Monday, 13 September 2010

Andy Weston - Q & A

Nic Ford, author of the rater marvellous The Holdarnak Spiral, has very kindly posed me some questions, and here are the results! I hope you enjoy it, and just to mention that more interviews (including one with Nic) will be up soon.

So, Andy, why Consequences? What made you want to start this series?
I'd seen a lot of people who'd started fan fiction series, and I always wanted to be involved in one. I was also aware that while different series did seem to gather writers very quickly, many of them seemed -unfortunately - to amount to nothing. Also what I found particularly intriguing was that most of them seemed to be script-based, which isn't something I've ever wanted to write for other people to read. Scripts need actors to bring them to life, and personally, I don't think it's a great way of telling a story that is intended to be read by people for fun - it needs to be seen rather than read. Being a big fan of prose, and seeing virtually no prose series out there, I thought I'd give it a try. I had no idea if anyone would be interested, and was surprised and very pleased by the great response that I got. I wanted to make certain that the series didn't die, and people have been amazingly helpful in taking over slots that people seemed to have abandoned. I took on story 5 because it was the easiest way around that same problem!

The 'Consequences' idea came from an old Decalog collection, as I liked the fact that the stories all had a link that lead to the next happening in a particular way. It happens to a greater and lesser degree in series 1, and because I knew I had another two series to go, it won't now tie up all the loose ends - so you'll have to read the rest of them! Haha! The meaning of 'Consequences' will take on a slightly different focus in the next two series though...

What do you see as the main responsibilities of the series runner in something like Consequences?
Personally, it's been a fair bit of effort on my part. The hardest element to begin with is undoubtedly getting people interested in writing for the series. That said, even prior to that was the setting up of all the links for inclusion. Some were settings, others smaller, but all needed to be thought out. After that, the reading and 'editing' of the stories, which was fairly small in all cases (handily for me!) for content and ensuring the links were consistent.

Other than that, if people dropped out, it was up to me to find replacements. While no-one 'dropped out' as such, three authors were not responding to my attempts to contact them, so I had to make a decision as to whether to wait it out or try to find replacements. The latter was my eventual choice, and it has panned out very well (though I'd rather not have had to write one of them myself!). So, in essence, it's my role to make sure it all runs smoothly, ensure continuity is maintained, and make it as easy for the authors as I possibly can. I hope I've succeeded!

Why Who? What is it about this series that makes it such a rich source of fiction ideas?
I've been a fan of Doctor Who since I was a child, and I think what appealed to me then is also true now. The breadth of ideas and the whole 'magic' of the series reaches out to that child inside us all, no matter what age we are. To able to step into a box with a strange yet wonderful man and turn up anywhere and do anything...there's no limit to where the Doctor can go and what he can do! The very fact that both time and space are not obstacles but the means by which these things happen allows an infinite possibility of ideas. I think because of this, the fact there are no rules and nothing is off limits, means that ideas can keep flowing. The use of time as a central conceit hasn't been used to anywhere near its full extent, though Steven Moffat has certainly done more to bring this back than anyone else. Paradoxes, time loops, all sorts of wonderful notions and ideas that mean that stories can be more inventive than ever!

What's your background? Why do you write, and what's the day job if not writing?
My background is very much in English, having studied it at university, and my day job is teaching. It's great to see how children can write so well from a young age and how much so many of them enjoy reading. I'm glad that we're encouraging kids to enjoy reading and writing more; a cliché I know, but they're the future - some of them the future of Doctor Who!

I write because I love it, though I've had huge chunks of my life where I've not done any. I've only properly gotten back into it in the last few months, but the Doctor Who fiction is really firing me up, and will springboard me back into writing my own original fiction once again. I've got some things on the go already, and I hope after the third series of 'Consequences' is over I can devote a bit more time to it. However, with a new baby on the way, I'll have to see where I can fit it in!

How did you first come across Who? Were you immediately a fan?
My earliest memory (though a little hazy) of Doctor Who comes from when I was about 7, and a vague recollection of part of Terror of the Vervoids. When I saw it properly for the first time (in '93), my brain clicked into gear and I realised what it was that I'd seen all those years ago. It was the Vervoids talking and/or lurking - they did that a lot! After that though, my first clear memory is watching the last part of Time and the Rani and Paradise Towers. As a child, I was completely hooked, and always made sure I watched it every week after that! Having seen them again recently, they aren't the best examples of Who, but they certainly drew me in at the age of 8! McCoy was my Doctor, and I saw all the rest of his tenure when it was airing. I even started getting DWM when Season 25 was starting, and did so for the next couple of years. But then, when it went off air, I drifted away until about '93 (that year again!), when I suddenly got back into it in a big way! I met one of my best friends through a mutual appreciation of the show, and that's what drew me back in again. Around 2001 I began to drift away again (Uni, girls, life - the usual things that cause one to move on!), but just as the new series started my interest came back with a vengeance, and I've never looked back.

Why do you want to write Who fiction? What's the pull to write fanfic in general, and Whofic in particular?
Who fiction is something I've always done on and off since about the mid-Nineties (though more off than on admittedly), and the reason I want to write it is because there are so many stories than can be told with the tools available. It's like being in a toyshop and having completely free reign! You can literally do anything with it, and that's where the appeal lies for me. Nothing is too fantastical, and you already have an in-built mythology to use as you see fit. In some ways that makes it easier to write than other fiction, though in others it can be more difficult.

I think people's desire to write fanfic stems for the genuine love and admiration that people have for programmes like Doctor Who. I'm sure if Sydney Newman were alive and knew of the massive appeal that the show still had he'd be truly gobsmacked! It's all bourne out of love for the show and attempting to imitate and broaden the ideas that it presents. In general terms this is true across all sorts of shows, though I think science fiction certainly has the edge as there aren't so many limitations. As regards Doctor Who specifically they are even fewer limitations, and I can see why that holds a huge amount of appeal.

