Monday, November 16, 2009

**Paul Magrs Chats about Effie, Dr. Who and Whitby**

Hell's Belles - Paul Magr's newest release

I am extremely chuffed and very honoured to host Paul Magrs on MFB. *flailing* I've only recently succumbed to his writing, as I've started reading Never the Bride and am utterly loving it. When his publicist offered me a chance to interview him I jumped at the chance. So, no more gushing, let's chat to Paul.


What is your writing day like?

*I write first thing in the morning, if I can. I like to write a thousand words a day, if possible. With the first mug of sugary tea of the day. The rest of the morning is spent on correspondence and business stuff, and drafting the previous day’s work. Then after lunch I either go to work – Manchester Metropolitan University – where I teach on their MA in Novel Writing and also Writing for Children. There I give tutorials and workshops in the afternoon and evening. If I’m home I like to get on with an afternoon project – or reading. I like to read as much as I possibly can. Some afternoons I’m on the train – heading off to give a reading or a workshop, or coming back from the same. This autumn has seen me visiting all kinds of places and setting up my stall.

What have you just completed?

*I’ve just published a collection of short fiction, ‘Twelve Stories’ with Salt Books. ( This has come out alongside ‘Hell’s Belles’. The stories are my best from the last twelve years and I’m very proud of them. I have also just finished my second draft of the next Brenda and Effie novel, ‘The Bride That Time Forgot.’ Which I’m very, very excited about.

Any hints about the next project?

*Top secret! Though there are more Brenda and Effie ideas, more Doctor Who projects and further Iris Wildthyme stories coming up…

Tell us more about Brenda and Effie and their adventures in Whitby: i.e. how you came up with the idea of them, what the people in Whitby think about you using their town and have you ever had weird / gothic experiences yourself?

*I’m afraid I’ve never had any supernatural adventures of my own. I think, faced with anything like that, I would keep a surprisingly cool head. It takes an awful lot to put me off my stroke.

The Brenda and Effie adventures began with a short story on Radio Four, which explored the characters of these strange elderly women who lived in the spooky seaside resort. (That first, embryonic, rather dreamlike story is one that I included in ‘Twelve Stories’). I always knew that there was more to tell about Brenda and Effie, and I wanted to involve them in some lovely mysterious tales. I saw potential in them and their town as a place readers would love to return to.

I go to Whitby every year and the wonderful people at The Whitby Bookshop have thrown parties for me on Hallowe’en, during Goth Weekend. People have turned up dressed up and full of questions about the Brenda and Effie books. What they most often want to know about are the real life locations of places such as The Deadly Boutique or The Christmas Hotel. ‘Hell’s Belles’ includes a map! For the first time we’ve got a map of the town according to Brenda and Effie, and hopefully people will be able to use it…

Can you give us more information about Iris Wildthyme? Just read what you had of her on the blog and laughed out loud – really interesting character, we need to know more!

*Iris Wildthyme is a transdimensional adventuress – a time-travelling rock n roll ratbag, who rattles about the universe in a large red London bus. She does everything Doctor Who doesn’t: she’s a drinker and a floozy; her adventures often go terribly wrong. She travels with a querulous art critic Panda and the two of them bicker their way through outrageous escapades. The Iris Wildthyme audio adventures are released on cd and download by Big Finish Productions ( and there are a series of hardback short story anthologies published by Obverse Books ( She’s a character I’ve been writing about for a number of years and I’m very proud of her, as I am of Brenda and Effie. I’m very lucky in that lots of my projects involve working with these characters I have carefully evolved over time and love working with again. Each time it is like being reunited with old friends.

How did you come to write stories Dr. Who?

* I’ve written original Doctor Who novels for BBC Books and audio dramas for Big Finish Productions and also BBC Audio. I’ve always been a Doctor Who fan, but my professional involvement with Who began in 1997, when I was commissioned to write my first Doctor Who novel, ‘The Scarlet Empress’ by the BBC. It was a rollicking Arabian Nights-type adventure story. Almost every year since has seen me write something Doctor Who related. I find it hard but very rewarding work. It’s like contributing a little bit each time to a fairy tale or a legend. Sewing a few extra sequins on a corner of the Bayeaux Tapestry.

Who is his favourite Dr. Who / companion? We wont’ tell anyone else, we swear!

* My favourite Doctor is the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. And I love his current TARDIS team, that he has in the five part BBC Audiobook adventure, ‘Hornets’ Nest’, which I wrote, and which is being released, one disc per month, this autumn and winter. Amazingly, after 28 years away, Tom Baker is back as Doctor Who! He is ably helped and hindered by retired army captain, Mike Yates and the sardonic Mrs Wibbsey, his housekeeper at his secluded cottage in Sussex.

What are your favourite books / authors at the moment?

* My favourite books – my top ten – is something I’m wrestling with on my blog at the moment. I think I love Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising’ more than most books I’ve read. I’ve reread it umpteen times. But it’s up there with Anne Tyler’s ‘Saint Maybe’, which is a gentle, bitttersweet family saga, and Armistead Maupin’s ‘Maybe the Moon’ which is the heart-breaking and hilarious story of a famous midget living (as it were) in reduced circumstances.

Will you be doing appearances next year?

* Whenever and wherever I can! I love giving readings and meeting readers. I almost always say yes when asked. My most immediate engagement is at Manchester Central Library on December the tenth. As for next year – it’s all up in the air – but I’m hoping to be in Whitby for Beltane at the end of April.

Are we going to be seeing any young adult novels from you?

* You certainly will. I love writing YA books and in March Simon and Schuster are bringing out a novel called, ‘The Diary of a Doctor Who Addict’ – which is about friendships, family and fandom and about learning to write.

Also, tell us one or two truly random things very few of your fans would know.

* I’m forty! I’m forty on the very day Hell’s Belles comes out. Not a very fascinating fact, but one that’s preoccupying me quite a bit just at the moment…

And finally – any advice for aspiring writers who want to break into writing genre fiction.

* Don’t just read the genre you want to write for. There’s so much to be learned from reading books in genres you’d never even considered reading before. Books are so tailored for particular audiences these days. As writers we can become anyone we like. We can step out of our comfort zone – and maybe into other people’s. There’s so much to be learned by doing that. I’m very interested in people who can blend different genres successfully.


Thank you Paul for a fantastic interview. And also thank you to Headline Review for the opportunity to interview Paul!

Paul's newest Brenda and Effie novel, Hell's Belles, is out on 12th November 2009. This is a bit of further info on Hell's Belles taken from the PR sheet:

In Hell’s Belles we find Penny, who is running away from a life of domestic strife and into mysterious Whitby – where she hopes to find herself. But in her quest for self-discovery, Penny may have stumbled on something far more sinister: the gateway to hell…..Whitby is no ordinary seaside resort.

When a film crew comes to town to remake the sixties schlock horror movie Get Thee Inside Me, Satan, Brenda and Effie suspect something strange is afoot. Female lead Karla Sorenson is reprising her role and she doesn’t look like she’s aged a day. Surely that’s not possible? Then there are the disturbing rumours surrounding the original movie – a cult classic that is, quite literally, spell-binding. As events spool out of control, Penny’s new boss Robert draws her deeper into the movie’s peculiar mystery. But can it be stopped before all hell breaks loose?

Find more information about Paul and his books over at:

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