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Interviews
kelly hale and simon bucher-jones
Authors of "Grimm Reality"


Tell us a bit about how "Grimm Reality" came about.
Kelly: We both have children for one. My son is well past an interest in fairytales and his interest was pretty much limited to tales of courage and derring do (with accompanying excessive violence I'm afraid) such as Jack the Giant Killer. Simon has the girls I would have liked to make fairytale princess costumes for, but what can you do? Stuck with him now. Simon: Do you mean my children are stuck with me or, you're stuck with your son? I'd offer to do a swap but I don't think I'm geared up for the teenage years yet, 5 and 2 are bad enough. (Morgan's got a fairy costume which doubles up as a princess one already, and would like to thank Kelly for the Barbie costume). Yes blame the children, but as Kelly says - it's an obvious broad area of fiction that the Doctor's barely touched on. Kelly: I also thought a world based on the inherent logic of fairytales (rather then specific fairytales themselves) would be a fun, scary and dangerous place to live. Simon: It's the old question of, if you could live in a book which sort would be the best. Not as we see now a violent thriller world, but one where even violence has a necessity instead of the horror of randomness. A world like that both scares and appeals.

What made the two of you decide to go toward fantasy with this novel?
Kelly: I suck at science? Simon: I like science (Duh no!) but even if done well it makes some people's eyes glaze over, and fantasy has its own logic which is just as compelling to explore. It was the right time with the films of Harry Potter & LoTR due, and that magic in the air.

How do the characters (the Eighth Doctor, Fitz and Anji) fit into the overall fantasy concept?
Kelly: The thing is, we tried to make this as real a world as we possibly could. The way the world itself works is part of the story, and the people who live there understand that an individual must move through his/her own story. With varying degrees of success. Simon: If the world had been a little longer in its history the Doctor and chums would have been faced with Caxton printed chapbooks called things like "Men Are From The Woods, Women From Castles" the people there recognise the Doctor and his friends as certain "types" of people. Fitz for instance is a youngest son (much to his annoyance) even when he's the oldest of the Princes.

Obviously some of your work here is based in "Grimm's Fairy Tales". From which of these were you specifically influenced, if any?
Kelly: I'd rather not be too specific myself. Simon may contradict me here. Simon: No Kelly, you're wrong. Oh, er no she isn't actually I thought that was a request. I read the fairytales again but relied heavily on Kelly's knowledge and feel for them, apart perhaps from Iron Johann who I think came from somewhere. Any help on this Grimm fans? Kelly: But it's not just "oh look there's Cinderella." Some are obvious because those stories are reflected in the folktales of most cultures on earth (and not just the European ones) but each of these are geared to the individual involved. That's the way the world works. Some of the stories are more obscure and some were made up out of whole cloth.

Considering the more fantastical aspects of the novel, it seems the book is also influenced by other tall tales.... how did the fantasy stories of the past influence the direction of the book, or did you have a specific goal in mind?
Kelly: Well, I didn't. My intention was that the place would naturally remind the lead characters of things they'd read or seen. we've all of us been influenced by the Wizard of Oz if only for the fact that everyone I know can sing most of the songs. Simon: There are some in-jokes, there's a couple of paragraphs which do a pastiche of Tolkein, and Eddison, and a yellow brick road briefly appears, but in general we didn't want this to be Bored Of The Rings. There's a reason for those events in the book's own structure, and the book as a whole is not a pastiche.

What's with the "Doctor Know-All" subtitle?
Kelly: That *is* from a folktale. A very poor man thinks it would be great to be a doctor since they never seem to worry about money and so asks a doctor how to go about becoming one. The doctor says, "oh that's easy, just get yourself a sign and paint Doctor Know-All on it then hang it above your door. You'll be rich in no time." The man does and of course this leads to all kinds of trouble. Simon: Which given how the Doctor so often ingratiates himself into the scene of great events, also means trouble when he tries the same thing in a world where what people say about themselves can, literally, define their characters, and roles.

How did the process of working together go? Especially since one of you is in the UK and the other in the US?
Kelly: It was great! We were able to blend styles without too much trouble. And except for a few minor annoyances (Simon knows what those are, grrr) it was remarkably easy. The 8 hour difference helped because we could write like we were passing the baton in a relay. Simon: Advice to transcontinental authors always always rename the file, and store the old ones on disk, not on the same machine so they keep popping up and giving the other author a heart attack because it looks like a night's work has vanished. Sorry Kelly, does it still hurt? I agree it was always great to see new text in the morning. Just like shoemaker's elves.

