AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL MAGRS
Today folks, I am proud to have author Paul Magrs over for a chat. Today is the official launch date of Paul’s new book 666 Charing Cross Road
GNOH – Can you give us a little bit of backgroundinformation on yourself?
I grew up in theNorth East of England in the 70s and 80s, and I loved Doctor Who and horror andscience fiction. I went to university in Lancaster and trained to become acritic, but I was writing my novels at the same time. I began publishing mywork in 1995, with my first novel – ‘Marked For Life’ – a magical realist storyset in the north. Since then I’ve been writing novels for young adults,children, grown-ups – and some for Doctor Who fans.
GNOH – You have an MA in Creative Writing, did you do the MAfor purpose of helping you becoming a full time writer?
I think MAs teachpeople how to be resourceful and resilient – and to write for their firstaudience. After doing mine I spent a great many years teaching similar coursesat the University of East Anglia and Manchester Metropolitan. I think they’regreat things to do, those courses, but they aren’t easy and it’s not an instantpassport into anything.
GNOH – You started work on your The Phoenix Court Trilogy,you describe this as a northern magical realist romance, what exactly do youmean by this?
I meant that, thoughmy fiction was based in the down-to-earth lives of ordinary characters, therewere occasional moments of out-and-out fantasy that touches their lives. Justas in the novels of South American magical realist writers, such as GabrielGarcia Marquez or Isabel Allende.
GNOH – A lot of the inspiration for the book came from yoursurroundings and the people around you. Do you think it’s important to base a novel with fantasy elements withsome degree of reality?
Yes, I think it hasto work like that. Or rather, the characters have to be believable and if theyare, we can accept all sorts of strange things happening to them.
GNOH – Looking back at the book after all these years, howdo you feel about it?
I think it’s anaudacious book, in many ways. Sexy and magical. And I’m amazed that my earlierbooks were so much shorter.
GNOH – The book is no longer in print, I have alwayswondered, how does a writer feel about this? And how do you feel about your older books, years down the line, do youtreat them like children, or do you look upon more as a wild animal you havereleased into the wild?
It’s a bit likeheading into wintry woods, making new footprints – but your old ones are beingerased by the snow falling behind you.
GNOH – Do you have any plans to reissue the trilogy?
Yes, there areplans! Can’t say anything yet!
GNOH – How much does the experiences of writing the trilogystill linger with you, and does it still resonate through your newer works?
It’s a trilogy abouttime, love, friendship – and the extent to which we are allowed to reinventourselves and our lives. I think everything I have written has been about thosethemes. I’m glad that I knew right from the start what I was writing about!
GNOH – You perhaps best known foryour two series of novels, The Brenda and Effie series, and the Iris Wildthymeseries, which we chat about in a bit. But you have also written for Dr Who. I take it your like me and have been a life long fan of the good Dr?
Yes, from my earliest memories of Jon Pertwee’s final series – withdinosaurs, daleks and giant spiders – and being slowly mesmerized by TomBaker’s early years.
GNOH – How did you come to writefor Dr Who?
In 1997 I’d published 2 literary novels and a collection of shortstories and I wrote to bbc books to let them know that I would absolutely loveto write a novel for the new Eighth Doctor series of novels, continuing fromthe Paul Mcgann TV movie. Steve Cole was the brilliant editor who bought myfirst Doctor who work – and we became the friends we are now just aboutstraight away. ‘The Scarlet Empress’ was the result of that original enquiry –another audacious book, I think – and it was published in 1998.
GNOH – You have written fivebooks in total, do you have a favourite out of these novels?
Hard to say… but I think out of my Who books, The Scarlet Empress mustbe my fave. I felt like I could go anywhere with it, do anything. It was thesummation of my life in Doctor Who so far, and everything I’d thought about itand imagined.
GNOH – You written some Dr Whoaudiobooks as well, do you get to go into the studio and meet the cast?
I started doing these in 2001, when Paul McGann first came back as theDoctor to record my ‘Stones of Venice.’ But I never actually went to arecording of anything until 2009 and the first day of recording on ‘Hornets’Nest’ for BBC Audio. It was Tom Baker’s first day back as Doctor Who after 28years and it was a major event. I took him a bag of jelly babies I’d bought inCovent Garden.
GNOH – So who is your favouriteDr, and what do you think of the new series?
Tom Baker will always be my favourite. He was ‘my’ Doctor at the time,from being six years old. Also, as good as the others might be, you still knowthat they are an actor playing a part. Tom really is the Doctor…
GNOH – You have also written ayoung adult book, can you tell us about that?
I published five Young Adult novels. Some were comic horror, such as‘Hands up!’ which is about a homicidal puppet called Tolstoy – who is afoul-mouthed, scraggy, long-eared bat who sets about a killing spree of otherfamous puppets. My most recent one is ‘Diary of a Dr Who Addict’ which is abouta boy of twelve, obsessed with Doctor Who and writing his own stories.
GNOH – Can you tell us what theBrenda books are about?
The Brenda and Effie Mysteries – there are five of them so far, withmore to come – are about the adventures of two old dames who live in Whitby.Brenda runs a B+B and Effie owns the junk shop next door. Their adventures aremacabre, gothic and funny. Like a cross between Miss Marple, Buffy andsometimes, The Rocky Horror Show. They investigate spooky mysteries, whichleads them to doing battle with vampires, demons, Mrs Claus who runs theChristmas Hotel, and garden furniture possessed by the spirit of an ancientalien god.
GNOH – Brenda is the Bride ofFrankenstein, am I right or is that giving too much away?
