Interview with @BlueBoxAlliance! #WhoAgainstBullying #BlastBullying #BlueBoxAlliance #DoctorWho #cosplay @WizardWorld @whoandcompany #doctorwhoislife

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Next up is the amazing Blue Box Alliance, who have an important message to share with Doctor Who fans. Today their founder, Jeremy Wheeler, will talk to us about some of the different ways one can participate in the fandom including cosplay, fan-films, podcast, comic cons, and .

Welcome!

Question 1): What part of the world do you come from?

bluebox1I (Jeremy Wheeler) currently reside in a small river city town in eastern Kentucky called Ashland. However, most of the members of Blue Box Alliance reside in Columbus, OH. One member lives in Florida, and another in British Columbia, Canada. We also have a small group of members in the United Kingdom.

Question 2): When did you become a fan of Doctor Who?

I was born during the middle of Tom Baker’s era as Doctor Who (1978), and my earliest memories of TV as a child were watching Doctor Who late Saturday nights on PBS. My oldest sister watched it every week along with Star Trek. She is a zealous sci-fi fan. I remember watching Doctor Who until Peter Davison took over the role in 1982, and I was confused why the Doctor didn’t look like the floofy haired one that I first knew. I didn’t know how the show worked, and I wasn’t aware that the Doctor regenerated and changed looks when mortally wounded.

Fast forward to 2013. I was a senior in college at Marshall University, and a number of my fellow classmates were enamored with the new Doctor Who. I was surprised to learn that the show was still on the air after many years, because I quit watching it in the early 80s. After being pressed to watch Doctor Who I finally gave in to the pressure. I learned that a 50th Anniversary Special was airing in a few months, and I had some time to catch up on Doctor Who leading up to the show. I binge-watched all the “new” Doctor Who I could find, and quickly became a fan of Chris Eccleston as the Doctor. I was a bit disappointed that he regenerated after only one season, but it explained to me how and why the Doctor changes his appearance from time to time.

The big day of the 50th Anniversary special came, and I was glued to my TV all day watching the festivities live on BBC America. Although I was slightly caught up on “new Who,” there were still a ton of story arcs I wasn’t familiar with (River Song in particular).

Imagine my surprise when “The Great Curator” came on the screen during the final scene of the 50th anniversary special. The moment I saw Tom Baker make a cameo as a Doctor-Not-Doctor character made me weep with tears, because in that moment MY Doctor was on screen. I wept with joy and excitement, and in that precise moment I became a dedicated and rabid fan of the show, and it’s been a upward spiral of joy ever since then.

Question 3): Who is your Doctor?

As already alluded to before, my only exposure to Doctor Who that I watched regularly was Tom Baker – the 4th Doctor Who. Perhaps it was his childlike nature, or his floofy hair, or his colorful scarf. Or maybe it was his robot dog K-9 that kept my attention. Whatever it was, the 4th Doctor is and always will be Doctor Who for me.

Question 4): What started your interest in cosplay?

I suppose cosplay was something I was mildly aware of that existed, but I assumed that it was for hobbyists with ample disposable income to burn. I mean, creating costumes requires a talent I don’t have, and money that I didn’t have either. It also requires plenty of money to buy tickets so you can show off those awesome costumes at conventions. It wasn’t until I fully immersed myself in to Doctor Who fan communities online that cosplay became fully aware to me, and that fans spent very little, or no money at all constructing props and costumes with whatever they could find. Of course, I also discovered that fans were hiring professional costume makers to make their costumes too.

21765180_491947221183001_5851959713668637794_nWhen I discovered some comic and pop-expo conventions were making their way close to where I live I decided to research the cost of costumes and props, and then I easily chose the 4th Doctor to be my one and only form of cosplay. I didn’t act immediately, though. I spent a couple of years trying to piece together the right 4th Doctor costume, but found it nearly impossible to find any jacket that resembled the ones Tom Baker wore, and I also found it nearly impossible to knit my own colorful scarf like the 4th Doctor wore. I wasn’t aware at the time that there were online vendors who custom make scarves and other bits and pieces for cosplayers to dress up as their favorite Doctor. I discovered online cosplay retailers just a couple of years ago, and saved the right amount of money purchasing a wig that closely resembles the 4th Doctor’s curly hair, and a costume that is as screen accurate as I can afford to get.

Question 5): How important is it to you to have authentic materials and patterns for your cosplays?

At first, having as costume and props that were as screen accurate as I could get was a top priority. But when the challenge of finding patterns and materials for some of the 4th Doctor’s vests and jackets proved to be an impossible feat, I gave up and settled for just finding costumes as close to screen-accurate as I can get. Plus, only professional cosplayers who compete in contests are more concerned with authenticity and accuracy when it comes to their contests. Since I do not compete in contests, I have settled for just looking as close to the 4th Doctor as possible without having vests and pants that match the exact same ones as the Doctor wore in the 70s and early 80s.

