
-Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure Tuyen was a last minute addition.
-Carl's Goth Outfit was totally spur-of-the-moment. I frankly have no idea what I was thinking.
-The whole backstory with Aurora's capture came out of nowhere. It suddenly just occurred to me that that's what had happened.
-Wenna and Nakki were last minute additions. In fact, most of the stuff on Planet Gorlock was just thrown in, and I'm not even sure why. I guess their culture amused me.
-The complication with Lady Jaya confiscating one vial of the antidote, and then Aurora accidentally smashing the other, were both spur-of-the-moment decisions. I decided things would be more exciting if there were only one vial left.
-The animal robots.
-The Lust room. Thanks a LOT you guys. <.<

Things I always intended, from square 1:
-The scene in Chapter 10 where Jimmy and Cindy sit back to back and think basically the same thoughts
-Aurora having a silver mask
-The Antidote
-The Emotion Rooms in general
-The fact that DJ's fortress is under water
-The ship names "Desperado" and "Half Life"
-Pretty much everything that's happened between Future Libby and Future Sheen
-Aurora destroying her own house upon their return to Earth
-Aurora breaking down to Future Libby
-Some chapter names, including "Ruins of a Forgotten Earth", "My Salvation", "Behind the Mask", "Unnatural Selection", and "End Game".

Now that I think about it, there was some method to my madness. I had pretty much everything in volumes 1, 3, and 5 planned out beforehand. The stuff in Volumes 2 and 4 was, to a greater extent, made up while I was writing it.


Question from Pedro: Question for Mara: I've noticed some similarities of Aurora's personality, strengths and weaknesses to yours, not to mention traumatizing pasts. Could you say that Aurora is an artistic extension of your experiences and personality?

Answer:

Aurora is like me in some ways - after all, whenever an author creates a character, some aspects of their personality get projected onto him or her. Future Libby magically inherited my love for Asian dresses and my flair for cute poses, April got my irrational love of badass guns, DJ got some of my dark humor, and Nav professes my truest opinions and says and does all of the things I'm secretly thinking but never express out loud (which is probably why he's my favorite character). Future Carl represents my insecurities and fear of moving forward, and Lee is my nerdy love of anthropology combined with my utter lack of romantic skills with the opposite sex.
Aurora embodies my more cynical side and sometimes shares my emotional detachment, but I am not a hardened soldier or pilot and I certainly don't share ANY of her physical skills. There are some days I wish I could be more like Aurora, but then others when I'm very glad I'm not.
I'd say, out of all the characters, Future Sheen is the one with whom I feel like I have the least in common, probably because he's a really physical character, and I tend to be more cerebral.
Anyway...ya.


Question from Corinne: TOSOT itself doesn't interest me quite as much as the artwork that goes along with it - my question is 'how did you come up with the designs'? Like, what made you put weird markings and tattoos on Future Sheen? How did you get the blue outfit for Aurora? Why does Future Carl wear a white shirt? etc?

Answer:

Well, I guess I'll go through this one character at a time: 

Future Sheen: The numbers "21 - 12" tattooed on his face are an homage to the Rush song 2112. As for the rest of his appearance, it was sort of spur-of-the-moment. When I drew him for the first time years ago, I randomly added a bunch of sharp-looking markings to his face and shoulders to make him look frightening. Bam! The design stuck. The only challenge that remained was to accurately describe said design when he showed up in TOSOT (which, hopefully, I accomplished). The tattered orange shirt was last minute...I always thought Sheen looked boss in his N Men outfit, so I just went with that scheme (plus, burnt orange is an emotional, unstable, dirty color). 
Aurora: I drew a variation of Aurora's suit before I even started the story. If I recall, the blue color was inspired by Cindy's space suit in King of Mars, which remains my favorite outfit from JN. 
Future Libby: Future Libby was originally much more monk-ish, always swaddled in layers of of colorful, jeweled robes and draperies. Her look continued to transform as TOSOT proceeded, mostly because I could never really settle on one look for her (although it's amusing to note that she's become increasingly scantily clad with each passing volume). This is probably because she's not really a "one look" type of character...she's the kinda gal who's always changing her clothes and experimenting with her appearance. Her hairstyle, obviously, is very close to Libby's in the show.
Dictator Jimmy: I wanted him to have the darker, edgier version of Aurora's suit. Whereas Aurora's suit is beautiful and traces her curves, his twists around his body in unsettling skeletal patterns. I went with dark blue because it matched his eyes XD Hilariously, though, I have no idea what the bottom half of his suit looks like, since I've never drawn him below the waist...because I'm afraid of drawing his crotch, haha...
April: April's outfit was actually a mistake. I drew her from memory, then went back and watched WLK and realized I had diverged a lot from her original look. However, I liked my rendition, so just went with it. I don't think I've ever drawn April in the same outfit...it's just so much fun to put her in various kinds of armor, although it tends to follow the same theme and color scheme. As time has gone by, I've drawn her with her helmet less and less (mostly because I want to show off her awesome purple hair. Which, incidentally, came about as a result of a coloring contest we had here on IDOJ). 
Nav: His look is a straight-up ripoff of Vash the Stampede, who I was obsessed with at the time. Except, you know, with a gray coat and gray eyes. FML
Future Carl: I put Future Carl in white because 1) it looked good and 2) it represents his existential need to self-represent as "innocent" because he can't deal emotionally with the consequences of his culpability. ;)
Lee: Lee is based on how I think my cousin Cameron will look and act when he's grown up.