Favourite Doctor? Why?
A very very hard question. Ask my ten year old self and he'd say Sylvester McCoy, and quite rightly as he was my Doctor. Ask me now and it's a much trickier question to answer. I've always said my two absolute favourites are Davision and Troughton. What I love about Davison is that he was the first to portray the 'old-man-in-a-young-man's-body', and he does so brilliantly. He cares a great deal for the welfare of his companions, yet is constantly - though not intentionally - putting them in danger! I know the same could be said for all Doctors, but how many lose a companion in such a tragic manner? Added to that he's full of energy and enthusiasm, and the viewer gets completely caught up in it! This is also true of Troughton's Doctor, but what appeals about him is the wonderfully excitable persona he has, though balancing humour and seriousness perfectly. In addition, he and Jamie have one of the best relationships of any Doctor and companion.

Now, this is where it gets tricky. I've been watching a lot of Hartnell recently, and he is absolutely brilliant. He may make mistakes (such was the nature of production back then), but he can seem truly alien at times and is completely mesmerising. Watching The Aztecs, or listening to The Massacre and his justifications for not preventing deaths are such that you can see why his companions are often at odds with him. Yet, he can be truly touching. Witness the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth and the start of The Rescue where he is caught up in thought about Susan's departure; or when Ian and Barbara leave at the end of The Chase - initially he's very angry, but only because he cares; or when Steven storms out of the TARDIS at the end of The Massacre, the Doctor coming to terms with being alone and musing on returning home. Not only that, but he can do comedy (The Romans, The Myth Makers, The Gunfighters) and drama (The Aztecs, The Crusade, The Savages) in equal measure. The original, and one of the best. Maybe the best!

I love Pertwee, as he's a complete change to Troughton - a man of action, and given a perfect foil in the Brigadier. Add to that the very touching relationship between him and Jo and you've another classic pairing.
So much has been said about Baker, and he does have distinct periods. I love the melancholic final season, the man almost knowing he's lived this life too long, change just around the corner. Then again, early Baker has yet another fantastic partnership with Sarah-Jane, so there's much to love there too!

Colin Baker is still much underrated, and were this a 'favourite audio Doctor' he'd win hands down. Big Finish have done so much with the character and made him truer to Colin's original wish to portray him that he's like a different person. Truly brilliant!

I still love McCoy. Manipulator that the 7th Doctor was, he had more mystery about him than the others, and this truly helped to make his incarnation special. He also has - in my opinion - some of the finest stories in the whole series.

McGann is great - the best thing about the TVM. His audios are very, very good too, but I've not heard enough to truly make him a favourite of mine. Eccleston was good but brief, Tennant was superb (just a shame about his finale...) and I'm loving Matt Smith so far (he's a potential front-runner too!).

So, in conclusion....I'm not sure! But, to not wimp out, right now I'm going to pick Hartnell (though it'll probably change by tomorrow!).

Favourite companion? Why?
Hopefully this won't be so long-winded! Sarah-Jane will always be up there, just because of the fantastic partnership she had with the Doctor. For similar reasons I have to nominate Donna too, as her and Ten made a fantastic team - such a shame it was cut short! I've been really enjoying Amy too - very feisty and firey, harking back to Sarah-Jane actually! Even though she's not technically a companion (or is she?), I love, love, LOVE River Song! The idea of someone the Doctor meets, out of sequence, and who has this mysterious back-story is intriguing and exciting, and she's another strong female character. Gotta love 'em!

As for the fellas, Ian and Steven are both very strong characters, and revisiting them recently shows just how good they are. I've got to mention Jamie too, for what would the Second Doctor's era be without him?

Top 5 Doctor Who stories? Why do you like them?
Why did I say 5? Oh well, I'll have a go! In no particular order then:
Nightshade. I love this story to pieces. It was the first New Adventure I read, and I was completely blown away by how good it was. If any other novels are remade for the show, this would be number one for me.
Spare Parts. Davison is fantastic, as is Sarah Sutton. The story is gripping yet horrifying, and you're always hoping the inevitable won't happy, but it does. Truly brilliant.
Warriors' Gate. So unlike any other Doctor Who story (aside from, perhaps The Mind Robber, but only superficially), it looks gorgeous, it has humour, drama, and some great perfomances. Beautiful.
Terror of the Zygons. The greatest monsters never to return (yet!). I don't care about the Skarasen - it's got shape-changing aliens in an organic spaceship!
Blink. Terrifying. Truly and utterly jump-out-of-your-seat Doctor Who. Without much Doctor in it! That Steven Moffat's a clever chap, maybe he should be in charge! Oh....

Favourite author/s? Favourite book/s? (don't have to be Who-related)
Graham Greene is a perennial favourite, Brighton Rock and The Power and the Glory being two of my favourite novels. I love the crime author Elmore Leonard for his use of authentic sounding dialogue, a favourite novel he's written being either Touch or Out of Sight. I enjoy Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke and James Ellroy too. Aside from crime fiction, I enjoy the work of Dickens and Wells, and David Lodge (whom I need to read more of). Oh, and Stephen Fry, particularly Making History.

What do you like about Doctor Who? What keeps you hooked?
The sheer variety of it. There's nothing quite like it, and the only limitations placed on it are those of the writers. It appeals to young and old, and it will continue to do so as it can constantly change and evolve.

What would be your top writing tip?
One that I've heard more than once, but I'm going to echo it: always have a notebook handy. Many's the time I've had ideas and had nothing to write them in and completely forgotten them later on. Always have something you can jot things down in - you never know when inspiration will strike!

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