DZenmnHVwAMJZDBAs a mission dedicated to STOP BULLYING, our mission isn’t to impress other cosplayers or compete in contests, but to share a message of love and acceptance. Everyone who has ever encountered us at a convention has never ridiculed us about anything minor as a costume inaccuracy, because they realize we represent a group who loves Doctor Who and is only concerned with giving fellow Doctor Who fans with an experience of meeting the Doctor and his/her companions as they’ll ever get. Casual convention attendees don’t grade you or care if your vest matches perfectly, or if your costume is screen-accurate or not. They see someone dressed as one of their favorite characters and they are content with that, and so are we.

Even our TARDIS prop is not screen accurate. We built a TARDIS using plans and blue prints from a woodworker who designed a generalized TARDIS. Since we have so many variations of the Doctor at all of our appearances, having a TARDIS design that is specific to one Doctor and not another didn’t seem fair or economically possible. Instead, we erred on the side of building a generic version of the TARDIS that fits all the variations of the Doctor and not just one. And as usual, when fans of Doctor Who see our TARDIS at a convention, they never comment with “that’s not the TARDIS from [insert a Doctor’s name here] era.” It’s always, “Oh wow! Look! The TARDIS! Can I get a picture with it?” Of course, we oblige. Selfies with our TARDIS are always free, by the way.

Question 6): What inspired you to start Blue Box Alliance?

I give credit to two factors: 1. Mr. Ronn Smith, creator of the YouTube series “Doctor Who: The Classic Series Regenerated.” and 2. Heroes 4 Higher (a DC and Marvel Cosplay group dedicated to speaking out against drug abuse, bullying, substance abuse).

Ronn Smith is a fellow fourth Doctor cosplayer, and when I watched his YouTube video for the first time I though, “I’d love to do this!” A couple of years later, Ronn and I crossed paths on social media and we connected. I learned he lived not too far from me, and we met a couple of times so I could learn more about what he has done with his YouTube series, and what he plans to do in the future. Ronn is just as eager a fan of the fourth Doctor as I am, and so we quickly became good friends.

Heroes 4 Highter, LLC is a group that I have observed locally for quite some time. John Buckland is a former military firefighter who is retired and now spends his time cosplaying as Batman. He visits sick and injured children in hospitals, speaks at schools and churches, and also drives around in a replica Batmobile that he has dubbed “The Hope Mobile.” Because of their efforts, and the changes in people’s lives that they’ve made, I became inspired to assemble a group of people who had the passion and vision to do the same thing.

Unfortunately, I’m not a passionate fan of DC or any other comicbook characters, but I knew I wanted to do something similar to Heroes 4 Higher. The only logical thing I knew to do was find a group of fellow Doctor Who fans who was interested in social activism, and who wanted to represent the Doctor Who brand with a strong message of just being kind to other people.

I also work in the public education system, and seeing young students be victims of bullying was something that tugged at my heart. After initially conceptualizing my idea to combine Doctor Who, teaching, activism, and a desire to change people’s lives, Blue Box Alliance was born.

In November of 2016, I joined a few private Doctor Who cosplay fan forums announcing my vision of connecting Doctor Who cosplayers who wanted to speak out about the issue of bullying. Only one or two people responded, but fortunately they were very close to where I lived, and we connected and further conceptualized what is now known as Blue Box Alliance.

In the Spring and Summer of 2017 we started making appearances at as many conventions we could get ourselves in to. Some conventions invited us as guests, and others we had to petition to become participants in. Wizard World in Columbus, Ohio was our big break.

During the Columbus show, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, and John Barrowman were booked as guests. The majority of the convention attendees were there specifically to meet the tenth Doctor and his most popular companions. Of course, we had a prime location that intersected with the lines that lead to all three stars. With our TARDIS on display, and our various Doctor Who and related characters, we had a non-stop line requesting picture and photos with us and our TARDIS the entire weekend. Meanwhile, we were able to tell folks exactly who we were, what we were, and why we were doing what we were doing. The response and acceptance of our mission was openly positive, and since then we’ve continued to grow our online presence through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Question 7): How can Doctor Who fans help spread the word about #WhoAgainstBullying?

DZenmnHVwAMJZDBWe are active on all of our social media platforms. Doctor Who fans can first follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @BlueBoxAlliance. We are easy to find.

Next, in the coming months we will be premiering our very first Doctor Who fan-film that fans can share. The show will present a strong message about friendship and battling bullying.

Another way Doctor Who fans can help spread the word is using the hashtag #WhoAgainstBullying or #BlastBullying along with #BlueBoxAlliance.

