INTERVIEW: Doctor Who Writer Jenny Colgan Answers Your Questions

Next month sees the welcome return of the Tenth Doctor, as played by David Tennant, in a series of brand new hour-long audio adventures for Big Finish and a brand new BBC novel. And one lady is behind two of the eagerly anticipated new tales, Jenny Colgan.
Jenny is also the author of countless best selling novels including Little Beach Street Bakery and the Top 5 bestseller Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2013 as well as Meet Me at the Cupcake Café which was a Sunday Times Top 10 bestseller, and won the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance 2012.

Jenny has penned the Big Finish story Time Reaver which sees the Doctor and Donna arrive on Calibris, a spaceport planet where anything goes. She is also behind the BBC novel In The Blood, an exciting and exclusive new adventure also featuring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor.

Jenny very kindly took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions from our readers:

Helen Forbes - If you could write a story for any Doctor / Companion combination other than Ten and Donna. Who would it be?

Nine and Rose!!!! I've never written for Chris. I would LOVE to. I adored him. Plus from old Who I liked writing Nyssa, I'd like to do more for her. And both the Romanas I'm very fond of.

Max Jones - Who is your favourite Doctor?

That changes depending on who I'm writing at the time. I like writing for Matt because he talks a lot. David does a lot with his face, which of course makes him a wonderful actor, but isn't as much of a gift to a writer. Ha, I was writing for Matt all day recently then went out that night and he walked into the bar I was in. My face with a picture according to my friends. It was like he'd just walked straight out of my head.

If I was absolutely forced to choose though, I love what David did for Doctor Who. In the UK he took it from this niche show for kids into this massive absolute phenomenon. It was brilliant to watch, such incredible fun. When they did the fake regen the whole of Britain basically had a collective nervous breakdown.  Plus he got such wonderful stories- Blink, Family of Blood, Turn Left, The Girl in the Fireplace, Silence in the Library. It was quite a run.

James Joseph - Is there a different method for writing an audio drama as opposed to a novel?

Yeah. Audio is far harder, but that might be because I started with novels. I've written 27 novels so I'm probably getting the hang of it by now whereas with scripts I'm still very much finding my feet. 

Bob Emberton - You have written a Doctor / Donna audio book and a novel. What was your favourite TV episode with them in?

Silence in the LIbrary/ Forests of the Dead. it's one of my favourite stories of anything ever. It's scary, romantic, incredibly clever ; funny: I know it off by heart and can watch it again and again. 

Ellie Clapham - If you were a companion to David Tennant's Doctor which one would you be and why?

Oh I'm Donna, for sure. Getting on a bit, bit noisy, always up for a laugh and really REALLY keen to have a shot in the TARDIS pretty much sums me up.  

Steph Hughes - How did you get involved with writing for Doctor Who?

I asked them nicely. Well, I say nicely. I mean badgered. Well I SAY badgered. I mean, harrassed.

Mike McCartney - Which did you prefer writing Time Reaver or In The Blood? And can you tell us a bit more about them?

I like In the Blood a lot I will tell you. It was quite a short deadline and I just threw myself at it and immersed myself completely in the Whoniverse ( I hate that term, sorry), for a couple of months and had a blast. It's about an alien virus that's killing internet trolls and the Doctor and Donna have to travel the world trying to track it down. It's really fun I think. 

Time Reaver I was a bit more nervous about doing and we went through a lot more drafts, although Big Finish are absolutely brilliant to work with. It's about a deadly time-slowing weapon and a gigantic gangster octopus. I'm very fond of the gigantic gangster octopus. 

Peter Johnson - Did you get to visit the Big Finish studio and see David Tennant and Catherine Tate playing out your words?

Alas, not this time! My mole on the inside tells me they were awesome though.

Alan Harrison - Would you like to write an episode for Peter Capaldi's Doctor and if so what sort of adventure would you like him to go on?

I've written two or three stories for PC now- All the Empty Towers is probably the one I'd recommend reading (it's in the anthology Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who). I love writing him, but I would probably make him a little sweeter than they do on screen. He's an exceptionally lovely man, and I don't think they show this enough. So, something that helped show the soft side of him, probably. 

James Nugent - When did you first become a fan of Doctor Who?

When I was very little, around the Tom Baker era. City of Death is the first episode that really made an impression. After that I was completely hooked. 

Claire Wentworth - Are there any classic Doctor Who foes who you'd like to include in a future story?

