It has been sometime since my last post here at GH due to the move my wife and I conducted of our home over the last 3 months. As you may well know in May of this year we saw publication of You and 42: The Hitchhikers Guide to Douglas Adams by Who Dares Publishing. This love letter to Douglas Adams featured over 60 authors expressing their love for the life and work of Douglas Adams. Within this extraordinary batch of very hoopy authors are two who have broadened their work into charitable fiction. In this I mean that they have written an extradinary Doctor Who story that you will not want to miss. In addition the proceeds of sales from this novel benefit Caudwell Children. One aspect of why we love all of our You and 42 authors is that they have prior to/and after our book is that they have continued to not only appeal to the Doctor Who community with their brilliant academic and fiction work, but have offered the proceeeds to charitable causes.
With this said, the following interview with authors Paul Driscoll and Kara Dennison offers valuable insights into their work for Seasons of War: Gallifrey, which is now available via Altrix Books.
Interview with the Authors:
Kara Dennison and Paul Driscoll
What was your previous involvement with the Seasons of War line, if any?
PD: I hadn’t written any published fiction before, but when I saw the Seasons of War call for submissions I thought to myself, why not. To be honest at first, the Time War wasn’t something that particularly excited me as a Doctor Who concept, not until Steven Moffat filled in so many of the narrative gaps in The Day of the Doctor. The idea that the Doctor would have a past life he would want to completely disown fascinated me and the astonishing performance of Sir John Hurt left me hungry for more untold adventures from the Doctor’s darkest period. That young to old face between ‘The Night of the Doctor’ and The Day of the Doctor left a huge amount of room to imagine
what happened to the character during those long years. I was excited by the idea of being able to write for an incarnation of the Doctor who changes over time. Seasons of War was specifically intended to show those different phases, or seasons, not only in the War but in the Doctor’s psyche
My first couple of pitches were way too ambitious, epic tales that would have been hard to pull off in a short story format and even harder to fit into an interconnected anthology. After the initial batch of stories had been accepted Declan put out another call for specific tales to provide balance to the whole. In particular he wanted a story set on Gallifrey, focusing on the impact of the War on an ordinary family and community. It was to be a Doctor-less story. That’s how The Time Lord Who Came to Tea was born. The editor liked the idea of the story being told from a first person perspective and the association with The Diary of Anne Frank, so I managed to get away with making the War Doctor an integral player in the story. Pitch accepted, I then went and wrote it
pretty much in one all-night sitting.
Declan then asked if I’d like to write another story, and so I came up with a tale set in a rough sleeper’s Day Centre in modern day London. Storage Wars was only the second piece of fiction I had written for publication, and this time the writing process was quite different. Sometimes stories write themselves, and other times the characters are less obedient and pull you off in other
There are a couple of throwaway references to elements from those two stories in the original anthology, but I’ve resisted being over indulgent. One day I’d like to write or at least read the rest of Sophienna’s diary. The Time Lord Who Came to Tea is the first entry, and I did at least get to write the final entry in Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s fanzine tribute to Sir John Hurt.
KD: I hadn’t actually had any prior experiences with Seasons of War personally, besides knowing it was highly regarded and knowing several of the people involved. I’d had experiences with other charity anthologies, though, and have been immersed enough in writing for Doctor Who and its fringe properties in various capacities that when I saw a call open for people who might be interested in doing a book, I had to try my luck.
That said, I’m doing some work now for a future Seasons of War project, and have just sent off a short story for a re-release of the original anthology. So all things considered, it’ll look a bit like I’ve been there the whole time when all is said and done.
How much of the concept of Gallifrey was already laid out before it got to you, and how much of it was the two of you?
PD: Declan asked a number of us if we’d be interested in writing a Seasons of War novel. I’d already written the first draft of a novella and I thought I could either develop that on work on something completely different. Declan then asked if I’d like to team up with Kara and write a story set on Gallifrey. Once again he had in mind a Doctor-less story that would focus on the effect of the war on the home front. He gave us complete freedom, but suggested as a starting point basing the book around four character types – friends who would go their separate ways because of the war – a conscientious objector, a politician, a Time Lord and a soldier. I developed the idea into four very basic character bios, slightly deviating for the originals but sticking to the four main character
types. I liked the idea of making these friends an unlikely mix of different ages and social
backgrounds. I thought it would be good to explore relationships that had formed across the social divides on Gallifrey and how those diverse backgrounds would make them react to war differently. I also liked the idea of a character who wanted to style himself or herself on the Doctor. Kara was thinking on similar lines and so we took two characters each and developed fully fleshed
out backstories. Kara for instance came up with the brilliant idea of making our soldier a poet and in the process invented a whole new form of poetry. We then each came up with additional characters and story scenarios. Nairo’s regeneration sickness and Mordicai working as a TARDIS engineer were ideas that Declan had originally suggested, but other than that the rest came as Kara and I began to develop each chapter. You’ll also notice that as in The Time Lord Who Came to Tea, the Doctor has still managed to slip in, though his scenes are brief, and half of them are flashbacks to the pre-war McGann Doctor.