Question 8): The Blue Box Alliance was a guest at Wizard World Columbus. How did that come about?

bluebox2It was a pure stroke of luck for us since we were just getting started in early 2017. Fortunately, someone who’s a member of our group has a relative who follows Wizard World on Facebook. The powers-to-be posted on their page how they were looking for fan groups to appear as special guests at their 2017 Columbus show. I believe someone close to one of our members tagged us in the post, and within minutes a representative of Wizard World contacted us personally and invited us to be a part of the show.

Surprisingly we were a huge hit at the 2017 show. Of course, it helped that three top stars from Doctor Who were there that year. As the months grew closer to the 2018 Wizard World Columbus show I contacted the same representative who booked us the year prior, and she graciously allowed us back. Wizard World is our top favorite show, and we look forward to it each year.

Question 9): Recently I learned about Who and Company, which is a Doctor Who podcast. How can fans tune into this show and/or be a guest?

height_90_width_90_WHOandCompany-01Who & Company is an online podcast hosted by two American fans, Brent and Drew. The podcast is a fairly new show, but they cover all sorts of news regarding Doctor Who – classic Who, current series, and future series. The hosts found us on Twitter and were impressed with our #WhoAgainstBullying campaign and wanted to feature us as a guest.

We gladly went on to the show, and now we proudly support them in their effort as a top-tier Doctor Who podcast. Fans can tune in on Apple iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and everywhere else podcasts can be listened to.

If you want to be a guest on the show, you can contact Brad and Drew directly through twitter: @whoandcompany

Question 10): I understand you are also into making Doctor Who fan films. What decisions go into choosing a particular film to produce?

Producing a Doctor Who fan-film was a tough decision to make, because there are so many fan-films already online. Everyone out there who is a fan of the show is doing their very best with what they have to work with, and it’s fabulous what they are producing.

I’ve been working in independent film-making for a little over three years now. The first thing to consider when producing a movie, or a fan-film in particular, is “How do I make mine completely different from everyone else who’s making a Doctor Who fan-film?”

This was an easy answer to find. First, we wanted to write a script that would emphasize our strong stand against bullying. So what could we do with the Doctor that hasn’t been done before, or how could we re-do a scenerio the Doctor has faced before, but in a new way?

Most of the fan-films out there feature a unique and personal version of the Doctor. I’ve yet to see a Doctor Who fan-film that features an attempt at recreating one of the canonized Doctors we all know and enjoy. It’s usually someone creating their own version of the Doctor and exploring brand new stories with their extended universe version of Doctor Who.

In our Doctor Who fan-film we are focusing on the fourth Doctor; mainly, because I’ll be portraying him and we don’t want to have to develop a new version of the Doctor like other fan-films. Second, our story is set during an unknown period of the Doctor that we as fans may or may not ever know about. It’s an extended universe story, and it takes place following the Doctor’s departure from Leela, so he’s all alone traveling all of time and space as usual, but we don’t really know where and what the Doctor does in his down time between adventures, so we sort of explore that.

For the sake of our story, we chose to create new companions for our film. When you see our film you’ll understand why we chose to create all new companions, because our story takes place in a setting that the Doctor rarely ever goes to, if ever.

Next, we wanted our script to not only feature an exciting adventure and conflict for the Doctor to encounter, but we also wanted the script to feature a message. Our script isn’t just an adventure on just another planet with just some more companions facing just another threat. No. Our threat is real. We are relying heavily on magical realism in our film, and we hope the audience will lose themselves in the story. Of course, we don’t have hardly any money to spend on this project, so we hope the audience will be forgiving on the special effects side of things and focus more on the story.

Question 11): On social media you have posted about another Doctor Who fan film. Can you tell me a bit more about it and how fans can audition?

Our first attempt at a fan-film is a story called ‘THE CELESTIAL FRIENDMAKER.’ It’s an extended universe story featuring the fourth Doctor, and although he precisely set the TARDIS coordinates for another location, he somehow ends up in present day rural United States (2018/2019).

Meanwhile, two teenaged girls – Heidi and Amber – are at each other’s throats. Amber is the high school bully and she has it out for Heidi. But is there something more insidious behind Amber’s behavior towards Heidi, or is it just a part of the psycho-social order of teenaged development? Tune in to find out!

As the girls go at each other, a dark shadowy figure is following Heidi around until an encounter with the Doctor leads both girls to stop fighting each other for a moment and seek refuge for their lives from the dark shadow figure. Somehow, they make their way in to the TARDIS where the Doctor tries some conflict resolution between the young ladies in attempts to negotiate peace. When it seems like the negotiations are going to fail, the Doctor takes his time to both girls the value of life in only the way the Doctor can.

