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Denial?  Denial?  As today’s story is happy to inform you, that’s nothin’ but a river in Saddle Arabia.

bitter-harvestBitter Harvest
[Romance] [Comedy] [Slice-of-Life] • 17,919 words

Golden Harvest is not jealous. Sure, her neighbor Applejack has a life of adventure and glamor, friends who are national heroes and princesses, an appallingly lucrative share in the local fruit market, and firm, toned flanks. And sure, by contrast, Golden Harvest has been stuck with her snout in the same old muddy patch of carrots pretty much every day since she earned her cutie mark, her best friend is a dentist, and her idea for a ‘Carrot Juice Season’ never really gained much ground for some reason. But Golden Harvest is not jealous.

Not jealous at all.

She just wishes Applejack would stop being so distracting.

FROM THE CURATORS: “I just read the whole thing in one sitting,” Chris said when introducing the story to us, “and my expert analysis would be ‘this was really funny, guys!'”

This was an easy choice for a feature — we unanimously agreed on the story’s hilarity.  “I can’t remember the last time I was so consistently delighted by a long-form comedy,” Horizon said. But it had other strengths to appreciate as well, including its approach to the unrequited sexual tension that drives the plot.  “There’s way more to this story than I ever anticipated,” Present Perfect said. “Sexuality-based stories are both common and poor in this fandom, and it’s nice to finally see one that’s both funny and well thought out.  Esle has a gift for understatement and showing, and that’s where the strengths of this piece lie.”

I also love the way the ending recontextualizes the unreliable narration,” Horizon added.

Read on for our author interview, in which Esle Ynopemos discusses clingy carrots, nuanced denial, and bitter tops.

Give us the standard biography.

I am twenty-seven, married, live in Montana, and my spouse and I find ourselves in the awkward and uncomfortable space between graduating from college and finding a job that could possibly make all of that time and money worth it. In the meantime, I write and draw ponies, because there are some things that make me happy.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I figured out that “Somepony Else” still looked kinda like a name when spelled backwards.

Who’s your favorite pony?

Applejack. All the ponies have their charm and interesting aspects to their characters; Pinkie has her hidden depths, Rarity is wonderfully human — er, equine, whatever — and I often find myself identifying way too much with Fluttershy’s insecurities. But time and again, Applejack wins me over with just how simply good she is. Applejack has a strong moral center, and she is always working hard to do right for everyone. I can’t help but admire that in her.

What’s your favorite episode?

It’s hard to pick, but if I have to choose just one, I think I have to go with “Look Before You Sleep.” That is a fun episode, well-paced, and with character interactions that are just perfect. We’re four seasons in, with lots of great episodes to choose from, but that kind of well-written back and forth still stands out even now.

What do you get from the show?

This may be an unpopular admission, but… My Little Pony, while a pretty good show, is just a show to me. I enjoy watching it, but I don’t feel like it’s changed my life or anything. If tomorrow it was announced that I wouldn’t get to see anymore episodes of it, I’d be disappointed, but I wouldn’t throw a fit or anything.

What I really find amazing, and what stands apart from the rest, is the fandom. That’s what really drew me here. This is an incredible community, it really is. I mean, the energy and passion folks put forward is great. People make some amazing things to reflect their love for this show. But what I really like is the spirit of tolerance and cooperation in this fandom. Yes, there are a few trolls and jerks, as there are in any fandom, or really, anywhere at all. But this community doesn’t let them spoil it. I have never met a group of people so eager and willing to help and support not only one another but anyone they happen across.

You guys. That’s what I get from the show.

What do you want from life?

More time to write ponies, please. All this peripheral stuff like seeking food and shelter is awfully disruptive.

Why do you write?

