Interview: Five Minutes With Paul Cornell
Today I am honoured to the extreme to have Paul Cornell over for a quick chat. Paul is a British writer best known for his work in television drama as well as Doctor Who fiction, and as the creator of one of the Doctor’s spin-off companions, Bernice Summerfield. As well as Doctor Who, other television dramas for which he has written include Robin Hood, Primeval, Casualty, Holby City and Coronation Street. Cornell has also written for a number of British comics, as well as Marvel Comics and DC Comics in America, and has had two original novels published in addition to his Doctor Who fiction. His latest novel London Falling, is due to be released on 06 Dec 2012. And I for one am looking forward to reading it.
I’m a writer of science fiction and fantasy in many different media. I’m probably still best known for doing some Doctor Who episodes, but I’ve also done high profile comics work for Marvel and DC, been Hugo-nominated for my short stories, and these days seek to be first and foremost a novelist. My wife and I have just had our first child, so I’m very tired. (The nappies are my job.)
What does the term Urban Fantasy mean to you?
It’s one of those useful genre descriptions that isn’t quite what the name suggests, in that ‘urban’ stands for neither, necessarily, ‘in a city’ or ‘modern’. It forms a bridge between Fantasy and Horror and takes from both, so UF stands for two names that would be more accurate: ‘Not The Sort of Fantasy With Elves And Quests, Though It Can Have Both, But You Know What We Mean’ and ‘Horror Where The Protagonist Will Probably Survive And In Doing So Kick Arse’.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Christopher Priest, China Mieville, Geoff Ryman, John Scalzi, Stephen Baxter, Mary Robinette Kowal, BB, Brian Aldiss, John Le Carre.
What are you reading now?
I’m always in the middle of two or three books at once. Right now it’s A Monster Calls, David Brin’s Existence and Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine.
How would you describe your writing style?
I have a hard time looking at it from the outside. I try and be simple and to the point, but deliberately let myself go on occasion, usually for the sake of description.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I will write 2000 words of prose, or five pages of comics or television. Often these days I have to double dip. Especially with the new baby, I have to fit that amount of work in where I can, but with the hormones and staying at home I find I’ve actually been able to keep writing pretty well. I try to be able to just sit down and start writing wherever I am, but sometimes laziness gets in the way of that. I’m proud of my work ethic.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
In prose, the new novel, London Falling. I think it both cracks along and has some weight to it, like an intelligent thriller should. In comics, Knight and Squire, my DC miniseries about the British approach to super heroes, and Saucer Country, my Vertigo series about UFO mythology and politics. In television, ‘Human Nature’ for Doctor Who.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
London Falling is ‘The Bill does Buffy‘, about a modern undercover Metropolitan Police team who suddenly find they can see the dark magic and the monsters of London. They freak out for a while, but finally decide they have to carry on, and start using real police methods against the unknown. It gives me a chance to do a proper thriller, with twists and cliffhangers, that’s still a proper novel with things going on under the surface. And I’m fond of my small team of central characters, who bring with them a lot of dry copper humour. Lisa Ross, the intelligence analyst, is someone I’m very proud of creating. A load of research went into it, giving me the chance to get to know some fascinating people, who I’m largely not allowed to identify. Right now, I’m writing the sequel, which is a new case for them (I’m thinking crime series format, with a new operation each time and continuing backstory, rather than fantasy trilogy format, so you always get a proper ending), broadening out the world they find themselves in, with the involvement of MI5 and a trip into the corridors of power. It also features a prominent real life guest star who I can’t as yet name. I’m nearly at the end, so I’m in the ‘whizzing through prose as the plot comes together’ phase, and hugely enjoying myself. I hope that enjoyment conveys itself to the reader.
If you enjoyed this interview and fancy reading some of Paul’s excellent work, then please consider purchasing his book via the link below. The small cut I cut I get from that goes a long way in keeping this blog active.