At the present, July 9th, we have most of the cast and crew of the fan film already in place. We do have space for the part of Amber, an adult teacher role (can be male or female), and the role of Heidi’s uncle Barry. It should be noted that this is a fan-film, and it’s as low budget as it comes. Everyone is strictly volunteer and must not anticipate financial compensation for acting or performing behind the scenes work for the film. The fan film will be release publicly and for free on YouTube and Vimeo for general audiences to enjoy.

Sixty-second audition videos, or requests for auditions, can be emailed to: postcardpoet@outlook.com

Question 12): What can we expect from you in the future?

We aren’t counting our chickens before they hatch, but the intent is to continue to create Doctor Who fan film content that fans will love and enjoy. We intend to write scripts that will carry a strong and encouraging message and lesson in each one.

Our hope to expand our presence nation and world wide. We understand that our efforts are a tad bit niche, but we can at least make a small impact on Doctor Who fans by emphasizing the principals of kindness, acceptance, love, laughter, and bravery.

We intent to attend and appear at more conventions where we will have our TARDIS and other props on display. Photos with us and our props are always free. We never charge for anything. We’re not out to make any money. We’ve been to conventions where other prop displays charge $25 or more for a non-professional photo with their TARDIS or other props. We’re not interested in profiting. We’re interested in rejoicing together with other Doctor Who fans, making friends with people who love the show as much as we do, and reminding people to “run fast, always be kind; hate is foolish, and love is always wise!”

Lastly, we hope to begin making presentations and taking our TARDIS and props to public schools and offering our services as entertainers and educators to where the heart of our mission is aimed.

Question 13): How can others find out more about you and your work?

Facebook is our primary way of advertising and interacting with fellow Doctor Who fans. We also post enlightening quotes from Doctor Who, and the latest statistics about bullying and its effects.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting videos discussing things relevant to Doctor Who and bullying, and that will be posted on our Facebook page as well.

We’re also active on Twitter and Instagram: @BlueBoxAlliance

We have a blog and tells a little bit more about us, and also features articles written by the members of Blue Box Alliance. You can check that out at:

http://BlueBoxAlliance.wordpress.com

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Thank you again, Jeremy! Fans, please make sure to check out their Word Press, and stay tuned next week when I sit down with Luke East from Reviewing Who to talk about reviewing Doctor Who, Big Finish Productions, etc!

How You Can Participate!

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#Interview with @TARDIScabinets! #DoctorWho #DrWho #TomBaker #Tardis #woodworking #doctorwhoislife

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Next up is the amazing Whovian cabinet maker, Gary Dorr, of Tardis Cabinets. Today he’ll show off his incredible talent, talk to us about #DoctorWho, and prove that sooner, or later, you’re going to need a TARDIS.

Welcome, Gary!!!

Hello, and thank you, Mackenzie.

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

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Beautiful Eugene, Oregon

Question 2) When did you become a fan of Doctor Who?

In my college days, in Boulder, CO. way back in 1975.  The show was followed by a devoted few and broadcast on the local Public Broadcasting Station in the afternoons.

Question 3) Who is your Doctor?

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My FIRST Doctor was Tom Baker, still love him, but “Who” is my Doctor is sort of the answer to the question for me.  My Doctor is the current Doctor.

Question 4) How did you get into woodworking?

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An art school background made me interested in many mediums but I gravitated to wood.  Carving and cabinet making as a hobby for a long time before offering my builds to the public.

Question 5) What inspired you to craft Tardis cabinets and boxes?

A natural, really.  A Whovian cabinet maker, what would he build?  My first few TARDISes were for myself. A 3/4 scale book cabinet, a wine cabinet, a table lamp.
Friends told me, as they do, to sell these.  My home WAS becoming crowded with blue boxes, so I set up shop.

Question 6) What process goes into selecting the wood and paint?

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All my builds are solid wood, and the painted boxes are Poplar, Birch, and Hemlock for straightness of grain.  I will occasionally build a natural hardwood cabinet, such as “The Rosewood” Jewelry Cabinet.

The paint color varies as does the colors of the various Doctor’s boxes.  I do my very best to match the selected Doctor’s hue.

Question 7) How long does it typically take for you to make one of these cabinets?

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I offer ring boxes (very popular) that take 5 days to ship, and a 1/2 scale cabinet ready to ship in 3 weeks. There are currently 23 products in my shop.

Question 8) Do you handle special requests?

Yes, from small additions like a custom message, to full builds.  A limitation to big builds is the shipping cost.

Question 9) Are there other Doctor Who items have you crafted?

Yes, you can find in my online shop a  River Song’s Diary Keepsake Box  and a “Power of Three” inspired Black Cube Jewelry/Gift Box

Question 10) How did you react when you learned about Keith’s marriage proposal to Sarah at Awesome Con in the presence of David Tennant, Catherine Tate and John Barrowman?

