Interview with @0tralala #DoctorWho #TheWomenwhoLived #doctorwhoislife #audiobooks #doctorwhobooks @DrWhoOnline @bbcdoctorwho @bigfinish @ChristelDee @Jake_Dudman_ @DWMtweets @DWBBCBooks

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I had the ultimate pleasure of interviewing Simon while I was recovering from multiple surgeries. We chatted about Doctor Who, Big Finish, writing for audio, and especially, his new book, The Women Who Lived: Amazing Tales for Future Time Lords!

Question 1) For those who aren’t familiar with you, would you please introduce yourself to my readers?

Simon: Hello, I’m Simon Guerrier and I’ve been a freelance writer since 2002 because I am very old. I have written Doctor Who books and comics and audio plays and DVD documentaries, and also non-Doctor Who books and radio documentaries and short films and things.

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

Simon: My first memory of anything is the cliffhanger of part one of Full Circle in 1980, with the Fourth Doctor and K9 crouched among the reeds watching the Marshmen emerge from a swamp. But at the end of Logopolis(1981), when the Doctor regenerated, my elder brother gave me his copy of The Doctor Who Monster Book, which explained about there being other Doctors and gave a history of the series in a really exciting, straightforward style. And that’s what made me a fan.

Question 3) Who would you consider to be your
Doctor?

2f70c0je0az1000Simon: I like them all, but because Tom Baker was the Doctor when I started I suppose I think of him as the definitive one.

 


Question 4)
Congratulations on the publication of The Women Who Lived: Amazing Tales for Future Time Lords! Tell me, how that opportunity come about?

DoByW-QXkAE_m18Simon: It was all Christel’s idea, and when she first approached me I thought she just wanted some help with how to pitch it to BBC Books. I thought it was a brilliant idea with lots of potential, so I was very happy to do that – and then delighted when I realized she wanted me as her assistant all the way through.

Question 5) What kind of research is required for a project like that?

Simon: I know Doctor Who pretty well – I’ve seen all the existing episodes and listened to the soundtracks of the 97 missing ones, and I’ve read and written lots of books and magazine articles about the series. But you still need to check details, and look for new things that other people haven’t picked up on. So I watched a lot of episodes again, with my notebook in hand. For example, it was really interesting to watch the very first Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child, and think about how events played out from the perspective of one of the supporting characters – a woman called Hur. I’ve seen that story lots of times since it was repeated in 1981, but watching it from Hur’s point of view made it seem new.

For some of the characters, I also had to do some digging into real history – the history of the Womens’ Volunteer Reserve in the First World War for Lady Jennifer Buckingham (from 1969 story The War Games) and first-hand accounts of the court of Emperor Nero for Locusta (from 1965 story The Romans). I really enjoyed doing that.

Question 6) How challenging is it to accurately write these characters to fit with canon?

Simon: It’s a lot of checking details against what’s in the TV episodes. So a lot of putting on the DVD and fast-forwarding to the key moments to double-check exactly what happened.

Question 7) What story would you consider your favorite and why?

Simon: Impossible to choose! But the first one I thought of when you asked is The Five Doctors, from 1983, which makes me very happy.

Question 8) I understand you have also done work with Doctor Who comics. Can you describe the difference in the process of writing for a comic versus a novel?

Simon: I think the main difference is in how you tell the story – the mechanics of getting the plot across in five to seven panels per page, with a mini-cliffhanger at the end of each page, and the captions and dialogue kept as short and exciting as possible. Comics are all about concise story-telling. You still want a novel to be exciting, with plenty of jeopardy and weirdness to keep people reading, but you’ve more space to breathe.

Question 9) Turns out, we both have something in common — writing for Matt Smith! Where did the inspiration come for your story for Big Finish’s The Eleventh Chronicles – The Top of the Tree?

images.jpegSimon: Matt Fitton asked me to write a story with Danny Horn returning as Kazran, so I rewatched A Christmas Carol and had a think. My original idea was to do one of the stories we glimpse on screen – him and Abigail at the pyramids, maybe. But Matt pointed out that that might be tricky without Katherine Jenkins returning as Abigail – which sadly wasn’t an option for this story. So it had to be just Kazran. I wanted it to be directly relevant to him, so I started to think about the history of his people on the planet Ember, or how they came to settle there.

