Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm Steve, my story is called Testament

It's a funny thing writing. Testament in The Centenarian is my third for Ian Farrington and for Big Finish and after each and every one of them, I have become convinced that it will probably be my last. The writer is entirely dependant upon an editor having the generosity and indeed perspicacity to commision a story. An ex-writer must be the easiest thing in the world to become.
Such was my state of mind in early 2005. All my recent story pitches had been rejected - including two for Ian's latest book A Day in the Life, and I was begining to suspect that the game was up.
Then on one of Ian's regular visits to Derby, he told me of his plans for The Centenarian. I was honoured and delighted to be offered the chance to contribute, not just any story, but one detailing a crucial point in the life of our man Edward - although he wasn't called that at that stage. As I recall at one time he might have been Chandler. I suggested we make him a non-British European - French or German or somesuch - but quite rightly no-one else fancied that idea.
Although I was one of the first commisioned, I was one of the last to turn in an outline, feeling as I did that because of the nature of my story, I would need to know what most of my fellow writers were going to do with their stories, before I could decide where to go with mine.
Ian had given me Edward as an old man, writing him memoires, with the 7th Doctor trying to stop him. He had also mentioned a library as a possible setting. The library fired up my Virgin New Adventures sensibilities. The only thing that I was sure of was that the setting would be the famous Library of St John The Beheaded, created by Andy Lane in the wonderful NA All Consuming Fire. I clearly remember the "Oh no, he's off on that NA kick again" look that Ian gave me when I proudly announced that idea, but we agreed that I would see where it took me before he vetoed it.
As my colleagues posted their stories on our forum, I devoured them, becoming more and more convinced that the book was going to be rather special, but also aware that my story had rather a lot to live up to.
My problem was that I was struggling to find a reason why the Doctor had to stop Edward's memoires from being written. Thanks here should go to Whoovers local group members including Robbie, Dan, Ben and others, as well as the hugely talented John Davies for helping me talk it through. The breakthrough came on a Saturday in Manchester in November. Most of the story came to me in a rush. I had to sit down on the floor in the Arndale Centre to get it down. There it all was, a vast sweeping epic featuring both the 7th and 1st Doctors and providing an arc to the whiole book - brilliant! Actually no, less brilliant, more bollocks. As Ian patiently pointed out, adopting my suggested backstory would mean that everyone else would have to re-write their stories. Perhaps not!
Any road up... This did at least put me on the correct path to draft one, upon which Ian provided me with copious notes, most of which were about dodgy writing, but which also contained the unambiguous instruction to lose the New Adventures stuff. Sigh!
And that's about it really - oh apart from a quick word about my aliens, the Benanki. They are named after a young gentleman at the school where I teach - Ben Hankey - I thought his name was just right for a race of aliens. Blow me down, wouldn't you just know it though, no sooner had I named them thus, than the new Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve assumes office - Mr Ben Benanki (not sure of the spelling here). Ian and I decided to stick with the Benanki quand même - let him sue, what do we care!
So I hope you enjoy the story and more importantly the book. Buy one for a friend, buy two, three even!
Many, many thanks to all the old blokes for so much fun and for a shared learning experience.
Lots of love,


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