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I was thrilled!  I wish I had been there.  I knew in advance the groom-to-be was going to attempt this, but the photos, and David’s reaction to the TARDIS Ring Box was great. 

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Question 11) Are there any other cool stories like this you would like to share?

I have many clients write with their, and their loved one’s reactions.  Here are the reviews and stories.

Question 12) Is there something you would like to craft, but haven’t yet?

Oh yes! So many things!

Question 13) Where can others find out more about you and your work?

Thank you for asking,   www.tardiscabinets.com

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Thank you again, Gary! Fans, please make sure to check out his website, and stay tuned next week when I sit down with Jeremy Wheeler from The Blue Box Alliance to talk about Doctor Who cosplay, fan-films, comic con and much more!

 
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#Interview with #author, @bawrites! #MattSmith #MG #steampunk #dystopian #DoctorWho #DrWho #doctorwhoislife

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Next up is author B.A. Williamson with an exciting middle grade book that is on my to-be-read list. He’ll be talking about how #DoctorWho and #MattSmith inspired his book — The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray!

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

interview1.pngI hail from a quaint little neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis.

Question 2) When did you become a fan of Doctor Who?

I became a fan in college, when I went home on spring break and my Dad was watching this strange show. Some fat green Vogon-like aliens had just destroyed Big Ben, and they farted a lot, and came from a planet with a funny name. When he told me what it was, I remembered seeing a whole shelf of classic Doctor Who tapes at the local library while I was growing up, but I never touched them, a decision I now painfully regret. Tom Baker would have vastly improved my childhood. As it was, I watched a little with my Dad while I was home, but I didn’t become a fan in my own right until I saw David Tennant’s first episode with the Sycorax.

Question 3) What do you think makes a good story?

Desire+Obstacle. Your character has to want something, and want it badly, no matter how small it is. There needs to be things standing in the way, obstacles that match the character’s level of desire. If your character doesn’t have a clear driving goal, we lose interest. I also think a story should have something to say, beyond just beating the bad guys. Doctor Who has infinite storytelling possibility, but it touches on some of the deepest topics that any form of literature can approach, which is something science-fiction has always been particularly suited to.

Question 4) Congratulations on the publication of The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray! Tell me a little bit about your book.

interview5.pngGwendolyn Gray faces an overwhelming battle every day: keeping her imagination under control. It’s a struggle for a dreamer like Gwendolyn, in a city of identical gray skyscrapers, clouds that never clear, and grown-ups who never understand. She’s a plucky little redheaded outcast that would be perfectly at home in the TARDIS.

But when her daydreams come alive and run amok in The City, the struggle to control them becomes as real as the furry creatures infesting her bedroom. Worse yet, she’s drawn the attention of the Faceless Gentlemen, who want to preserve order in The City by erasing Gwendolyn and her troublesome creations.

With the help of two explorers from another world, Gwendolyn escapes and finds herself in a land of clockwork inventions and colorful creations. Now Gwendolyn must harness her powers and, with a gang of airship pirates, stop the Faceless Gentlemen from destroying the new world she loves and the home that never wanted her—before every world becomes gray and dull.

If that sounds like the plot of a Doctor Who episode, well, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Question 5) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book? 

interview6Seeing how your own characters can take on a life of your own, and do things that surprise you. When you’re writing, and you get really in the zone, stuff comes out that feels completely independent, and I have no idea where it comes from. Which then became a theme of the book in and of itself, and I spend a lot of time exploring the nature of imagination and creation, and how it can be a type of magic on its own.

Question 6) I understand that Doctor Who has played a significant role in your writing. Can you elaborate on that?

It tremendously influences the type of story I want to tell. Those are the stories I love, and I wanted to emulate those somehow, I wanted to tell a world-hopping portal fantasy. When I was looking at how to craft a tale of an imaginative kid bouncing between worlds and solving her problems with wits, not weapons, I went and studied some of the best Who episodes. I looked at their structure, how the Doctor eventually prevailed in spite of overwhelming obstacles. I looked at how the best episodes deliver a strong message, not in a preachy way, but one that was at the center of a fantastic adventure story and compelling characters. And of course, every adventure involves a lot of running.

Question 7) Turns out, our books both have something in common — Matt Smith! Any specific characteristics of him can be found in your characters?

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His short attention span and tendency to babble. His childishness comes through in Gwendolyn, because Gwendolyn is herself a child. But there’s also a weight of sadness there: these actions have consequences, and the characters have to feel those deeply, but always choose to go on.

Question 8) Who is your Doctor?

