Interview with Trevor Baxendale
As you know from Twitter I’ve absolutely enjoyed reading ‘The Undertaker’s Gift’, it really did blow me away. The story never dipped once, never ran out of steam. I finished that book and was totally breathless. It was truly WOW!
In one part of the story I did think the pallbearers looked something familiar to those white faced creatures that followed the Doctor to Trensalore but then realised that perhaps they weren’t, but they still looked pretty freaky.
Trevor: Yes, there are some resemblances I suppose – both appear to be based on pallbearers.
I also noticed that there were two book covers for this book, the one in the graveyard with Jack Harkness with the pallbearers behind created by Lee Binding, and another with the creature in the glass casket with slightly more about him than what was written about him in the book on the second, and with Ianto in the cover. Was that for a different market, such as some for UK and some for the US?
Trevor: No – the Ianto cover was the first pass at a cover and to be perfectly honest I didn’t like it at all. The book was, I thought, more Jack-centred anyway the picture of the creature in the casket was completely wrong. I was far happier with the Jack cover, and it probably doesn’t do any harm to have John Barrowman on the front of your book!
I’d heard from a few other sources that some people disliked the book because it was OOC (out of character) in the way Jack treated Ianto. Personally from my point of view and because when I began reading the book I’d gone in with all these negative views, I didn’t see that. I always find in books that Ianto has a much better role in the stories than he does on the screen, is this something you notice too? And did you think Jack treated Ianto differently?
Trevor: Perhaps he does. I found the Jack/Ianto romance a bit heavy-handed in the series and if I’m honest I could never really understand Ianto’s character or role. He was a bit of a mystery to me and difficult to empathise with. Every other character in the series was OK, I got them, I understood who they were and where they were coming from. You get their priorities, their likes and dislikes, the whole thing. But with Ianto I felt nothing. He was unreadable to me. Plus, one of the key aspects of Jack’s character, right from the outset, right from the start of series one episode one, was his infatuation with Gwen. It runs like a thread throughout the series, every series, and is a much more fascinating relationship because they are both utterly committed elsewhere. Jack is a very sexual personality, but not exclusively homosexual. There’s much more to him than that. Jack is a far more complex and nuanced character. The will they/won’t they, do they/don’t they romance between him and Gwen was subtler and more interesting than the rather obvious Jack-Ianto relationship, and I wanted to explore that a little more in my book. People who say Jack behaves OOC in this respect are wrong. They tend to filter their interpretation of Jack’s feelings and behaviour through the hindsight of Children of Earth, where the relationship has moved on from the time of writing The Undertaker’s Gift.
I also punched the air when I saw the mention of the recurring character Nina.
When I interviewed Peter Anghelides about his books, he mentioned that there were three writers who had written their stories before the series had begun, which made me think that perhaps a lot of the OOC comments were perhaps reflected from this, perhaps not knowing the characters all that well, were you one of the first writers?
Trevor: No, we were well into series two when I wrote The Undertaker’s Gift. I still don’t think any of the regulars are OOC in it.
The idea of the ‘Black House’ where did that come from?
Trevor: The Black House was an idea for a haunted house novel I had been toying with at the time. It found its way into the Torchwood book the way these things do. I was writing Torchwood at the time and it fitted.
I’m still to read ‘Something in the Water’, that’s my next mission, but I usually have to pace myself and throw a couple of James Patterson books into the mix just to balance the violence out a bit.
Trevor: Something in the Water was written first. I wasn’t quite as happy with it as I was with The Undertaker’s Gift. But it is – unsurprisingly, you might say – quite violent.
Trevor: Not that I can share with you just yet. It’s not been officially announced. It’s not Doctor Who or Torchwood though.
All your books are fantastically written and you know how much I enjoyed Wishing Well with Doctor Who 10 and Martha, it was just a thrill to read. When you start writing what influences you to write about what you do? Where do the characters come from, and the names for the tiny creatures that ate through Ianto’s belly? Do you have some Doctor Who creatures that you can use within your stories or are all of these plucked from the air? I did like the idea of the bugs actually.
Trevor: That’s such a difficult question to answer. The truth is I really don’t know where the ideas and inspirations come from – it’s probably a confluence of things, notions that occur and the time of developing a story, ideas and characters and situations that have been waiting for a suitable story to come along. Sometimes it’s inspiration, more often than not it’s desperation. Sometimes things just click together, other times it feels like you’re bashing away at plot points with a hammer just to make them fit. Glad you liked the Xilobytes. I really can’t remember where the name came from!
Hazel Stanton: You deal with some pretty gruesome and creepy scenes during The Undertakers Gift, what inspires you and scares you?
Did you find it difficult keeping the tones down for the teenage audiences in the Doctor Who Books compaired to being able to let yourself go for the Torchwood novels?
Pauline Howard Have you a favourite Dr who story you have written
Trevor: That’s a tough one. The books I was happiest with were Prisoner of the Daleks and The Deadstone Memorial, although Fear of the Dark, which was reprinted this year as part of BBC Books’ celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, comes close. Eater of Wasps worked out pretty well too.
Mickie: Before you embarked on writing your first novels for Torchwood and Doctor Who, did you watch any of the episodes first to help fix in your head what made the characters tick?
Trevor: I didn’t need to watch any episodes as part of any specific preparation or research; the characters were already very fresh and clear in my mind. But I will have occasionally dipped into some episodes, just to keep things ticking over, as I was writing. It’s surprising what details – not necessarily personality traits, but little moments and elements of particular speech patterns – you pick up when you know you’re writing about a particular character.