Interview: Dan Abnett (page 2)

continued from page 1

You separate the crew and there’s a lot of concentration on Rory. Given how much comes from Arthur Darvill’s performance, did you find him difficult to write?

No, but I did deliberately overcompensate for him, because the other two are such strongly iconic characters in the new series. The Doctor is such a strong character, and Amy is such a popular companion, I felt Rory needed boosting. That was one of the reasons I separated them and gave him a separate strand which I thought suited his personality and was crucial to the way the story worked. Everybody gets their moment of glory.

I didn’t want him to be the other guy running behind them making occasional funny remarks; I wanted him to be positively driving forward and doing certain things.

How much did you see of this season when you were writing?

I was writing at the start of this year – I think I was still writing it when The Doctor’s Wife was shown. I wasn’t given previews of anything; I was sent off in my cupboard to do my work. I sent my idea in, it was essentially approved with one tweak which I made, and then I was sent to get on and write it. I simply watched the show for inspiration, just to infuse a little more of the character traits into my head as I was writing it.

Anything else on the Doctor Who horizon?

Each bit I’ve done has led to another bit, which is gratifying, and they did seem very happy with this book, which pleased me no end, so I hope that they will come back and ask me to do something else again. I probably enjoyed writing this novel more than anything else, but novels are harder to fit in because of the sheer scale of them. It’s a while since I’ve done an audio for the BBC or Big Finish, which is something I enjoy immensely – it’d be nice to, if people read this and say, “He’s a good person to go to!”

Lee Harris at Angry Robot suggested I ask about your new books for them…

I’ve done two books for them now, my own original fiction, which are not connected to each other at all. One is an alternate reality fantasy called Triumff which is notorious for the high level of puns which goes on in it, and the other is ultra-realistic combat SF which is the thing I’m most famous for, Embedded.

My relationship with Angry Robot is a good and strong one. I like what they do. I’ve got a good working relationship with both Lee and Mark Gascoigne and they have now confirmed my third book for them, and signed me up for a fourth, which will be another book set in the Embedded universe.

Monstercide will be the next big one I do, and essentially, it’s the book I’ve been dying to write. It’s an idea which I had a few years ago and I’ve simply not had the opportunity or the time. It’s a book that’s going to need a good long run-up because it’s big: it is SF but it’s got fantasy, horror,  and almost superhero elements in it as well.

It’s a near future world where monsters of colossal and almost Lovecraftian proportions are appearing and causing damage. It’s an apocalyptic situation, and then someone turns up and starts to fight them. Our main characters are caught up in the middle of this, and trying to work out who tehse people are and why they’re doing.

This feels like it’s going to be my biggest book – not in terms of word count, but simply in terms of spectacular and scope and budget. It’s colossal. I hope it will offset the sheer scale of stuff with some really clever ideas and some offbeat quirky strangeness when the backstory starts to get revealed.

That’s the next project; I’m working on a Horus Heresy book for Games Workshop now which will be out next spring… my God, I am busy! The Doctor Who has come out simultaneously with another Games Workshop book called Salvation’s Reach, which is the latest Gaunt’s Ghost novel, the infantry soldiers in space series that I write.

It’s a very big deal – it may well be one where I sit down and it pours out because it’s been fermenting for a long time. I can’t wait. It feels quite different – in some respects it’s immensely simple in terms of its component parts, it goes together to form a recipe that’s a little bit odd.

Which format do you find the most satisfying to write in – comics, audio plays or novels?

 I think the thing I find the most satisfying is writing novels, and there’s a very selfish reason for that. That is where the interface between me and the reader is the shortest distance. The words I put on the paper are ultimately what the reader reads. Anything that puts an extra layer and filter between me and the reader is by its nature less satisfying. I have written movies, and probably will again in the future – but they are much less satisfying  because of the distance between the writing process and the end product. Audios less so, and I love the technical aspect of radio: writing it as a script, rather than as prose.

I’ve written comics for over 20 years: it’s so second nature I don’t even think of the technicalities. Writing a 20 page American comic or a story for 2000 AD is so second nature I derive the same level of pleasure as I do the chapter of a book.

Obviously a novel takes several months to write, so you’re constantly prolonging the joy of finishing it, that sense of satisfaction, but a comic you can write in a few days, and there’s a much greater creative gratification in getting a job done and seeing it in print.

Read our review of The Silent Stars Go By here

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