A Conversation With Mark Wright

 

You may have worked this out by now, but I have a slight fascination with how writers write, what inspires them, and their relationship with Doctor Who and/or Torchwood. I was lucky enough to ask Mark Wright a dozen questions about Doctor Who and writing, and here’s what he had to say.

What was the first Doctor Who episode you ever watched?
Ooh, that’s a tough one, but I have a vague sense memory, nothing more than a single image, of watching Death To The Daleks. I’d have been two at the time.

Who is your Doctor?
Peter Davison. I realised I was a Doctor Who fan during the broadcast of The Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat season in late 1981. So when Castrovalva came along, I was in for the long haul, and Peter’s Doctor just swept me along with that breathless, heroic energy he brought to the series.

Who is your favourite companion?
Another toughie! Sarah I think has to be up there; Lis Sladen imprinted on me back when I was very little and watching the show. K-9 is a joy in every episode he’s in, and I’m very find of Jo Grant. Katy Manning has become a good friend since we worked on the Iris Wildthyme audios together.

If you could have one trip in the TARDIS, where would you go and why?
To have a last conversation with my mum, who died two years ago. I want to tell her what happens in Happy Valley Series Two! She’d like that.

What is it that makes Whovians so passionate and loyal?
I’m not a fan of the word Whovian, but I think fans embrace what the Doctor stands for – and the companions for that matter. To stick together through thick and thin and not give up – even when your show gets cancelled!

If you could create your own companion, what qualities and/ or flaws would they have and why?
Well, I guess technically I have created a companion with Jess Collins in my current on the DWM comic strip. When we brought Jess in to The Highgate Horror at the end of 2015, she was just a guest character. It was a surprise when we brought her back to fill the gap in the strip when Clara left until the arrival of Bill with the new series this year. And she brought her family with her too, as the Doctor is stranded on Earth in 1972 and living in their back garden while the TARDIS regenerates.
Jess is loyal and determined, and she doesn’t take any nonsense from the Doctor – a trait she gets from her mum, Devina. She gets cross quite quickly, and she’s not entirely sure what path she should be taking for her future career. She’s doing an art history degree, but isn’t sure it’s the right thing. The Doctor is help her to see art in a different way. It’s been an interesting and uplifting process developing a character like Jess across a run of stories.

Would you write an episode for Doctor Who on the TV if offered, and do you have any ideas saved for such an occasion?
In many ways it’s one of the few things left on my Doctor Who writer’s bucket list. I’m not entirely sure, I like the freedom we get in the audios and the comics to paint different pictures. Which sounds a daft answer, so of course if the chance came along to write for Doctor Who on TV, I’d jump at it! No ideas saved, they all go into the audio/comic melting pot.

How did you get involved with Big Finish?
I was sharing a flat with Paul Cornell in the late 90s, and he invited me and Cav Scott to pitch for the first Bernice Summerfield short story collection Big Finish published – The Dead Men Diaries. We won a slot, and that was our first published fiction as a partnership and our first work for Big Finish. Beyond that, I’d known Gary Russell for a long time when Big Finish got going, and when me and Cav started writing stuff together, we chanced our arm and sent Gary a brief pitch for a vampire story. That story became Project: Twilight, and that was the start of our long association with the company. 17 years later and we’re still here.

You collaborate a lot with Cavan Scott, how did you and Cavan meet?
I ended up moving to Bath after finishing university with the plan to get some work experience at Future Publishing and eventually end up with a magazine job. Thankfully it’s a plan that paid off. Cav was already working at Future, and our mutal friend Steven O’Brien (co-writer of Whographica, which is an awesome book) introduced us – he knew we’d both wanted to pitch a Who novel to BBC Books but never got round to it, and he thought we’d get on and maybe start writing together. Turns out he was right; the night we first met, possibly fuelled by alcohol, we had an idea for a pitch to the Beeb (which we pitched but didn’t quite make the grade). That was the start.
After 18 years, we’re largely working as solo acts now. We’re both full time freelancers, and finding time to fit in joint projects was starting to get difficult the busier we both got. We still talk every day, Cav was best man at my wedding and I’m godfather to his eldest daughter, so we still have a strong bond.

What would you say the biggest challenges and the biggest advantages are with writing collaboratively?
I think there are only advantages in writing in a partnership when you’re both in synch. Writers will do what they can to avoid the actual act of writing, so to have somebody at the other end of an email or the phone geeing you up to get on with it is great. It’s like having a training partner at the gym when you really don’t want to go. There are very few moments when we disagreed on something the other wrote – we tended to write separate sections and then do an edit pass on each others sections to weave it all together. It always worked really well.

How did you get involved with writing The Complete History?
I don’t write as such, that’s all down to the brilliant Andrew Pixley, who’s original archives from DWM are being updated and expanded with new material. I’d been working as an on-off editorial assistant on DWM for around 5 years when The Complete History started, also published Panini. I was quite jealous not to be working on it, so was thrilled when I got a call from editor John Ainsworth, who asked me to come on board as co-editor with Issue 13 of the part work. John and I alternate issues so we both work on distinct issues as editors, overlooking all the text, liaising with the designer and seeing it through the production process. We have quite a small team so it’s quite full on, but our wonderful editorial assistant Emily Cook, who also works across DWM, is great at keeping us on the straight and narrow.

Can you tell me when the TV Movie edition of The Complete History will be released?
That’s not one of my books, but I believe that book is due in the next couple of months. Keep a look out around May time.

What advice do you have for any aspiring scriptwriters, and how do you get your work noticed?
Just write. Write whatever fires you up and makes you happy. And don’t necessarily write Doctor Who, write your own original work, get to know what works and what doesn’t. Look for competitions to enter in the genre or medium you want to work in, whether prose or script work. There are some great resources out there, too. The BBC Writer’s Room website is a great place to get pointers and read scripts, and there are some very good books on the subject of writing. I particularly like Into the Woods by John Yorke, and So You Want To Write Radio Drama by Stephen Wyatt (yes, that Stephen Wyatt) and Claire Grove.
Finally, try and get something made. We’ve all got cameras and microphones on our phones, make a film, edit it together. Or make an audio drama. Have a look for apps that will help you edit. I think Doctor Who has a grand tradition of self-teaching. I had no formal writing training or education, I found my way through working on fanzines in the 80s and 90s and writing my own fan fiction. It was a great way to teach myself the skills I needed to move into the wider magazine industry in the first place and then make the move into writing fiction.

Can you tease anything unannounced that you’re working on?
I’ve just finished my run on the DWM comic, so it’s been nice to have a bit of a rest, in the midst of my ongoing commitments to The Complete History. I’ve got a few things commissioned for various DWM specials, and there’s possibly a project down the line that Cav and I will hopefully work on together, and various Big Finish projects as both writer and producer.  Beyond that, I’m working up some radio drama pitches for my agent and seeing what comes along!

 

I’d like to thank Mark for taking time to answer these questions; should you want to keep up to date with what Mark is working on, I recommend you follow his Twitter @mwrightwriter.

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