Writer's Blog

A place where I write about the writing life and writing projects in progress

March 28, 2012

  • Talking About Our Book
  • Last night had a blink-and-you’ll-be-killed-by-weeping-angel blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance on SPACE’s show InnerSpace where I give a quick soundbyte about what the book is about.

    It was not one of my better TV appearances. I was really discombobulated from getting up at 4 am to travel from Ottawa to Toronto and a day full of meetings, so I was not at my most coherent. I’m quite convinced that producer Mark Askwith and a crack team of editors and CGI artists worked round the clock to find a salvageable 35 seconds.

    imageI was a little more on my A game, or probably my B game, when Robert and I were interviewed on Radio Free Skaro, the world’s most popular Doctor Who podcast. Robert and I were interviewed at Gallifrey (the RFS gang, Steven, Warren and Chris had been given an advance copy of the book) and we were able to talk about our hopes for the book, how we wrote it, our differing approaches and more. It’s always a delight to be interviewed by Steven, Warren and Chris and Radio Free Skaro is my favourite podcast precisely for the freewheeling but thoughtful environment the three of them create, and that extends to the way they conduct interviews. Go listen to it!

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    March 26, 2012

  • We have launch (party!)
  • The Who is the Doctor launch at Bakka-Phoenix Books in Toronto last Saturday exceeded all expectations. We had at least 70 people there at the start, and more people came afterward. Given our estimates were around 30-40 people, we doubled our expectations. It was both flattering and humbling that so many people came out.

    Our intrepid photographers (aka my Dad and my wife Julie) took quite a few great photos. Here’s some of them:



    ECW made some awesome posters and we had a lovely display greeting us outside…

    Here we are, ready and waiting…

    Robert and I answer the hard questions at the Q and A. I think this one was “how did you write the book?” or “Who was your favourite Doctor?”

    Robert does a reading from his review of “The End of Time”

    I do a reading from my review of “Turn Left”...

    And the signing commences!

    It’s busy at Bakka… Somewhere in that crowd is my High School English teacher!

    And busy around the signing table…

    Robert and myself with Chris from Bakka-Phoenix

    I’m shocked… SHOCKED!!!... to see Richard Salter whom I haven’t seen in several years.

    Robert and myself with Scott Clarke, whom I dedicated my half of the book.

    The two authors and their friends who stuck around to the bitter end! (We’re holding the Doctor Who mugs that Julie gave us as a present for the launch!)

    It was an amazing experience. One I’ll never forget and I’m sure one Robert won’t forget either. Thanks so much to everyone who came out!

    You can see more pictures on the Who is the Doctor facebook page.

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    March 13, 2012

  • Who is the Doctor - Toronto launch event - Saturday March 24
  • image

    We’re getting ready for our amazing launch of Who is the Doctor, which will take place at Bakka-Phoenix books (84 Harbord Street) on Saturday, March 24 at 3 pm.

    Details are on the ECW site, and there’s a Facebook event page as well.

    you’re in Toronto, its environs or the Greater Toronto Area (or just want to visit), and if you’re a fan of Doctor Who come celebrate the launch of what I believe is an amazing book about Doctor Who the new series. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

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    March 11, 2012

  • Anatomy of the Who is the Doctor Cover
  • So how did we get the awesome cover we have for Who is the Doctor? An excellent question. Let’s see if I can break it down.

    image First of all, Robert and myself suggested to ECW that they use Natalie Racz as the designer. I really loved the covers she did for the Doctor Who fanzine Enlightenment (which she did while I was editor) and I had seen some of her samples she had done at Humber college and thought she was talented. So the first hurdle was getting ECW to go for her, which they did.

    Then last June, before we had even submitted the final manuscript, ECW’s Art Director, Rachel, e-mailed us to find out what ideas we had. We were instructed that we couldn’t use copyrighted images (if we used a photograph it would have to be non-BBC, rather like how the Telos paperbacks use paparazzi photos of the actors out of costume), so we had to work with that restriction.

    Because I have worked as a communications professional for 15 years, I’ve worked with lots of designers, and I’ve done some amateur graphic design work myself. And I had plenty of ideas. So we gave them my doodles.

    Idea number 1 was the one I liked the most: a photo cover that featured the costumes of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. (I figured, they’re just clothes in a closet; there can’t be copyright issues). It would require a kick ass type treatment to make it work, but I thought it could. Here’s my doodle:


    Idea number 2 was the one Robert liked the most: A sihloutte of a generic Doctor running forward with the TARDIS behind him. The background was one of those funky sunburst halos like on the Scott Pilgrim books. I was inspired by the cover of ECW’s own book about Mad Men, Kings of Madison Avenue, which uses the cut-up sihlouette of Don Draper from the opening credits to great effect.


    (Although I didn’t articulate this in my brief, what was in the back of my mind was something kind of retro-ish, that looked like the title cards of Irwin Allen series like Land of the Giants or The Invaders.)

    Idea number 3 neither of us liked but thought we should have 3 ideas to choose from. That involved making an identikit face using photos of the three actors (Eccleston, Tennant, Smith). I saw this as an inventive way to use paparazzi photos of the actors, though it had the downside of making someone unrecognizable on the front cover!


    Robert and a designer he knew in Australia cooked up another idea using the words “Who is the Doctor” to make up the form of the TARDIS as well.

    Rachel came back to us and indicated the preferred option was #2, and so Natalie was set to work on it. Here’s an early doodle from Natalie indicating where the type would go:


    At some point Natalie (or Rachel or someone else) suggested using Matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor as the sihlouette. We were fine with this as he is the current Doctor.

