Jeffro: Wow– it’s a pleasure to have this chance to talk to you. Could you please share any “behind the scenes” information about writing for ADQ?
Ramona: I am the author of “Serendipity” (ADQ 2/3) and “Daddy’s Girl” (ADQ 5/2), which I sold to Scott Haring at ADQ in the 80’s. They were two of my first professional sales, and Scott was a joy to work with. I’ve learned a lot since then, but I’m still proud of the stories. Even though I itch to edit them every time I go back to read.
I wrote “Serendipity” on a bet. I wasn’t as much a gamer as I was a writer; my ex-husband Pat was the gamer, and our basement was set up for his Saturday night events. He played Car Wars, a little D&D and a superhero game (I think), but mostly GURPS-based games. He even created his own world for some of the RPGs. He and his best friend went to some of the game cons at the time and brought back some marvelous tales. I’d play sometimes, but was a bit of an outsider – they were truly devoted and had a blast.
One time I asked about why everything was so rough and tumble about the games. Why were there no “average American housewife” kind of scenarios? Pat responded that a weaker character like a housewife would never survive.
My eyebrow did its Spock imitation. “Oh, really?”
Thus, Sandy Brown was born.
(Just from a trivia point of view, the Kane Firehawk was based on a Fiero – this was born after some friends and I had to pick one up and carry it out off a beach because the “driver” mistook Destin for Daytona. The Pisces was a Camero. Buster’s car lived in my mind as a 1968 GTO, and Davies Kell’s dueller started life as a 1950s Hudson Hornet. I was more into cars than Car Wars – I learned to drive in a 1964 Chevrolet Impala.)
Jeffro: Where did you get the idea for road duelists collecting license plates?
Ramona: That’s a cross between me wondering how duelists could really take credit for highway (vs. arena) “kills” – how could they prove a win – and the fact that serial killers often keep a “trophy” of some kind.
Jeffro: Your stories feature realistic female characters that tend to not get a lot of credit or support on the home front even as they are facing tough odds out on the road. (Though Gillian’s brother might be coming around, Sandy Brown’s husband appears to need a few counseling sessions.) Is this just what you’d expect for women in the aftermath of the food riots… or do you think more positive relationships with men are in store for Gillian and Sandy at some point…?
Ramona: I think this more reflected the times than any theme on my part. Remember that this was the early 80s. Kick-ass heroines hadn’t hit either novels or the big screen except on rare occasion – the only place you really saw them was in the comics. Definitely not the norm. Even in romance novels, damsels were still in distress and while the two-career home was no longer a novelty, there were still plenty of objections to them in the popular press. The closest we came to such heroines were Princess Leah and Karen Allen in the first Raiders – and remember how they were treated. Strong heroines still had to kick their way out the front door before they could save the world.
Sandy was firmly a product of the 80s. She loves Don and their son, but her work with Davies Kell (and thus her first job outside the home) would have empowered her in unexpected ways. She would definitely be in for a personal struggle there.
Gillian is more of a loner. Any relationship would have to be with an equally strong driver, and they’d circle each other like panthers for a long time before actually connecting. Most likely it would be with a competitor/rival, or perhaps with an older duelist who’s now an ambitious event organizer.
Jeffro: I notice that Gillian had to downshift to stay out of the ravine. Do you prefer manual to automatic for just such an eventuality?
Ramona: That move came from watching someone actually do that turn, downshifting to pull out of it quickly. Fortunately not to avoid a ravine. Back then, an automatic transmission would not have been able to handle it (not enough power fast enough), but I hear today’s automatics are stronger and more flexible. But I don’t know for sure.
Jeffro: I see that you write Christian fiction now. As someone with experience in both religious and gaming settings… what are your thoughts on the big anti-D&D movements that occurred in the eighties? (Note that the name change of the CAR WARS Sunday Drivers supplement to “Crash City” happened at the height of this.)
Ramona: I was a Christian back then as well, but I’ve always leaned center to left in my faith. Evangelicals/Ring-wingers are usually good folks, but some can be quite reactionary about anything they think is “demon-influenced.” Think of the kerfuffle they started over Harry Potter and the Twilight series. They always seem to be in a snit about something, usually in a loud voice. Which is really rather annoying to the rest of us, liking having a noisy, trouble-making younger sister when you’re trying to live in peace. Right now they’re even turning on one of their own (Pastor Rob Bell).
They really leapt on the some of the craziness that came out of RPGs, especially D&D. I always reminded them that crazy people will find a way to be crazy. D&D was only their current conduit. The rest of us were just having fun with imaginary treasure hunts.
Jeffro: The Firehawk had a left-mounted FT. Hunter Madison’s Bowie had a front-left corner mounted FT. Were these placement choices driven by the story requirements or from the quirks of your local CAR WARS sessions…?
Ramona: It’s most for the action within the story. Also, I’m left-handed, so I tend to run a lot of action to the left, where the attacking driver sits and has the best sight advantage. The Firehawk’s FT was for defense, however, not attack. As a writer, I’d usually decide on the logistics of the fight, then decide the arms. And if it didn’t work, I’d just re-write and re-arm. Not an advantage you’d have as a player….
Jeffro: Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for someone wanting to run a tobacco running campaign set in Alabama of the 2030’s?
Ramona: Build for speed and defense, not attack. Like bootleggers, the goal is to outrun and salvage the product. And run in twos (or more), with a bandit to clear the road ahead and retrace to reinforce in case of an attack. Think Smokey and the Bandit with 2-4 runners instead of the 18-wheeler. Know and stick to as many farm roads as possible. They’re valuable for hiding places, sharp turns, and low hills. Remember that NE Alabama is mountain foothill country while central and south is a flat pinewoods with long fields of corn and cotton.
Jeffro: Thanks so much for taking the time out to provide these insights into autodueling’s heyday. This is truly a blast from the past. (And by the way… just thought you should know that “Daddy’s Girl” shows up in some folks’ lists of their all-time favorite dueling story. Congrats!)
Until next time… take care, God bless and… drive offensively!