David Tennant, always and forever. Particularly, The Christmas Invasion, Blink, The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, The Beast, Tooth and Claw, the Cybermen invasion, and the Master’s Return. I don’t think the show has ever been better than his first two seasons.

Question 9) What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The beginning. Figuring out what the story is and where it’s going. And every time you start, you never completely know what’s going to happen or how it’s going to turn out. Starting a new story is like taking a leap off a cliff, and it’s just as terrifying. I always have an ending in mind, but parts of the journey are still huge blanks. You just have to trust yourself, your skills, your voice, and let it go where it will. But it’s never an easy step for me.

Question 10) What would you say is your interesting quirk?

I like to dress in costume for my book events. The narrator in the book is a bit of a character in and of itself, and I like to become something like that character. It comes from my theatre background, I suppose.

Question 11) Do you have an excerpt from the book you’d like to share?

Sure! Here’s one that’s particularly Who-vian. Gwendolyn lives in the City, a dystopian place where creativity and ideas simply don’t exist. It’s not “the way things are done.” Picture a mid-century modern future straight out of Mad Men with the social structure and values of Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins. Gwendolyn’s imagination just made one of her classmates grow actual rabbit ears, and while running from the consequences of that, she has just discovered a major secret and some strange artifacts on the Edge of the City, a place no one knew existed. Now she has her first run-in with the villains of our story. It’s a very Who sort of scene- creepy baddies, sudden rescues by mysterious new friends from other worlds, and plenty of running.

interview2.pngGwendolyn sprawled on the sidewalk, nose to toe with four polished black shoes. Above the shoes were crisp grey pants, and above that were twice-buttoned jackets with black ties pinned smartly to white shirts. The men both wore black bowler hats, and they had no faces.

Let me be clear: they had noses, yes, and mouths as well. Likewise eyes and ears, all in the right place and amount.

But Gwendolyn could not have told you what they looked like.

Looking at them was like trying to picture the face of a friend you haven’t seen in years. The men stood plain as day in front of her, but the faces underneath those bowler hats slipped from her mind like eels, as though her eyes saw something terrible, and refused to tell her brain what they had seen. Most people have never seen a man with no face, but let me assure you that it is a sight so unsettling that it puts goosebumps on your eyeballs.

A white-gloved hand reached down. Gwendolyn thought it meant to help her up, but it picked up the book instead. The man’s eyes examined the gleaming title, and the gloved hands flipped through the colorful illustrations.

Gwendolyn snatched up the gem and snuck it in her pocket.

The man turned to his comrade. “This is a very interesting book, Mister Five.” he said. His voice was a high-pitched whining monotone, crisp and proper. The voice she’d heard in the Headmaster’s office.

“Very interesting indeed, Mister Six,” replied the other, his voice identical to the first. He leaned in slightly, ever so slightly, to examine the book.

Gwendolyn got to her feet and put on her precious-little-girl voice, all sweetness and light, the kind you use when you want a second helping of dessert. “I’m terribly sorry, sirs. I wasn’t watching my way.”

Slowly, ever so slowly, the two men’s eyes turned from the book toward Gwendolyn. Their heads cocked to the side and stared at her, faces instantly dissolving in her memory.

Gwendolyn shuddered. “If you will accept my polite apologies, I will take my book and be on my way. Mother will be quite cross if I am late.”

The men ignored her. Carefully, ever so carefully, their hands flipped through the book as though the pages were covered in muck, and they didn’t wish to dirty their white gloves.

“Where did you get this book, my dear?” said Mister Five.

“Uhh…” Gwendolyn stammered, “it’s mine, and I would like it back now, please.”

“This is a very unique book, little girl. And my partner and I… collect… things such as this,” said one of the men.

Gwendolyn again felt the gut-wrenching sensation of being caught, as she felt earlier with the Centrals, but these gentlemen made Cecilia and her gang seem positively fluffy. “I’m sorry sir, but it is mine, and it is not for sale. I must insist that you give it back. Please?”

“What do you think, Mister Five?” one of the men whined eerily.

“She has seen the book, Mister Six, and would appear to have been reading it quite intently,” said the other, examining the edges of the pages. “And unless I’m very much mistaken, and I seldom am, Mister Six—”

“-No, indeed, Mister Five—”

“-this girl is not where she should be.”

“Most assuredly not, Mister Five. The Edge is not permissible to the citizenry; particularly children. Most particularly not to children so particularly… strange.” Gently, ever so gently, his gloved hand reached out and caressed a lock of Gwendolyn’s fiery hair.

Gwendolyn flinched. The man’s brief touch made her skin want to crawl off her bones, into bed, and under the blankets. She slapped his hand away, but Mister Six didn’t react.

“You are correct, Mister Six,” said Mister Five. “She has seen The Wall, and this book, and who knows what else. She is also certainly the one causing these unacceptable… changes. No, no, no, I’m afraid we really have no choice,” droned Mister Five.

