In this month's Doctor Who Magazine, there was a preview of my Sarah Jane Adventures audiobook, Deadly Download, which was released on November 4. The writer, David Darlington, kindly agreed to let me run the full interview, from which quotes were plucked for the magazine piece. Here goes...
First up, I believe it's your first Doctor Who-related long fiction to see publication, though you've been hovering round the franchise for a while (including Doctor Who Magazine itself, obviously - you needn't think I'm not going to mention that!) But you have, I believe, worked in other franchises and in developing your own completely original work... so what's the appeal of 'playing with other peoples toys'...?
"Outside of Whosville, I wrote the Friday The 13th novel Hate-Kill-Repeat for New Line Cinema; worked on a web drama series called Tempting Fates; wrote the short films Ghost Writer and Look At Me; some radio comedy; and, most recently, a supernatural horror feature film called Stormhouse which was shot in England this Summer.
"In Whosville, I’ve written the Fourth Doctor short Christmas Every Day for Short Trips: Christmas Around The World; the forthcoming audio short The Lions Of Trafalgar for an as-yet-undetermined audio Short Trips collection; and the title-story of December’s BF collection The Demons Of Red Lodge & Other Stories.
"So yes, this is indeed my first DW-related long fiction to see publication, which is very exciting. The appeal of playing with other people’s toys depends entirely on the quality of the toys – and in writing a Sarah Jane Adventures story you’re dealing with a proper icon in Sarah Jane herself. So it’s been wonderful to create a brand new story for her and the gang."
Without going into more detail than you need to – what kind of story are we talking here?
"As its title might suggest, Deadly Download concerns an alien attack via the internet. Sarah Jane’s super-computer Mr Smith alerts her to some highly abnormal internet activity on Bannerman Road, plunging the team into a whirlwind of exploding computers and airborne menace! This invasion turns out to have an unexpected connection with the corporate world. While I’d never want to write a preachy ‘Hey kids, don’t do this!’ kind of story, Deadly Download might well have the side-effect of making younger listeners think twice before chatting to strangers online..."
Working within the Sarah Jane brand, presumably the format, the branding and the length presumably all place their ownvery stringent constraints on what you can or can't do in terms of storytelling - has to be short, to be family-friendly etc. Add to that the fact that the series is generally Earth-bound... is it harder, do you think, to devise stories for this format than for, say, Doctor Who itself, where the canvas and the possibilites are both so much broader...?
"Funnily enough, infinite possibilities are the writer’s enemy. When tasked to create a Doctor Who, with no given parameters, a writer is likely to be paralysed by the vast array of choices they face! So Sarah Jane Adventures’ tighter format actually makes it easier to devise stories. The real fun, of course, comes in satisfying the brief and fitting that mould, while hopefully delivering some things that the series hasn’t done before. It’s been nice to write a story with a technological theme, which also touches on how the art of face-to-face human interaction seems to be on the decline."
Knowing that your story will be read by a single reader (and in the likely knowledge that Lis Sladen will probably be the reader) - what impact does that have on the writing and/or the story's development...?
"Elisabeth Sladen’s voice will forever provide a wonderful link to my childhood, when I watched her and Tom Baker in Doctor Who – and then heard them again on the audio cassette recordings which my family made - so it’s a truly surreal experience to write for that voice. It’s a really lovely voice to write for – warm, brave, kind and gutsy all at once."
"I absolutely loved this job, trust me! Given that these audio stories are effectively long shorts, I really wanted Deadly Download to hit the ground running early on, with the threat quickly established. I have quite a short attention span, so I’m always really keen to keep things moving throughout a story – and my fine editor John Ainsworth really drove me to wring the most excitement out of the technological, internet-based mayhem! Besides all of that, there’s something about the Sarah Jane Adventures’ world which is just
Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures: Deadly Download at Planet Gallifrey here.
Deadly Download can be ordered at Amazon UK here, for a mere £4.47. Blimey-Christ!