Did you have to ducktail your plans to fit with any of the other books?
Kelly: We would have. We could have. But it may not have been considered necessary by those in the know at the time. If I say, Lawrence Miles asked us to do a couple of things, will this cause problems? One is a tiny charming thing and in no way affects our story at all. Simon: I rang Lawrence and asked him as a courtesy if he needed any things set up. Two tiny things really, lets see who spots 'em. One is more obvious than the other.

How does it feel to write for characters such as Fitz and Anji, only written about by other authors and never actually seen in the series (especially Anji, who hasn't been in the range that long!)
Kelly: I love Fitz and wanted to do all of his scenes, but Simon wouldn't let me. Simon: No because I love Fitz too. Hmm have I just come out? Kelly: Anji hadn't even made her first appearance when we started the book so she was difficult to get a grip on. My choices were based on professional women I know. Self-reliant, slightly more acquisitive than is entirely good for them, and good at delegating tasks. Also known as bossy. Simon: Anji's settling in, in the range, but I think we did a good job of showing her ability to cope and plan on her own as well as in a team (as well as leading a team).

Kelly, how do you feel about the limited number of women who have been able to write for the Doctor Who ranges?
Kelly: As in limited to *one* before this year, you mean? Gosh. Doesn't everyone know how I feel about this by now? I thought it was strange. And depressing in a way. Not to denigrate the menfolk, but surely there were many more talented women like Kate Orman out there who might find writing for Doctor Who both challenging and fun. Now there are. And, as seen with Lloyd Rose, we kick ass. Simon: The futures bright, the future's rosey? And Hale and hearty, and full of O[r]mans of good fortune. In fact it's like a Halliday!

Did you find this to be a factor, in any part of the process, in writing the book?
Kelly: No. Because I'm a writer first in this regard. The fact that I'm a woman may influence some of my choices, but no more than my life experience influences those same choices.

Simon, how did this particular novel go (smoothly, roughly, etc.) compared to the other cooperative novel you've written (Taking of Planet 5)?
Simon: With every respect to Mark who worked on TOP5 like a trooper and who's parts of that book work well, I was only learning to collaborate then and the interface between the writing style's is quite rough: it really needed another run through. Grimm Reality was much easier for a start I was fully on line which meant no disk-swops in pubs, no nights in Mark's university digs with a long trip home. I liked this better. While there are some bits people will know must have been me, I know that there are lots of sections where no-one will know whether it was Kelly or me. We each read and tweaked every sentence. It was really fun. Hard work but fun.

Considering the changes made over the past year in the range, how do you think the novel series has developed throughout 2001?
Kelly: It will go out with a bang, I think. And all in all it seems like the best year for the BBC books so far. Simon: The EDA range is shining, and I hope we've sparkled it a little too. I've deliberately kept my ears closed to too many future events; I read these books and like surprises.

How supportive was BBC Books, and specifically the editorial team?
Kelly: Justin is cool. He's doing a good job. And I'm not just sucking up either. Much. Simon: I like Justin a lot and he's not shy about saying what needs work which is what an author needs. Jac as well did well by us on the final run of editing and is proving to be an author to watch herself.

What are your literary influences?
Kelly: Nobokov always (cuz Lolita is fab.) Samuel R. Delany (cuz Dhalgren is fab.) And a bunch of other people too numerous to name. Simon: Oh authors with two or more initials: E R Eddison, T L Peacock, H P Lovecraft, Charles Q Dickens, Wilkie F Collins, Larry Z Niven - okay I made some initials up -(getting to sit next to him and sign autographs at the 2001 Gallifrey was really, really fab), Flaubert (It was Kelly who finally got me to read Madame Bovary, what an admission). Frank L Baum. Fort.

Do either of you have any plans to write further novels in this range?
Kelly: If they'll let me. Simon: I love Doctor Who, and I don't see that changing. As long as I could still sell 'em an idea - even if I was the best paid writer in the world (some hopes) - I'd still want to contribute to this great character, and this great world.

Tell us a bit about your future plans?
Kelly: Immediate future I'm moving to Los Angeles to become a star. Well not a star, but a bright light in the heavens. No not that either. I have a good opportunity to live cheap and write most of the time. In LA of all places! I also have another book being shopped around to publishers by an agent. So far no publisher has said "It's brilliant! Here's a million dollars." And right now I would be very happy with $10,000 and the promise of seeing it in print for public consumption. Yes. That would make me very happy. Meanwhile, working on another book. Simon: I've got real job commitments that are horrid just now, but I still want to get a book commissioned for next year, and I want to write a full standalone novel so I can moan about publishers too! I started a children's book "The Princess Of Cats" but it's languishing. Maybe a publisher will see Grimm, and this note!

Kelly Hale and Simon Bucher-Jones, thank you!
 
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