Mister Six’s hand reached up slowly, ever so slowly, to his black bowler hat. “I agree completely, Mister Five. These changes simply must be dealt with.” His tone turned sweet, dripping more venom than honey: “Girl. Might I draw your attention here, to my lovely hat?”

He took off the hat and turned it toward her, like a magician showing that his hat is indeed empty. But instead of a rabbit, a pinpoint of light came out of the hat’s black interior. Gwendolyn’s gaze was locked in place.

Cold light poured out of the hat. It was just like a Lambent; but one more potent than any she had ever encountered. Her eyes burned but she could not look away. With an awful shock, she found she could no longer move. Any thoughts of running or escaping faded. She could feel her mind slipping away, drawn toward the light, drowning in it.

“Perfectly done, little girl. It doesn’t hurt.”

He was wrong. It did hurt. Her head felt like it would split in two. The searing pain brought her back to her senses. “No!” she shouted, and reached forward to knock the hat away.

Mister Six stepped easily out of reach. “The girl resists, Mister Five.”

“Indeed she does, Mister Six. She is stronger than anticipated. Increase the power.” The light doubled in brightness. She held up her hand to block it, but it didn’t help.

Her hand… she could see right through it. It was vanishing before her eyes, disappearing like a puddle on a hot day. She felt disconnected from her body, her arms and legs as far away as yesterday’s dream. She felt like a glass of water being poured into a swirling drain. Her thoughts, normally so fast she couldn’t control them, began to slow. She felt… less.

Mister Six’s mouth curved upward slightly, ever so slightly. “Yes, this will only take a mo—”

“Look out!”

Someone collided with the faceless man, and hard. Mister Six was knocked to the street, his hat rolling away, and the book skidded down the sidewalk. Senseless Gwendolyn was grabbed by a pair of rough hands and pulled down the street like a rag doll.

“Move your feet, or I’m leaving you!” came another voice, a girl’s. Gwendolyn shook her head as the volume on her senses was turned back up.

And for the third time that day, Gwendolyn Gray was running away.

She noticed several things all at once. She noticed a very peculiar looking boy, about her own age, running beside her. She noticed a bright red jacket and a long yellow scarf that fluttered behind him. He grinned recklessly, holding his flat and checkered newsboy cap. He held up a red book. “Here! You dropped this. Clumsy.”

Gwendolyn took it, noticing that her hand was solid and whole again. She noticed the girl pulling her other hand wore a complicated-looking set of goggles on her head, all dials and lenses. Her shimmering blouse was not quite green, not quite blue, but was somehow both at once underneath a coppery-orange vest. She looked back at Gwendolyn and gave her arm a fierce tug. “Quit staring at me and run!”

She did, pushing her feet as fast as they would go. They sprinted through the deserted streets. The Mister Men followed effortlessly, seeming almost to float over the ground.

Suddenly, Gwendolyn noticed some scattered pedestrians in shabby clothes. Gwendolyn must have run all the way to the beginning of the Outskirts. People gaped at the wild children who would dare run through The City’s streets, but the Mister Men passed by without so much as a glance from the Cityzens, and the sparse crowds moved mindlessly aside to let them through.

Gwendolyn turned to look behind, but the Mister Men never grew any closer or farther away. “I can’t… keep running… like this!” she gasped, her satchel banging against her side with every step.

“Quick! This way!” The boy shouted.

“Sparrow, wait!” the girl said, but the boy ducked into an alleyway. The girl groaned and pulled Gwendolyn in after him.

It was a dead end.

The boy spun around. “Oh. Never mind. What now, Starling?”

“What? Not again! This was your idea!” She groaned. “Fine. Take her! I’ll catch up.” She pointed at something down the alley, then pushed Gwendolyn at the boy and started patting the pockets of her pants. The girl was nothing but pockets from the waist down. Her black trousers were covered in them, and she wore crisscrossing belts full of dangling tools and gadgets. Gwendolyn wondered if she needed all those belts to hold up such heavily laden pants.

The older girl pulled a copper sphere from a pocket on her thigh and twisted the two halves, winding it up. She leaned out of the alleyway and tossed it into the air just as the Mister Men came around the corner. The sphere whirred, clicked, and then exploded with a loud SNAP!

The alley entrance was instantly filled with orange smoke. One of the men stumbled out of the cloud, but the girl shoved him back in. She pulled her goggles down over her eyes and flipped a lens into place. “Go! I’ll lead them away and circle back!” Then she plunged into the fog.

“Come on!” the boy said. He pulled Gwendolyn down the alleyway and studied the wall at the end. “Now, what was Starling pointing at?”

