Una McCormack Q&A – Doctor Who: Royal Blood
Today I am delighted to welcome Una McCormack. Una’s latest novel , Royal Blood, is one the three new Doctor Who titles from BBC Books. Featuring the 12th Doctor and Clara Oswald, Royal Blood forms part of the Glamour Chronicles trilogy.
Shall we start with an easy one? What can we expect The Doctor and Clara to encounter in Royal Blood?
The Doctor and Clara arrive in the mediaeval city of Varuz to discover that the technology is far more advanced than they would expect, and that the city is facing the threat of an invasion. They both try to prevent war breaking out – but things are complicated when a figure from Earth legend, Lancelot, arrives, in search of the Holy Grail.
The three new Doctor Who titles just released, your book and those by Trevor and Gary are all part of a story arc which brings The Doctor into contact with The Glamour. What is the Glamour and does it pose a threat to the TARDIS crew?
The Glamour is very mysterious. It can take many forms, and look very different to different people, but its chief property is that people want to possess it. This makes it very dangerous, and very hard to fight.
How much co-ordination has to take place between three authors before you all begin writing to ensure that The Glamour is defined correctly and the plotlines all tie in?
Although they’re connected by the Glamour, and are best read in a particular order, the three books do stand alone quite well. The series consultant, Justin Richards, and the project editor, Steve Tribe, did the co-ordination of the projects. I’ve worked on other projects, such as the Star Trek series The Fall, where the five authors collaborated through a kind of email ‘writers’ room’. We had a lot of ideas and information flying to and fro!
How do you get to be one of the Doctor Who authors? Do you approach the team and pitch an idea or are you invited to contribute?
For the first book, I approached the editorial team and asked to write. I had a long background in writing TV tie-in novels from the work I’d done on the Star Trek books, and this stood me in good stead. The turnaround can very tight on these kind of books, so they want to know that you can write them quickly while maintaining quality. I’ve been invited back for subsequent books.
You have previously written two 11th Doctor Novels. Did it feel different writing for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor rather than Matt Smith? The two actors clearly have different approaches to the character but ultimately it is still The Doctor who is the hero.
There were definitely differences. Matt Smith’s is a very physical performance, with lots of hand-flapping and jumping around – you have to find a way to convey that through the prose. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is very focused, quite grumpy – but often missing things around him that seem obvious. At the same time you have to convey something essentially ‘Doctorish’ about the character – never cowardly or cruel, always kind.
Are there any classic monsters that you would like to write into a future story?
Does the history of the show add an extra element of pressure when you write or do you find the backstory makes it much easier to position a situation and drop in the characters we know so well?
I try not to let the history of the show interfere with the story I’m telling. I don’t go out of my way to ignore it or contradict it, but I want the stories in books to have their own momentum rather than rely on knowledge of the series. The readership of these books can be quite young, 8-14, so you want to make sure that these readers are enjoying the books. They might not have seen Doctor Who before!
I am in my early 40’s and can just about remember watching K-9, scenes from the Leisure Hive, City of Death and State of Decay. But everything from Logopolis onward! Can you pin down your earliest memories of Doctor Who?
I am also in my early 40s, but my earliest memory is of Jon Pertwee’s final story, ‘Planet of the Spiders’. I was very frightened by the Buddhist chanting. I’m still slightly frightened by Buddhists.
Finally, if you could pair any of the Doctor’s incarnations with any of his companions who would you like to write an adventure for?
What an interesting question! I’d like to write Tegan. I could imagine her being grumpy at most of the Doctor’s incarnations, but it might be fun to see if she could out-cross the Twelfth Doctor!
My profound thanks to Una for taking time to answer my questions. If there is any way that 12th Doctor/Tegan meeting could happen I suspect it would make a lot of people very happy!