Question from Corinne: This Q&A needs some randomness! if the TOSOT cast were in an airport, what would they be doing/what jobs would they have? Go!

Answer:

LOLGENIUS. Um, let me see...
Aurora - airline pilot
April - airport security
Future Libby - traveler with like 3527593 bags ;)
Future Jimmy - air traffic controller
Future Carl - food vendor
Future Sheen - baggage loader
Nav - the douche who steals your wallet and gets away with it



Question from Mary: I've been rereading earlier chapters of TOSOT (I'm currently on chapter 26) and I was wondering about the Seven Samarkandi. We know DJ is #1, Nav is #7, and Hawk is #6. Who are the remaining four Samarkandi, and what did they do to join the ranks?

Answer:

SEVEN SAMARKANDI, THE LIST:
(#1: DJ)
#2: Awres Adande - charismatic murderer, cannibal, and rapist, who specifically goes after the spouses and children of members of the Galactic Police and then disappears without a trace
#3: J'Satand - crazed revolutionary leader and high-profile terrorist who believes in planetary isolation
#4: Boss Dymo - head honcho of a mafia-style, intergalactic crime syndicate with operational bases on 25+ planets
#5: Warlord Jenker - self-absorbed, compulsive liar, who extorts weaker planets and forces people to pay to use certain routes through space
(#6: Hawk
#7: Nav)
Note: none of them are human (or Numerian) except DJ and Nav...the rest are races that aren't really mentioned in TOSOT.



Question from Emily: After the story ends, Does Future Jimmy ever show Aurora how to remove the suit completely so she can wear normal attire again without the suit underneath?? Also, Do FJ and Aurora ever have kids??

Answer:

Yes, there is a way to remove the suit...but Aurora doesn't really like wearing civvies ;) , so I imagine FJ builds her a newer, better suit with improved fighting and healing capabilities.
No, they do not have any kids.


Question from Cameron: How about Future Libby and Future Sheen? Do they have kids?

Answer:

Yes.


Question from Cameron: I know april goes back to planet gorlock but what does she do when she gets there? What happens to her? Also, does Future Carl ever complete Nav's mission?

Answer:

She goes on sabbatical for awhile to recoup, then probably gets involved in local peacekeeping efforts to keep that old Civil War from breaking out again (the Gorlock version of peacekeeping, of course, involves pointing a lot of guns in people's faces lol). After that, I imagine she goes back to more interplanetary military work, perhaps with some side gigs as a mercenary. It takes her a while to figure out what she wants from life, but I think she eventually ends up back on planet Gorlock for good.
As for question 2, do you mean steal enough to buy Numeria and then give it to Laudya? No. Turns out Laudya never really wanted that anyway, and there's no way FC would ever be a good enough thief to gather the necessary loot. Aurora and FJ probably do some work to improve Numeria, though (Aurora's idea, in honor of Nav).


Question from Lizz: When did Lee finally confess his feelings for April? What was her reaction to it and how long did it take for them to get together?

