Sunday, November 30, 2014

George Mann Q&A

So, instead of inflicting more of my dream casting on you I thought perhaps you might want to hear a little from the author himself to whom the month of November has been dedicated. So without further ado, I bring you George Mann!

Question: The first memorable book from you childhood often extends its influence throughout your life. What is your favorite book that you re-read a million times from when you were little?

Answer: I was a very lucky child, in that I was read to extensively from an early age. I had the Hobbit, the complete Chronicles of Narania and all sorts, all before the age of 6. So I think I absorbed a lot of that, and it’s all still in here, somewhere.

A formative book for me, though, was The War of the Worlds by HG Wells. That was a real revelation. I’ve always considered it one of the first great science fiction novels, and I adore how the aliens are defeated at the end by the common cold, rather than the Victorians themselves.

Question: You have created your own vigilante superhero with The Ghost. What was your favorite superhero growing up?

Answer:  It’s always been Spider-Man, and, to be honest, is still is. There’s something about the web-crawler that’s always appealed to me. I think it might be because, at heart, he’s just a normal, geeky guy, who saves the day because he has to, and because no one else is going to do it. In many ways he’s similar to the Doctor in that (see below) – he finds himself in these perilous, fantastical situations, and although he’s handy with his fists, it’s usually through intellectual endeavour that he saves the day. At least, in my favourite stories.

Of course, I’ve always been a huge fan of Batman, too. I prefer him in his ‘dark detective’ mode, stalking the streets of Gotham to solve crimes in a way the police aren’t able.

Question: Growing up what was the television show that you most anticipated every week and why?

Answer: I think you know the answer to this one…it was definitely Doctor Who. It was just so different from everything else at the time. Weird, wonderful fantasy that had a huge and lasting impact on my psyche. I loved how the Doctor would just stumble into these amazing, colourful adventures, and always win the day through cleverness, charm, or wit. It was real fuel for the imagination.

Question: Victoriana and sensational supernatural stories are really making a comeback with shows like Ripper Street and Penny Dreadful. Why do you think people are continually drawn to these subjects?

Answer: I think it’s because the Victorian period is now distant enough to seem unknowable and strange (and therefore fertile ground for sensationalising), but at the same time close enough that it still feels half-familiar. I also think there’s something about the fact that the Victorian era feels like the borderlands between the modern world and the past, science vs superstition. There was a clear preoccupation with ‘occult science’ and superstition in that age, and a view that anything was possible, if only we could find the means to achieve it. Science would prove the existence of the spirit world, that sort of thing. So again, it’s great material for a writer to get their teeth into.

Question: You've written 34 books this year, or at least it seems that what with a new book on the shelves every few weeks. Seriously, when do you not write?

Answer: Ha! I’m always writing. At the same time, though, some of that is to do with scheduling and just a coincidence of when the books are published.

I do have trouble stopping, though. Some would say it’s an affliction. I’m not happy unless I’m working on a story of some kind, in one medium or other.

Question: With the future of traditional publishing avenues in limbo many writers are turning to self-publishing. What do you make of this trend, the advantages and the pitfalls, and how will it affect traditional publishing?

Answer: Well, first and foremost I’m a big believer in the adage ‘everyone needs an editor’. I think that editor can take many different forms, but you need someone who can cast an impartial eye over your work, who knows story and structure, and who will be honest with you about the quality of what you’ve written. That’s very important, I think. So I’d never want to dispense with that.

I think digital self-publishing has a place, though. I love the idea of serializing a Newbury and Hobbes story at some point, for example, over a number of parts, like an old story paper. And clearly people are making a great success of it. Personally, though, I find the interactions I have with my publishers very, very helpful. And it helps to have a team of salespeople and publicists working on your books – if I had to do that stuff myself it would never happen, and I wouldn’t sell any books!

Really, for me, it comes down to the fact that I’d rather be writing new stories than worrying about formatting an ebook, promoting and selling it, etc etc. But I know it’s a great tool for other people, and I’d never rule it out.

