Interveiw with Paul (Leonard) Hinder


Why do you use the pseudonym Paul Leonard when writing NA/MA?

At the time, it was because I wanted to keep the name PJL Hinder for what I considered to be my more serious work, i.e. small press short stories. However the logic of book publishing is such that I'll probably be Paul Leonard for the rest of my career. I don't really mind; who wants to be a hindrance anyway?

Could you tell us how you began writing for Virgin?

Jim Mortimore was in my writer's group. He was writing Lucifer Rising with Andy Lane at the lime. He was very persuasive. He told me it would make me rich and famous (he was half right).

Why did you pick the first Doctor and original TARDIS complement?

Because Jim's story in the first Decalog, The Book of Shadows, featured these characters. The MA had just started. I wanted to get in quick, before anyone else, in order to have a better chance. This was my first book, and I wasn't sure of my ability to get the characters from watching episodes alone. So I used Jim's ready - made characterisations as a launching pad for my own.

Two of your books have been third Doctor MA, capturing the hard science coating and moral heart of that era. Jo Grant returns in your eighth Doctor book. Could you explain why you are drawn to these particular characters and style?

Actually Speed of Flight was going to be another 1st Doctor book, but there was a clash with Gareth's hook [The Plotters] & I was the one who didn't mind changing it, especially since I didn't have much time to write the book.

I think the main reason I find the 3rd Doctor and Jo easy to write for is that (oh, sacrilege!) that was the only TV Who I ever watched live. I was about 14 at the time, and it made a subconscious impression that I can still draw on.

Having said all that, the idea of science - based stories with a moral heart is very close to my heart. We're stuck with science - we can't hope to survive without it - and if we hope to survive with it we are going to have to be scrupulously moral. So it's important.

I'm starting work on some original fiction soon, in a world where magic works, but which is otherwise very similar to our own. The main difference is that, due to the ruthless exercise of magic. Josef Stalin is still alive, and therefore the cold war - and the horror story that was Stalinist Russia - are still going on, into the nineties world of computers and the internet. So really it's just an excuse to write a 70s style hi-tech spy story with a bit of magic thrown in... I don't think I'll ever really catch up with the present!

Can we expect Genocide to be in a similar vein?

Yes. Very much so. The science of the book - prehistory, anthropology, etc - interests me greatly. The 'present' of the book is the 90s but Jo Grant is still there - I think the book may have a bit of a 70s feel to it.

How do you see the MA?

It isn't just visuals that get cramped by a low budget and half - hour children's format episodes. Characterisation inevitably suffers too - even a six episode series is only equivalent in terms of plot to about 10000 words of text (I know the Target novels were longer, but that was called 'necessary padding"!). Full length original novels therefore can fit about as much characterisation in each as an entire season of televised Who - and with much more consistency, since only one person is doing the work!

Why did you write a NA (Toy Soldiers)?

I can't come up with a high-falutin' answer for this one. It was going to be an MA (3rd Doc) but this was before Dancing the Code. Somehow it got turned into an NA. I think I wanted to try my hand with the format. Actually I didn't get along with it - I found the continuity a bit of a bind.

Could you tell us a little about Genocide?

It's about the extermination of the human race by a group of aliens who have a very good reason for doing so, with the help of a human who also has a good reason. It features the 8th Doctor and the new companion Sam Jones, plus Jo Grant aged about 45, divorced, with an eleven-year old son. Most of it happens about 2.5 million years ago.

How did you come to be writing for the BBC Books line?

They approached me. They approached every DW author in fact, and quite a few others who were known to have an interest in Who. To be honest, I didn't really have any new ideas for them at first; Genocide started life as an idea for a possible short story collection of Jon Blum's about old companions (hence the 45 year old Jo!), but both Jon and Jim thought it had novel potential... Iooks like they were right.

What did you think of the television movie?

About what I'd have expected, really. A bit Americanised, a bit bland, OTT SFX - and a bit brilliant in places (those clocks...!). I'd have liked to have seen more. Shame about the ratings, but there you are ..

You're writing one of the first eighth Doctor stories and unlike other NA/MA the character of the eighth Doctor is largely unwritten. How do you see the character? How are you intending to write and expand the character? Do you see that you, Lance, Terry, etc. will be shaping the direction this Doctor will take? Do you see that as a daunting task?

Whoa, one at a time! His character: mysterious. I still intend to follow the Virgin precept of "don't try to get inside the Doctor's head". Obviously I'll use McGann's mannerisms, his spontaneity, his optimism and love of life which come across so clearly. I think there's a general agreement that he should be less manipulative, Iess ambivalent, more child - like than the 7th Doctor had become in the Virgin NAs.

Yes, we will all be shaping the way the 8th Doc develops. Jon, Kate, Mark Morris and I are in regular email communication about this - but ironically, we talk a lot more about the new companion, Sam Jones, than the Doctor himself! I think the truth is (as Terrance Dicks says) the Doctor is the Doctor is the Doctor. Only his superficial characteristics change. A new companion, however is a different matter...

I certainly don't see it as daunting. My only worry is that we'll somehow make him inconsistent. But it's hard to go wrong, really, with ail that TV background. And Aunty Beeb will no doubt keep an eye open for any real bloomers!

Have you read many of the existing books?

Not many (shame to say). Andrew Cartmel does some nice stuff - his style is brilliant. So is Ben Aaranovitch, most of the time. Jim Mortimore of course, I'd recommend his books any day, but his crime fiction Cracker is better, and so is his Babylon 5 book Clark's Law. Paul Cornell's prose is excellent, and Human Nature is probably the best DW book I've read.

Could you tell us about your writing process?

The writing process is largely subconscious. I try to "write" - be actually "on duty" -for six hours a day, seven days a week, less allowances for my part time job. That's the discipline. Inside that time, however, I'm like any office worker I take tea breaks, I have little rests, I chat on the phone, I do interviews, sign contracts - and sometimes, quite suddenly, write like blue blazes because the inspiration is with me, God is on my side and the words are flowing again. Sometimes they don't flow for days, and that's dreadful.

I try never to stare at a blank screen. It's a waste of time. Making notes is sometimes an alternative to staring at a blank screen, but I don't find it particularly useful. Prose has its own flow and moment, and you have to write it as it arrives. And edit it, fit it in, make it work, later.

What sort of music do you listen to?

Music - any. Boring stuff. Bruckner, Oasis, Dusty Springfield (anyone remember her?), Vivaldi. I didn't even know what an "indie" band was till someone took pity and explained it to me!

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