Saturday, 1 June 2013

Interviews Interview with Andrew Cartmel

Interview with Andrew Cartmel

Andrew Cartmel is a British-Canadian sci-fi writer and journalist, and former script writer on Doctor Who, who was taken on in his early twenties after being recommended to John Nathan-Turner by his agent.  Since then Andrew has gone on to write comics, books, novellas, novels and audio stories for Doctor Who. 

Andrew also wrote a script for Torchwood entitled The Jinx unfortunately it never saw the light of day.  The script was destined for a slot in the standard 13 episode series but dropped when the season format was reworked for the move from BBC2 to BBC1 and the 5 episode slot for COE.

The Jinx involves two Celtic goddesses who are playing a game, a game which has terrible consequences for the people involved.
The disasters that befall the people in Gwen’s life, and that of any of the victims who fall foul to the Jinx’s properties, seem quite like a comedy of errors, and reading through the list of disasters that befall Jack, especially Ianto and Rhys, and Andy, I did have quite a chuckle, actually uproarious laughter.  But given that people laugh at other’s misfortunes the basis of the story is quite serious and finding a way of stopping the disasters that befall the women who have been jinxed, takes Jack and Ianto tooled up to a folk music club in order to find the root cause, then having realised that Gwen had beaten them to it, continues the search for the goddesses and Gwen. 

Having viewed the interview between Andrew Cartmel and James Goss for the Torchwood Magazine 24th edition, and having read a portion of the script, the breakdown and the premise I’d love for this to be given audio drama time.  Although I’m sure a lot of it would be difficult to transfer to audio from a visual effect I’m also aware, that nothing is impossible!  I would love to own a copy of this if it were to also be a novel, as I’m sure in the vast Torchwood universe, this could be reworked into the era before Children of Earth. 

The Wrong Hands

When I’ve been writing fictional pieces relating to Torchwood for short stories, I’ve made up a lot of the names and places purely because I’ve never visited Cardiff more than once in my life.  In your story you cover a rough housing estate called The Machen Estate, but it’s so detailed I wondered if you’d based it upon a real estate or was this purely from imagination, or had you grown up in a similar estate as a child – as we often write from experience?

Andrew: I wonder if you spotted that the Machen estate was named after Arthur Machen, the great Welsh fantasy and horror writer?
When I was at university in London and for a few years after I lived on a council estate, so obviously I drew on those memories to some degree. But the Machen doesn't really bear any significant resemblance to the place where I lived. It's a product of my feverish little imagination.

I recall drawing a plan of the estate, which probably helped to provide the detail you mention. One important thing I did was creating the shop which is nearby -- a major location in the story. What got me thinking about that was the way the poor find it (paradoxically) more expensive to live because they don't have the mobility of more affluent people, and they're stuck with their local shops which always charge more. I recall I ranted about this to an extent in the story. Social criticism.

I loved the dialogue between Gwen and Jack, they do often come across very strongly like a brother and sister relationship which you see quite a lot, where Gwen seems more in control than Jack is, perhaps it’s the mothering instinct, or the fact she has to remain focused and strong most of the time.  I did chuckle through the conversation about the possibility of Uncle Jack taking charge of little Gwen’s or little Rhys’ at the Hub. 

Andrew: I'm glad you liked the dialogue between Gwen and Jack. I enjoyed writing it.

I liked the idea of the baby being in control of the person, sucking their very life from them, (laughs) it did put me in mind of my own two when they were very young, my life not being my own, were you writing this from the same perspective?  Were you dealing with a small child and surviving on very little sleep?

Andrew: The baby was very much the central conceit of the story. My original title for the story was 'Pram Face' which is an insulting term applied to young unmarried mothers. I ditched that title for lots of reasons, most importantly because it would have given away too much to the reader. But it was crucial in getting me thinking when I was developing the plot.

I'm also gratified that you liked the way the baby was written and indeed thought I might have been drawing from my own experience. But, like the Machen estate, I basically just made it up from my imagination.

As a side note, I really enjoyed creating the hulking local (male) thug who is wearing a completely irrelevant t-shirt which reads 'Nobody Knows I'm a Lesbian'. It was just a silly gag, but I'm pleased with it.

The Wrong Hands is the only Torchwood story you’ve ever written, but I also saw on Wiki that you’d developed a script for the third series of Torchwood called The Jinx, but this was dropped when the series format was reworked, what was The Jinx about and would you ever rewrite it for another story with other characters?

Andrew: You mentioned my lost Torchwood script The Jinx. I'm very proud of it, and it still irks me that it never saw the light of day.
 Writing the script was a great experience but seeing what happened (or didn't happen) to it in the production process was deeply frustrating.

If you want more details about The Jinx you can read all about it in an excellent article by James Goss in issue 24 of Torchwood Magazine.

As for reworking The Jinx into a new story with other characters, I don't think I could. It was intrinsically and purely Torchwood, which is one reason it's such a pity it was never used.

Out of the Torchwood characters that featured in your story, which was the easiest to write for, and which was hardest?

Andrew: I found Gwen the easiest character to write. I liked her a lot. As for the most difficult character to write, I didn't find any of them difficult.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment that you can share with Project: Torchwood?

Andrew: I am currently writing a series of murder-mystery/thriller novels which are due out this year, they feature a character called the Vinyl Detective.

If people want to follow you, find out about your writings, do you have a website, a link?

Andrew: Please direct people to my writing blog, at:

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