KD: Over time, it became more and more difficult for me to remember what elements had always been there and which were ours! The whole idea came together very quickly, and I think a lot of that comes from the fact that what we’d been given already had a very specific tone to it. We knew what sort of story we’d be telling, and it was one that’d been hinted at in main and spinoff Doctor Who but not really fully explored. We hear the Doctor talk about the people who died remembering the specific number of children, but by and large we get his view. And he’s, we tend to forget, an upper-class citizen. He won’t know what it was like for students and outliers and
senators. Funnily enough, Declan’s outline was a guide in a much different way to what we were expecting when we started. His four character archetypes were less who the characters were, and more who they strove to be or were forced to become as the story progressed. That was a point that we forgot for a bit and then sort of spun back around and hit us as we were wrapping things up.
What was it like collaborating with a second writer?
KD: I’m used to collaborating because of my work in webcomics, and because I work with Ginger Hoesly (our cover artist) on a light novel series. Every collaboration is going to be different. Sometimes one of us does all the typing, sometimes we both do literal 50/50, sometimes it’s more like 100/100. The one constant in entering into a collaboration is that there are no constants! Paul and I hashed things out a lot over Skype. There would be these long silences between the two of us as we both sat there trying to figure out what to do next, but I think we were on an equal footing across the board. At least in terms of mapping out this story, we were bordering on Drift Compatible quite a bit; we’d make the same decisions the other would have made, we had the same feelings about how it should end and how the characters should evolve, etc. Declan is amazing at
matching up authors!
I also think we both worry that we’re each not doing our fair share! In the end, he’s handled a lot of the editing and formatting, and I’ve taken point on the digital side of things. And that’s a part of collaboration that people often forget: what happens once the story is done, and how you get it out there, is yet another facet of working together.
PD: This was a completely new experience for me and I’ve loved every minute of it. Kara and I had never worked together before and we really only knew each other in passing, but Declan knew
exactly what he was doing when he allocated the various writers for the novels. We shared the same vision for the book right from the start and our personalities and writing strengths complement each other really well.
As we wrote our allocated chapters it was great to be able to bounce off ideas with each other, or share the odd lines of dialogue to see whether or not it worked. Other characters came out from the shadows as a result. They become far more important to the story then we’d initially imagined. Caelion and Bez being the perfect examples.
How did you build the plot of Gallifrey? How did the story evolve as the two of you worked on it?
PD: Getting started was probably the hardest part, but I came up with a way of structuring the book so that we could individually write different parts and then bring it all together – that’s why the middle four chapters all cover a similar time frame as each of our four leads has their own series of adventures following the outbreak of the war. That structure allowed us the freedom not to have to continually throw ideas backwards and forwards (I mean, that kind of tennis game could potentially go on forever).
After a week or so of writing, we would touch base on skype and make sure that the different sections were consistent. We knew pretty much from the start that the first chapters would explore how our characters first met and provide a window on their world before the war, so after writing the middle chapters most of our discussions focused on getting the ending right. At one point I think each of our main characters died! We both agreed that we should end the story on a note a hope, but that we couldn’t make light of the huge consequences of the Time War. The ending can be read in two ways – as a good old-fashioned triumph against the odds story, or an irreversible tragedy in which nobody comes out a winner.
Gallifrey is as much about the planet itself as its peoples and at a very early stage we mapped it out region by region (if we had the finances it would have been great to include those maps in the book). To give the story an epic quality we incorporated as much of Gallifrey as possible – the Citadel and various areas within it, the wastelands, the Death Zone, Arcadia – even the seas and mountains. There were various aspects we wanted to include from the main TV series, but it’s surprising how little of the planet has been explored on-screen. It gave us plenty of scope to be creative. So there are elements that are quite conservative when it comes to the mythology of Doctor Who, but other aspects where we have been fairly footloose.
The other big piece of work behind the scenes was to come up with an effective alternative to the Daleks. To avoid any licensing issues we were asked not to include them as the main antagonist, which you can imagine presented quite a challenged. That’s where the Percusians came in, and without giving away spoilers I think they became a far more interesting foe to work with.