It’s fair enough to reveal that secret! Yes, Brenda is the Bride twohundred years on. Like many women of a certain age, once abandoned by the menin her life, she found it necessary to pull herself together (literally!) andstart all over again. She now lives in Whitby, runs her guest house, and triesto keep her head down. However, she and Effie have a habit of straying intohorrific encounters…
GNOH – The characters and booksare extremely well loved by the fans, do they have a special place in yourheart?
Oh, yes. Of course! Recently someone asked me if I oughtn’t to ‘return’to writing ‘literary fiction’ like I used to. Maybe that means fiction withfewer genre effects and tropes? Brenda and Effie have every genre trope going!Anyway, I thought about that question for a little while – and realised thatI’d rather write books that readers loved.People admire literary fiction… but I don’t think they love it. Not in the sameway. I get some lovely emails from readers who want to join the ladies on theiradventures, and those who just want to read more about them!
GNOH – Can you read the storiesas standalone novels or do you need to read the whole series to get the mostfrom them?
Hopefully you can step into the series anywhere. But naturally I wantyou to read the whole lot!
GNOH – How would you describe thebooks, in terms of style and genre. I’vealways struggled when asked to describe them?
They are Comic Gothic. Easy as that!
GNOH – Iris Wildthyme has seen some action, shefirst appeared in your Dr Who series of books driving a red Routemasterbus. Did you have to get permission touse her after these books, or was the character always your property? I can’t think of anther instance of an authordoing this?
She was mine from the start! And after she appeared in the Doctor Whonovels I made sure I had every right to use her elsewhere – so that she canappear in the Big Finish Audio series of plays about her, the Obverse Bookshort story collections, and my own novels, published by Snowbooks. She’sdeveloped a long way from her earlier appearances in Who-related fiction. She’sbecome her own cult!
GNOH – So who exactly is IrisWildthyme?
As Katy Manning – who plays her on audio – says: she’s a cosmic ratbag.She’s the spirit of rock and roll and adventure wrapped up in the form of atransdimensional adventuress. She smokes loads of fags and drinks gin and sherackets about the Multiverse in her bus – the Number 22 to Putney Common. Andwhen she gets into an adventure she usually leaves everything in a worse statethan when she began!
GNOH – And who is Panda?
Her best friend – an art critic and all-round bon vivant. Panda is a ten inch tall stuffed toy whosomehow walks and talks and has an eye for the ladies. Iris and Panda bickerlike crazy, but love each other really.
GNOH – Where would you suggestsomeone should start if they want to hop on aboard her bus?
I think someone new to Iris and her adventures should start with mynovel, ‘Enter Wildthyme’.
GNOH – Have we seen the last ofIris, Brenda and Effie?
Never! Though some of my characters may take a rest from time to time,as I revisit others, or start a new lot going. That’s the beauty of having aroster of characters like that. Plus, having them cross over, which issomething I love to do.
GNOH – You have just recentlyreleased your new novel 666 Charing Cross Road. Is this a play on 84 Charring Cross Road?
Yes: both involve a bookshop on that famous street.
GNOH – So what is the book about?
It’s about ancient magic in the form of an old Grimoire being sent toan old lady bibliophile in New York City. Liza Bathory manages to unleash thisevil magic upon her friends and family during Thanksgiving one year. Herniece’s snooty British boyfriend is possessed by a long-inactive vampire andstarts vamping up an army of his own undead followers. It’s a big, sexy Gothicromp set in midtown Manhattan.
GNOH – How does it differ to yourother books stylistically?
I think it’s just a further development of my style – lots of adventureand funny dialogue; and an ensemble cast of sometimes outrageous but verybelievable characters. For me, though, it marks a change in that it’s the firstof my books to be set mostly in New York, which was great fun to do.
GNOH – How would you describe,the vampires in the book?
The New York vampires that we see are like models out of perfumeadverts. Rather languid and sexy by day, but then they turn rather nasty atnight. When the action moves to London we get allsorts of vamps: some rising upfrom the Thames, out of history; up from underneath the graves and pavingstones of the city…
GNOH – Have you tried to avoid alot of the clichés associated with vampires, or did you pick a favouritevampire mythos and work on that?
I’ve worked out my own vampire mythos in my books that I try to keepconsistent. It uses some of the clichés, and subverts others. It’s a fun thingto pick and choose from. Eg, I don’t have them explode in daylight, becausethat cuts down the number of scenes you can have them in…
GNOH – How did you balance thehumour in the novel, were you ever concerned about being to humorous?
I like to maintain a nice balance between humour and horror andadventure and moments of real emotion. I never write belly laughs or deliberatejokiness anyway. I hope all my comedy arises from the characters and how theywould genuinely would react in these heightened moments.
GNOH – Is this going to be astandalone novel or have you other books planned?
We’ll have to see! I’ve got ideas for further adventures… But I alsohave new characters clamouring…
GNOH – So what does the futurehold for you?
There’s another Iris Wildthyme novel coming along – but first there arethe five volumes of the AudioGo Audio drama, ‘Doctor Who – Serpent Crest’. Theseries will come out monthly until this Christmas. Tom Baker and a wonderfulcast of guest stars. This has taken most of this year to write and record and Ithink the team has done a wonderful job.
GNOH – Paul, many thanks forpopping over for a chat, I always enjoy chatting with a fellow Dr Whofanatic.
YOU CAN PURCHASE PAUL’S WORK BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW OR BY SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL BOOK STORE BY BUYING SOMETHING MORE THAN JUST COFFEE