Then I was thinking about an interview with Steven Moffat where he talked about not liking simplistic “evil” baddies in stories, and because I was trying to write a story in his mindset, I used that. So the antagonist in my story was going to be a place – somewhere difficult and puzzling but not evil. And then I remembered an idea I’d had ages ago about an enormous tree. So I put all my loose ideas together…

Question 10) Having that I have worked independently with voice actors, is the process different when working with Big Finish? For example, did you get to work with any of the actors (i.e. Jacob Dudman) or do you just write your part and producers do everything else?

Simon: When I wrote The Top of The Tree, it was going to be done by Nicholas Briggs – 41153313._UY630_SR1200,630_.jpgwho’d already done the Ninth Doctor set, which was the model I was meant to follow. I’ve known and worked with Nick for years, so my script was littered with things I thought might amuse him. For example, I had to indicate when he had to change voice, so paragraphs would begin (AS NARRATOR) or (AS DOCTOR). And when there’s the old woman in the tribe, I put (AS EILEEN WAY) – a brilliant actress who is in some old Doctor Who stories.

When I got notes from Matt Fitton, he explained that Jake was doing the story, and we couldn’t be sure he’d know who Eileen Way was. So I had to go through and adjust all my stupid jokes for Nick. Which made the script better and less self-indulgent. (Nick might have cut them anyway!)

jakedudman-bigfinish-teneighty-soundhouseBut working with Jake was extraordinary. I’d not met him before I arrived at the studio, though I’d seen his videos online. It was a real pleasure to sit in the back of the studio and watch him and Danny, and director Helen Goldwyn, bring it all to life. It was a really good day.


Question 11) Is there anything you would like to add to this interview that I haven’t already discussed?
 

Simon: I don’t think so.

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

Simon: Right now, I’m making a documentary for BBC Radio 3 about women from the north of England who funded archaeology in Egypt in the late nineteenth-century. That should be broadcast in February. I’m also writing lots for Doctor Who Magazine and Doctor Who Figurine Collection. And some other bits and pieces I can’t talk about just yet. 

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

I’m @0tralala on Twitter and Instagram, and have a blog at http://0tralala.blogspot.com. But you can google me for details about all the stuff I’ve written. I’m old so there’s quite a lot of it, sorry.

Mackenzie: Thank you, Simon, for this delightful interview. Everyone, please remember to check out his blog and other works!

And USA fans, you can still pre-order The Women Who Lived by clicking the link.

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Interview with @ChrisWalkerT #MattSmith #theriteofwands #audiobooks #vo #DavidTennant #DoctorWho #TuesdayTeaser #doctorwhoislife @DrWhoOnline @FindawayVoices @smith_lynne

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In this special edition of Time And Relative Developments In Stories, I have invited my incredible voice actor/narrator, Chris Walker-Thomson, from The Rite of Wands audiobook, coming out later this month. He’s here to talk about voice acting, Doctor Who, Big Finish, Matt Smith, and especially, my book, The Rite of Wands.

Question 1) What got you interested in voice acting?

thumbnailI’ve always had a thing for putting on voices. Earliest memory I have is of me putting on a different voice for each toy I played with, so they’d converse on whatever adventure I’d be putting them through. As they years went on, I discovered impressions – particularly Dead Ringer’s Jon Culshaw – and ended up emulating people around me. So it all grew from that really, until finally, I went professional.

Question 2) What was it that got you your first “big” break?

61C9I66yXjL._SX342_There’s a few that I considered my “big” break until something even bigger happened. I did a lot of Doctor Who fan audio dramas, doing my performance as Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor, which got a lot of attention. But one day I was asked to do the audiobook for City Of The Gods: Forgotten, which gave my first official credit and paid work that really pushed me into being a working actor. So I’m immensely grateful for them giving me a shot, and setting me on my way.

Question 3) Where you would suggest someone brand new into voice acting start to find job opportunities?

I’ve found websites like Mandy.com, or Findaway very good. There are many others out there, some low-paid, some not, but experience is key. I started small, and am still small in comparison to others, but experience is great and attracts more interest. And never be ashamed to ask to be paid.

Question 4) Do you enjoy working better independently or in a studio environment like Big Finish, and why?

Oh, a studio environment for sure! I’m an actor foremost. As great as putting on voices is, and you can do so independently, to have someone to bounce off is such a thrill and really improves the performance. Even when it comes to Pixar films or any animation, they do feed the lines to the actor. Plus, I like the energy. Independently can get quite lonely, tiring, and if you work from home, you get a bit of cabin fever from not going out.

Question 5) How did you first come across The Rite of Wands?

doctorwhoonline.pngAgain, I owe thanks to the Doctor Who fan world. I have got to know a lot of people in the community, such as people behind big blogging sites such as Sebastian J Brook from Dr Who Online. Seb mentioned that an author friend (Mackenzie) was having trouble with her book, as the person who was meant to be doing it had to pull out due to other commitments, leaving her in the lurch. So, he suggested myself.