KD: A lot of our later work ended up being tucking in loose ends, where the broader story was already pretty cohesive. We actually had a consistency checking phase in there just in case things slipped through. Things tended to come together on their own since we’d discussed the story enough, and we knew where each character needed to end up. We knew where they were going in a very general sense, and that left room for characters to surprise us once in a while – like the aforementioned Bez and Caelion.
The fact that, like Paul mentioned, we couldn’t use the Daleks at first seemed like it was going to be a big shot in the foot. It ended up being more a shot in the arm, you could say… the Percusians, which were created by Paul, had a lot of bearing on the overall story and how things worked out.
Plus I don’t think it’s all that odd to talk about a secondary enemy. There are lots of other people, other societies, that end up getting caught up in wars, which is something we’d already gotten a glimpse of in Night of the Doctor just from Cass’s reactions to the Doctor. So again, that was another facet of the Time War to explore.
Is there any character you in particular associate with the most?
KD: There’s this great anime creator named Leiji Matsumoto, and one of his most memorable series was this show Captain Harlock. The lead was this dashing space pirate, and his best friend was this doofy little engineer named Tochiro. Matsumoto has said that Harlock is what he wishes he could be, and Tochiro is what he knows he is.
I think that’s what happened with me and Savalia and Kendo, respectively. Savalia is this really caring, really strong, really artistic and “together” person. But Kendo is much more what I really am from day to day, worrying what people think of her and making really horrible decisions and then having to deal with the fallout. There was this moment when I was working on Kendo’s chapters when my brain just went “I wonder what happens when someone with two hearts has a panic attack,” and there we are. Messed up a perfectly good Time Lord is what I did. Look at her, she’s got
PD: I can see parts of me in all four of the lead characters: Mordicai’s social awkwardness and rebellious streak, Savalia’s conflict between wanting to be there for her family and wanting to escape into a world of pure imagination, Kendo’s feeling of being the odd-one-out, the one who needs to prove herself in a position of power, and Tor Fasa’s illogical blend of idealism and cynicism.
What’s an element of the book you think Doctor Who fans will especially enjoy?
PD: There are so many Easter Eggs in there for the knowledgeable Doctor Who fan – and the fun of spotting them I think will be appealing. But we’ve written it in such a way that you don’t need to have read up on your Time Lord history.
KD: Paul and I have both given little hat-tips to our favourite moments from the history of Doctor Who – not essential for understanding the story, but fun if you catch them.
As a personal aside, I also dropped a line from the RiffTrax treatment of The Five Doctors. See if you can spot it. (And on a non-Doctor Who tangent, there’s also a Monster Factory quote hidden in there. Like I said, I’m a fiend for dropping quotes.)
Is this the end of the line for the heroes of the Time War? Or is there more to come?
PD: As far as the Doctor Who universe is concerned it’s hard to see a way back for them. But if someone comes knocking – who knows? In the meantime, one thing is certain – the multiverse itself needs their unique kind of help. There are histories to be untold, from a child who has grown up with a lie about her parents, to entire constellations at war because of a silly misunderstanding that happened centuries before – so yes, we most definitely have plans for them going forward. Tor Fasa will have to put off his retirement that bit longer.
KD: They’d have a lot of little things to do before that, though, wouldn’t they? I can’t imagine the four of them wanting to look back on War-torn Gallifrey. So there’ll be a bit of… engineering, let’s say… before we hear from them again.
But yes, they’re coming back. I think we’ve gotten a little too attached to these four to just let them go.
Seasons of War: Gallifrey is the latest addition to Declan May’s charity Seasons of War fiction line.
Print and digital copies are available at AltrixBooks.com, with proceeds going toward Caudwell Children.
Paul Driscoll is an author, editor and publisher based in Greater Manchester. He contributed two short stories to the original Seasons of War anthology (The Time Lord Who Came to Tea and Storage Wars) and has written of his love for Doctor Who and other Cult TV shows in various publications, including the acclaimed You and Who series (Miwk Publishing, Watching Books, Who Dares Publishing) and Black Archive volume #9 on Toby Whithouse’s The God Complex (Obverse Books 2017).
Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and public speaker based in Virginia. By day, she is a news and features writer for geek and genre sites including Crunchyroll, VRV, Viewster, Sartorial Geek by Jordandené, and We Are Cult. Her published works include Black Archive #21 – Heaven Sent, multiple contributions to the City of the Saved series, and the light novel series Owl’s Flower, which she co-created with Ginger Hoesly. More of her work can be seen at karadennison.com
Social Media Contacts and More Information
Paul Driscoll: Co-Author
Kara Dennison: Co-Author
Ginger Hoesly: Cover Artist/Designer
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