Yes! The Mara! I have no idea why they haven't brought them back in the  new era yet. Come on; a hideous clown who haunts your dreams and turns into a snake? It's HORRIFYING. 

Sara Blair - What is your own favourite Doctor Who novel?

Brain of Morbius. Terrance Dicks was always my favourite

Kevin Hayes - Did you re-watch episodes of David and Catherine to help before you wrote for them?

I watched bits and bobs- like Gareth's charades scene in The Unicorn and the Wasp, which I think is just so funny and so them. Then the kids caught me doing it and demanded to watch all of David from the start, so I think we're only up to the cybermen. My 6 year old has always been noisily emphatic that Matt Smith is the 'real' Doctor and everyone else is just pretending (on one awkward occasion in full earshot of Peter), but I think David is winning her round. Anyway I've seen them all a million times. I reckon I can get them on paper.  We'll see!

Paul Billings - How did you capture the 'voice' of David's Doctor?

I had him kidnapped then only fed him when he said the words out loud. That's why he's so thin.

If you feel that might be too time- consuming, I also wrote absolutely loads then discarded anything I couldn't hear him say in my head. I try and avoid the obvious, so you'll never hear him say 'Allons-y' or anything like that. Although I think he does try out 'capisce?' come to think of it. And I did try and avoid tropes, but unfortuately I do make him suffer quite badly at one point in In the Blood. I am so sorry about this. I cannot think of an actor who had had to endure more physical agony in the role. He must just give good pain face; they're always hurting him.

Jamie Keating - Will you be writing any more stories for the Tenth Doctor?

Cor yes I hope so. He doesn't even kiss anyone in any of mine, so there's tons to do.

Jennifer Martin - You've also written for Matt Smith's Doctor in Dark Horizons and Into Nowhere. Which Doctor was the easiest to capture on paper and which do you prefer writing for?

I'm written loads for Matt, and I've written for both the Peters as well. The answer is I love whichever one I'm writing for that day. The very nicest thing about writing around the show- novels, stories, audios and so on- is that you get to try on so many different Doctors.

 I always consider it my most important job that you should know immediately which one I'm writing without me having to tell you; you should feel at home straight away. David's Doctor understands human emotions. Matt's doesn't at all. Peter's does but he doesn't give a toss.

Kate Jennings - When you are writing for a Doctor do you have a list of character traits that you want to include or do you try to put your own stamp on them?

That's such an interesting question. One of the reasons I love writing for Doctor Who so much is that you have various pre-set limits; there's lots of things you just can't do. Whereas obviously when I write my other novels, the world totally belongs to me. So you're building on someone else's- lots of people's- work on this vast mythic character, that everyone has a view on, and you have to try and nail that first, make them utterly convincing as the Doctor people know, and then, if you can, push it a little further or a little deeper.  I'm always pleased when I get away with things we didn't necessarily know about the Doctor before, even if they're tiny things. It's also probably why I can't resist diving into the deeper recesses of the TARDIS at every given opportunity.

Steven uses the term Head Canon which I like; it's your take on what's happened and why and the reasons for it, which of course you can debate endlessly. So for example my head canon on Clara is totally different from the television show's (you normally write quite far in advance of the series and they don't always tell you what's going to be happening to the character), in terms of how she feels about her experiences. Clara is always a bit miserably conflicted when I write her! And obviously in Picnic at Asgard I deal with River thinking and behaving in two completely different ways (that story is about her considering motherhood).

Matthew Clarke - Was it daunting to be given the task of writing for such an iconic character? 

For the novel no, because I'm a relatively experienced novelist. For the audio, knowing they'd be sitting down and reading out my scripts, yes, very much so!

Leo Neville - What is the most difficult part of the process for writing a Doctor Who story?

When it's finished, it goes off to Cardiff to the big head office and they check it out. Sometimes what you think is a brilliant idea just isn't appropriate for the show, and that's just that, so it's always a bit nerve-wracking waiting to hear.

Kate Morrison - Do you have any tips for a budding writer to get published?

Read loads, write loads, and submit really really carefully- track down an agent who would suit the kind of thing you're working on, read carefully what their submission guidelines are and only send them exactly what they're asking for. And good luck!

Leanne Pierce - What's coming up next for you? 

I'm working on a Torchwood, the paperback of my scifi novel Resistance is Futile is out in June, and the third part of my Beach Street Bakery series will be out at Christmas. And I"m writing a novella about Syrian refugees. I am very very busy, but that's how I like it!

Thanks for all the questions!