I was a bit down at this point. It had been months since my last job, and any job, so I was thinking of calling it a day. But on a whim, I dropped an email to Mackenzie and she got back asking me to audition. I was a bit late to doing the audition, but I did it, sent it off and left it as that. Then, in early January, I got an email from Mackenzie offering me the gig. Hilariously it came at the same time I also got a part-time job offer, so like they say about buses.

Question 6) What kind of research did you have to do to prepare for recording?

template-4-12172901503297868-largeAlthough I do record reading off a tablet (to avoid paper turning sound, etc.), I don’t find it a great way to read. Like everyone who has ever owned a Kindle says: they actually prefer reading a physical book in their hands. So, I asked nicely if I could get a copy to read at my leisure, which Mackenzie was very kind to send me with a signed message within. For someone who does audiobooks, you’d be surprised to hear that I don’t really take the time out to read books as much as I probably should – mostly because it takes time out of the day. But, I found myself engrossed in it and really finding it difficult to put it down, so I knew this was a good book if it managed to hook me in. Afterwards, I went over it again and made notes.

But the research I had to focus on was my performance of the main character, Mierta McKinnon, which Mackenzie had noted as “I wrote it with Matt Smith in mind”. I could do a reasonable impersonation of Matt Smith beforehand, but I needed a refresher course, so I started a marathon of his Doctor Who episodes to let it sink in. The rest of the voices I’d pieced together, but Mierta’s voice took some time to prepare.

Question 7) Knowing the history of the project being passed around multiple narrators, did you feel any extra pressure before recording it?

Eleventh_Doctor_(Doctor_Who)Only that the previous narrator was better at doing a Matt Smith impression than I was! So I kept saying “it’s not exactly right, but the best I can muster”, to which Mackenzie was immensely happy with my effort anyway, so I didn’t need to worry. So aside from that, I didn’t have any pressure. It was quite fun, until I got the email after I’d finished recording it, saying “we’ve redrafted the book”, and prompting me to redo it all from scratch. But I think it sounds better than it did previously, especially my Smith’ voice for Mierta.

And, here’s a little tease of the audiobook, releasing in the next couple of weeks!

Question 8) Okay, be honest. How many times did you have to practice saying “Emaculavi el curpas y mehartis” before you got it right? LOL!

Too many to count! Quite a few spells got me frustrated. Especially as they’re not spelt accordingly due to their country’s origin, or the pronunciation guide in the book wasn’t exact. I’m all for learning new words, but wow. Ha.

Question 9) How do you go about deciding which voice to use for a character?

tumblr_mr4l73sHmL1surntbo1_1280It’s not a long process, I tend to read the dialogue and think, maybe this voice? Maybe later on I’ll change my mind, and go back to redo it. Orlynd was Scottish, which wasn’t my best accent, or one I’d spent a while working on. So I found the root of the voice in my memory as a scatty, young David Tennant, and just went from there. I found it also helped to jog the accent by swearing between lines of dialogue, just to really get the Scottish tone right. Then after a while it just settled in, and I can now talk fluently. The rest of the voices just seemed right.

Question 10) Did anything in particular surprise you while you while performing?

Only that my neighbours really couldn’t care less as to what I was doing. Either they’d get out a pneumatic drill, or they’d completely ignore my dying screams. Probably used to my madness at this point.

Question 11) Fans of the series tend to favour the character, Mierta, however, from recent discussions, I’ve learned Orlynd is your favourite character. What is it about him that you like so much?

Well, I just think Mierta grows up to be a dick, ha. Orlynd has me feeling sorry for him from the first time we meet him in the book, and he’s stuck in a place he’s despised, yet is “Aye yer Majesty” in a sad, yet shy tone. But as he progresses, he gets stronger and becomes more heroic. He even shouts at the King’s guards. It’s great character development, and a delight to play.

Question 12) What would you like to see happen in the series?

I’d like to see Orlynd and Deor become better friends as time goes on, and even more of Anya’s conniving. But, I’d also like to see Lochlann (Mierta’s brother) knock Mierta off his own pedestal. From what I’ve heard of what’s going to happen, it’s already ticked my boxes.

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

My official website is www.chriswalkerthomson.com and I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and such. I do keep it all updated if you’d like to follow me there?

Be sure to check back in the next few weeks for the official release of The Rite Of Wands on audiobook, performed by Chris Walker-Thomson.

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