I like creating things. Whether it’s drawing pictures when I should be taking notes in Linguistics or sorting out a character’s motivations and issues while I stand in line at the grocery aisle, I always am working on something in my head. Writing is just one of the ways to get it out of there.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Well, I guess I have a silly little anecdote here. See, not long after I published my first story on FimFic, I very nearly quit writing. I couldn’t so much as open my word processor. It wasn’t because I got a poor reception — heck, my first story probably got way more attention than it really deserved — or because I was out of ideas, or anything like that. No, I nearly quit writing because I loved the ideas that I had for what to write next, but I didn’t want to write them until I was good enough at writing to do them justice.

That is a terrible, not to mention entirely silly, attitude to have about writing. Never be afraid of your writing. Never tell yourself you’re not good enough to write something. You become good enough by writing it.

What message or messages were you trying to convey with this story?

Carrots are a hardy, if temperamental, breed of plant. They require care and attention, but not too much attention or else they’ll get clingy, and nopony buys clingy carrots. Also, you need to be classy around them and for Celestia’s sake, don’t forget to focus. You’ve got to focus.

That’s what I’m trying to say.

We were all pleasantly surprised by the explanation for why Golden Harvest “can’t be gay;” it struck us as much more nuanced than an average story’s take on the same.  How did you come up with this story’s angle on that particular development?

I knew that I needed to subvert the usual cliches when it came to the reason Golden didn’t want to accept her sexuality. I, too, have seen many stories in which a character is closeted because of their homophobic parents, and I didn’t want to go down that road. So instead, I made her mother into the Lesbian of the Year, spokesmare for Ponyville’s gay community.

In my first draft, Golden’s insistence that she was straight was simply out of rebellion against her mother’s good-natured, if overzealous, encouragement to be herself. It was one of my prereaders who suggested that there should be something in Beta Carotene’s lifestyle that Golden rejects. That extra level of nuance in her reasons for denial is there thanks to them.

How do you go about trying to balance slapstick comedy and emotional honesty in a story like this, which aims for both?

I… don’t, really. I wrote a story. I didn’t really pay attention to how much comedy or drama there was in it, whether the levels of each matched up to one another, or how it all balanced out. I put in jokes that I found funny and that felt like they should be there, and the emotions had to be there, or else the story didn’t work.

So, uh, luck, I guess.

Is Golden Harvest’s internal voice based on anyone—or anyones—in particular?

I think we all have a narrative in our heads at some level or another that makes us out as tragic heroes, victims of circumstance, that makes our thoughts and actions out as reasonable no matter how unreasonable they really are. What I wanted to do with this story was to bring that little voice to the forefront. Because yeah, you’ve got a test tomorrow and you should probably get off the internet and go to bed, but you’re almost done reading this chapter and really, you’ve done well before with little sleep, and also you’re good at taking tests anyway. Everypony knows carrots are awesome at taking tests.

This story began its life as a short one-shot, before you expanded it into its present state.  Did you have something larger in mind when you wrote that one-shot, or was the “full” story a later idea?  In either case, how was embellishing and adding to a stand-alone different, as a writer, from starting a new story from scratch?

The original one-shot of the same name was written for a thirty-minute prompt from the now sadly defunct blog, Thirty Minute Ponies. The prompt was to write a day in the life of a background character, and I was further challenging myself that month to feature Applejack in each of my thirty-minute stories. I didn’t really have any intention to turn it into a larger story at that point; it was just one of thirty other stories featuring hat-pony. I started writing the “full” version later, when readers of my thirty-minute fics cited it as one of the standouts for them.

Adding to a story that already stands on its own is much harder, in my opinion, than starting from scratch. It can be very difficult to tinker with something that already works as it is, especially if you’re like me and you flinch when your finger strays near the delete key. The first chapter of Bitter Harvest is very close to what the entirety of the original one-shot was, but the changes made to that chapter took me almost as long as writing the rest of the chapters combined.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I suppose I could add an apology to folks who insist her name is Carrot Top, not Golden Harvest. I joined the fandom at a very specific time, after her canon name was determined to be Golden Harvest but before the fandom decided they didn’t care and continued to call her Carrot Top anyway. Golden stuck with me.

Also, Bitter Top wouldn’t have been as good of a story title.

You can read Bitter Harvest at FIMFiction.net.