    Eventually came the first stab at a cover by Natalie:


    Which we more or less loved. We just had a few tweaks in terms of moving the subtitle so it didn’t amputate the Doctor’s leg, and elongating and foreshortening the Doctor’s arms so it looked as though the Doctor was running forward (as opposed to what we all called “the Judd Nelson Breakfast Club stance”). Because I’m a visual guy, I showed how these tweaks could be made in photoshop:


    Robert and his Australian designer friend suggested some font changes just to make it look fresher. We breathed easy. We were some minor tweaks away from the finish line…

    And then…

    imageOur editor Jen called me a couple of weeks later. (By now it was late July and we were editing the book). Potential book covers are reviewed by booksellers for feedback, and the feedback wasn’t good. It was felt Matt Smith’s Doctor shouldn’t be on there alone and that the other New Series Doctors should be there too. (A week or too later I had cause to seethe when they released a promo image for Series 6b with Matt Smith now wearing a trenchcoat. If we had stuck with the “generic Doctor in great coat” idea it really could have been any of them!) They weren’t wild about the font and wanted something more “Doctor Who” like. So the existing cover design was scrapped. Having covers nixed by the booksellers at this stage is apparently a common occurence so I was told not to take it personally.

    But I was asked if I had any ideas that could salvage what was there but also using the other Doctors. So I got on to Photoshop and I doodled. And with some rough-and-ready sihlouetting of Tennant and Eccleston using various photographs I came up with this in a couple of hours:


    ECW’s art director Rachel liked it a lot, though she wondered if we could lose the TARDIS now as it was a bit cluttered (which I didn’t oppose). She also sent me a screencap of the time vortex from the opening credits and wondered if we could use that as a background, so I obliged her using a blowup of the screencap.


    A few weeks later we got back Natalie’s version, which realized everything beautifully with her own take on it. With some minor tweaking (mostly the size of the title. Natalie in the meantime found a “Doctor Who font”—Assiduous, once the main font for Doctor Who brand during the late ‘90s, and still being used on the Classic Doctor Who DVD range!) And this is what we have. I’ve taken to calling it, affectionately, the “Charlie’s Angels” cover. Here it is in its final form, complete with highlight from our Neil Gaiman back cover blurb:


    It’s even better when you see the book for real!

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    March 07, 2012

  • The Who is the Doctor Book Tour!
  • We’re so excited about this book, we’re taking it to the streets and having not one but three launch events!

    The first will be in Toronto at Bakka-Phoenix Books on Saturday, March 24 at 3pm.  We’ll then have a launch in the city where we reside, in Ottawa, at the Heart and Crown pub in the Byward Market on Saturday, May 5 at 2pm. And then we’ll be in New York City (the first time for me!) for an event the details of which are still being worked out but it will be held on Sunday, May 27.

    More detailed announcements will come as we get closer to each event. In the meantime here’s the lovely flyer ECW put together to promote the book and the launch events…


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    March 05, 2012

  • Oh the Misstakes… er Mistakes
  • Of course, now that the book is a real physical object, you can’t help but find mistakes. Neil Gaiman’s law is that the first thing an author sees when they open a new book is a typo. That hasn’t happened to me, but I have had my humility get a little bit of a thumping…

    ECW Press put first 10-15 pages of the book on their website to read. Of course, this is the part of the book where a) we introduce the book and what we’re doing and b) attempt to write the 26 year history of the Classic Series in 2200 words or so.

    Cue a number of fans pointing out that the Doctor Who Prom video, Music of the Spheres did air on BBC1. (To which I respond “No, the Doctor Who Prom aired. Music of the Spheres was part of that live presentation.” I suspect I’m going to be having that argument for a very long time…). That’s fairly minor.

    But what really did hit me like a knife was when a friend said to me “You didn’t really mean to say Sydney Newman was responsible for Coronation Street?”

    Oh. My. God.

    It’s there on page xi: “Under Newman’s watch at ITV, shows like Coronation Street...became unqualified hits at ITV”.

    Oh bugger. No, I did not mean that. Sydney Newman didn’t have anything to do with Coronation Street. ITV was a loose confederation of different television networks; Newman worked for ABC (Associated Broadcasting) and Corrie was produced by Granada.

    In writing the book, I simplified it a little and talked about Newman working for ITV as opposed to ABC because the book was being written primarily for a North American market, where such distinctions would be meaningless (heck, one editorial note I got back was “You mean there’s more than just the BBC?”), especially as today all those networks have been more or less subsumed into ITV anyway. I have no idea where my head was at, but somewhere in the writing and editing process (possibly even before the book was submitted) I (and it was me) managed to come up with the howler that Coronation Street was Newman’s doing.

    I suspect, originally, I was probably trying to get at the influence he had. Newman brought kitchen sink drama to ABC (in part from Canadian television) and that influenced a lot of TV which he had nothing to do with, including, I would argue, Corrie and Z-Cars. But that’s not what I wrote. I have no idea how that got there. I’ve been researching Newman’s work at CBC and elsewhere for over a decade. What a goof to make.

    Fortunately, it’s been changed to Armchair Theatre in the eBook, so if you read by Kindle or iPad you’ll never see it. And in future printings we’ll change it as well.

    We’re quite proud of our knowledge of Doctor Who and had a lot of knowledgeable people look at it as well but this goes to prove that even in spite of these things there will be something amiss, and Doctor Who fans are so darn smart they’ll spot it. But, as a friend of mine pointed out, that’s true of even the really exquisitely researched Doctor Who books as well.

    Even so, I suspect I’m going to be in a foetal ball for the next six months…

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