Gwendolyn noticed a fire escape above them, old iron ladders and walkways bolted to the side of the building. “Do you think she meant that?”

“Oh, yeah. Good call.” The boy shot her a toothy grin, one that was altogether too cocky for their present situation. He jumped up and pulled the ladder down. “Ladies first.”

Gwendolyn hesitated. “Uh… I’m not climbing over you in this skirt. I’ll thank the gentleman to go first.” It was a good excuse, but truthfully she just wanted to see if it would hold his weight.

The boy’s jaw dropped, taken aback. “I didn’t… That’s not… I would never…”

A loud crash came from the smoke behind them.

“Just climb!” Gwendolyn shouted, though she was glad to wipe that smug smile from his face. She had the presence of mind to stick the book in her bag.

He scrambled up the ladder, but was already grinning again, and gave her a wink. “Be careful, girlie. Wouldn’t want to tear that precious skirt of yours.”

“Just worry about yourself, little boy, and when you fall, try and avoid my head.” Teasing him was an easy way to hide how terrified she was.

The fire escape held, and they reached the roof. They crossed to the other side and looked down. The sheer drop to the street below made her eyes swirl. A twelve-story fall is not the sort of story you’ll ever get to tell.

“What now? There’s nowhere to go!” Gwendolyn said.

“Nowhere to go? Please. I have a plan. Well, we have a plan. Um . . . Starling will have a plan. Any trouble down there?” he asked the goggled girl, who was clambering over the edge of the roof.

“Yes. And all of it is your fault. But I bought us a few moments. Now take one of these.” The girl produced a collection of objects from another one of her pockets and tossed something to each of them.

Gwendolyn caught it. It was a miniature umbrella, bright pink with purple spirals on it, not much larger than her hand. It was the same sort of umbrella your parents might put into a tropical drink on the beach when they’ve left you and your sister at home with relatives. Gwendolyn frowned at it, but she opened it with a crinkly pop.

“When I say so, jump,” said the older girl, approaching the edge of the roof.

This was too much, even for Gwendolyn. “Jump? We’ll be smushed!” She glanced at the pitifully small umbrella in her hand.

The boy rolled his eyes. “You wanted a plan. Maybe you should ask them about it,” he cocked a thumb at the Faceless Gentlemen, who had just appeared on the roof.

“This is a most inappropriate way for young children to act, Mister Five.” said the man on the left, his face slipping from Gwendolyn’s mind like water through her fingers.

“Most inappropriate indeed, Mister Six. They will have to be dealt with immediately. These sorts of… intrusions… cannot be tolerated,” the other replied. They strode across the roof toward the children, each step in perfect unison.

Gwendolyn looked down at the punishingly solid sidewalk. She glanced at the boy, and got another infuriating wink. For someone saving her life, he was certainly not impressing her. “Isn’t there another way?”

“Of course there is another way…” droned Mister Five. His hand reached toward her in a gesture that absolutely failed to be comforting. “Come with us.” His voice took on the sickly sweetness of cough syrup. “Your parents must be worried sick about you. No little girl should be out this far. Just what would your mother think?”

“What indeed, Mister Five. We will take care of you, girl, and see you home safe. We will explain everything to your parents, make all your problems… disappear. We might even allow you to keep that little book. The Status Quo will be preserved. All will be well. After all, you cannot trust such dreadful children as these.” His white gloved hand waved toward her brightly colored companions.

You and I might be able to spot the lie these men told, but we are not the one’s teetering over the edge of a fatal fall. Gwendolyn hesitated. What would Mother think? She would certainly not approve of any of this dashing about, nor of her two rescuers. But her parents had also never seen anything like these men, and she wasn’t certain they’d approve of them, either.

The boy put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s us or them. Now or never.”

She took a deep breath and looked over the side. She had to do it. She couldn’t turn back now. She would imagine she was brave, even if she felt like throwing up.

“Then I guess it’s now,” she whispered. She squeezed her eyes shut, gripped the umbrella, bent her knees-

“Sorry, girlie, time’s up!” The boy gave her a shove, and Gwendolyn fell with a shriek. The older girl followed, leaping from the roof.

“So long, chaps!” The boy tipped his cap to the Mister Men, showed them a very impolite finger, and jumped.

Question 12) What can we expect from you in the future?

More Gwendolyn! I’m currently working on The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray, and where the first one features a trip to a Steampunk world, this time she’ll find herself trapped in the land of the Fae.

Question 13) How can others find out more about you and your work?

The book itself is on Amazon and Goodreads. The website is gwendolyngray.com, but I’m probably most active on the Facebook page, facebook.com/gwendolyngraybook. Twitter is my social of choice, but you can find me pretty much anywhere @bawrites. I’m always happy to chat, particularly about the book!

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