Question: When you started writing the Newbury and Hobbes series did you intentionally write them as Steampunk or did you just write what you felt and it fit perfectly in the Steampunk Genre?

Answer: I’m not even sure they are steampunk! (Shock! Horror!). I definitely didn’t set out to write in any genre. In fact, The Affinity Bridge was quite the opposite. I’d spent years trying to write a big, sprawling space opera, because I thought that was the genre I should have been writing in, and it was so depressing. I just wasn’t getting anywhere with it. I wrote The Affinity Bridge for me, and just threw in everything I was interested in or loved. They’re Victorian fantasias, really, rather than steampunk. There’s not very much punk about them. They were the aesthetics of steampunk, sometimes, but they’re at least as concerned with the supernatural.

Question: With your books being interconnected we have had glimpses of the future of many of your beloved characters. As for the Newbury and Hobbes Series specifically, do you have an end in sight or is your plan to just keep writing? And when will we see The Revenant Express?

Answer: I tend to work in story arcs, rather than planning to the end of the series. So the first big N and H story arc will end in book 6, but I have no intention of retiring them. They may have a little break, but I have lots more stories to tell, if people want to keep reading them. I might also go back and write some more stories with Newbury and Templeton Black, as I enjoyed writing ‘The Dark Path’ very much.

There’s a whole bunch of N and H stuff happening next year. I’m really excited about it. New stories in three different mediums! The Revenant Express is one of them. The others, I can’t quite reveal yet. But soon!

Question: Many authors don’t think of their characters in terms of actors, but I’ve been having a little fun doing the dream casting for the hopefully one day forthcoming miniseries (fingers crossed) and I was wondering if you’ve ever thought of who could bring your characters to life?

Answer: Ha! Yes, I’ve been watching your casting with interest. I don’t feel I can say too much about casting at the moment, for reasons that will become clear later (and it’s not a TV series, alas – at least not yet), but I will say that I originally had Tom Ward in mind when I first wrote about Newbury.

Question: With the hugely successful Engines of War you are the first writer to tackle The War Doctor. How did it feel to be basically given a Doctor with a blank slate (well, minus that stuff in “The Day of the Doctor”)?

Answer: Oh, it was amazing! A dream come true, in fact. A little daunting, but so exciting, and so inspiring. I still can’t believe what they allowed me to get away with in that book. To this day, I still can’t quite actually believe it happened.

Question: In my opinion it’s unfair to ask people who their favorite Doctor is (how can I ask someone to choose when I can’t choose between Tom Baker and Matt Smith myself), so I’ll give you a twist, who is your favorite Doctor to write for? It can be one you haven’t written for yet.

Answer:  I enjoyed writing for the Eleventh Doctor a lot, but really, it has to be the War Doctor. I had SO MUCH fun with Engines of War. I’ve always wanted to write for the Eighth Doctor too. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity at some point.

Question: You are now showrunner for Doctor Who, we won’t go into details as to how you secured the job, there may have been a cage match to the death with Moffat and Gatiss, that is unclear, but what are the top three changes you would make?

Answer: That’s a tough question. I really don’t know! Bring in more new writers, perhaps. Introduce a new male companion, maybe someone who isn’t a love interest of one of the leads. Try to persuade the BBC to do additional Easter and Halloween specials. More two-parters. I don’t think there are any silver bullets and I think it must be one of the hardest jobs in TV.

Question: What’s next for George Mann? 

Answer: The Revenant Express! Finally! And a bunch of other exciting N and H projects, as mentioned earlier. A new Ghost novel, Ghosts of Karnak, some more Doctor Who, and maybe some new things that I’m toying with at the moment…

Question: Favorite movie you’ve seen this year?

Answer: Guardians of the Galaxy. Without a doubt.

Question: Point Break or Bad Boys 2?

Answer: Point Break. I’m not sure I’m even aware of Bad Boys 2!


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