Answer:

Quoted from an earlier question about Gorlock courtship rituals, as answered by Lee: Courtship is similar to that of humans, with excessive flattery, gift-giving, and life-or-death duels. However, if the affection is one-sided, or if one rejects the other's marriage proposal, the couple must proclaim this fact to the village and send out invitations to the "Makrii"...which is basically a fight in which the two lovers are pitted against one another. The battle is dramatic and many people come to watch...and the winner of the match determines whether the marriage will take place or not. So, if a male loves a female but she does not love him back, he can proclaim his love and challenge her to a Makrii. If he wins, she MUST marry him. If he loses, then the crowd disbands and she is free to go. This arrangement works splendidly and there are usually no hard feelings.
...So, I kind of figured that Lee (who's always had a hard time getting up the balls to tell April his feelings), would just up and challenge her to a Makrii one day. She'd be all like o_O "You want to marry me??" and he'd be all like "just come to the Makrii". April, of course, would be mystified, but would show up to the fight out of a sense of duty. Then, in the ULTIMATE PLOT TWIST, Lee would actually WIN the fight by employing a clever strategy to outsmart April rather than beat her by brute force (which he never could've done anyway). Stunned, April would be honor-bound to marry him...but he'd take her aside afterward and be all like "listen, the wedding is off, but I couldn't think of any other way to express my intentions". He'd then proceed to confess the whole 9 yards and leave her to think it over. And, from that point on, April would start to see him as being potentially more than a friend.
A year or so later...WUUUUUV, TWUE WUUUUUV
Then, after they got married, Lee would proceed to finally decipher the lost Gorlock writing system mentioned in Volume 4, becoming quite famous in the process (maybe FJ helped on the sly - I always kinda pictured them becoming secret pen pals down the road. Don't know why). April'd be super impressed and probably offer to do naughty, naughty things to him, but Lee's a good boy and would be all like Posted Image
THE END


Question from Anita: Aurora and FJ will be in a relationship ( not a normal one, of course, but still romantic) after some time?

Answer:

Yes. XD Did you honestly think those two could keep it in their pants?


Question from Lizz: How long did it take for the whole galaxy to learn of the dictator's defeat? What was the outcome of it all and how is everything rejuvinating with Aurora and Future Jimmy's mission?

Answer:

I've always had the idea that Aurora and FJ would do all their good works in disguise, assuming a new identity on each planet they visited. People would never be able to handle the truth that the Dictator had been reformed (they probably would refuse help from him if he offered it), so the best way to help the largest number of people would be to just...lie. LOL. My guess is that Aurora, master of propaganda that she is, would give the public exactly what they want: she and FJ would work out a way to stage his (fake) execution, with Aurora playing the role of executioner. FJ certainly has enough money to buy off the news media to paint the whole thing as this "big revelation", where everyone finds out that Aurora was actually working a covert one-man op to bring down the Dictator all along. Thus, DJ would be officially bumped off and the public would be satisfied, Aurora would get some of her reputation back, and she would announce her official resignation from the military and intent to live a quiet life. Poof! They would be free to go about their business.
However, I'm sure a large number of people would still resent her for not doing the "execution" through official channels. After all, if she killed him personally, she would rob the public of their chance to interrogate/torture/enact revenge on him. What if some dude killed your family, and you desperately wanted revenge on him, but some other random chick took out the killer before you could? You might feel a bit gypped. I get the feeling that no matter what Aurora does in the matter, she's still gonna come out looking self-motivated and crooked. Plus, remember, she's done a lot of other nasty things over the years that people ignored because of her status as a high-ranking rebel fighter. Once the unifying threat disappears, people might not heap on the praise quite so fervently.


Question from Sanjana: Do Future Sheen and Future Jimmy have any reconciliation? of course FS can't forgive DJ for what he did, but how does their relationship pan out? Do Aurora and April ever reconcile? *crosses fingers*

Answer:

It pans out...awkwardly. They both kind of put up with each other because their mutual chicas are bffs, but I can't picture them being all buddy-buddy ever again. However, I think once FS's life improves (which it will...a lot), he'll feel less animosity towards FJ. So there's hope.
April and Aurora end up being back on speaking terms with each other, if that's what you mean. They might even call on each other for support on their respective missions from time to time, but they never go back to being super-tight battle buddies again. Aurora does go to April's wedding (in disguise, of course), so their friendship doesn't totally go to hell in a handbasket. Most of the distance between them is a result of Aurora shacking up with FJ (April can never really forgive him for killing Nav). Although I've totally decided that Future Jimmy and Lee are going to become pen pals because they're both uber nerds and need a little man-to-man support from time to time ;) Shh, don't tell April though...


Question from Sanjana: How does Jimmy and Cindy's first amendment lab date go? :D

Answer:

Swimmingly. Lots of witty banter. ;)



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