Welsh-born Andy Frankham-Allen's passion for writing began with a love of Doctor Who.
He's been writing since as far back as he can remember, and, although unsuccessful, he wrote a Doctor Who novel for BBC Books in 1996 after an accident caused him to be out of work for four months. Following that writing fell back into a hobby until 2001 when he began an ongoing fan-fiction series called Doctor Who: The Legacy, which carried on until 2006.
He has been writing professionally since 2004, through several official Doctor Who short stories, and since 2010 with horror shorts of Untreed Reads Publishing. March 2011 saw the release of his novel, 'Seeker', the first book in The Garden Saga, published in print by Hirst Publishing and in all digital formats by Untreed Reads.
Quotes Andy Likes
"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." — Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights)
Andy, let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.
Well, what can I say about me? I was born in Cardiff, South Wales, many more years ago than most people believe – which is nice, I never tire of the surprise in people when they learn how old I am. I’ve lived a long and complicated life, travelled quite widely in the UK, lived in many different places. Moving around from a young age has left me in the position of not really being a settler, and I can quite easily up-sticks and move to a new place without much drama (although saying that, I’ve accumulated so much essential stuff over the years – CDs, DVDs, books!, etc, that moving has become more of a hassle each time). The downside is I miss this sense of community that comes from spending your life in one place, but the upside is I can easily make friends wherever I go.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
That I’m ‘gay’, to use the label that seems to craze people the most. Straight men often find themselves flirting with me without realizing why, and then seem to get offended when they discover I’m gay; as if I kept some kind of secret from them! Because I don’t fit into the stereotype, people tend to see me as a straight guy. Which is cool, labels mean little to me, but when they start telling me, in great detail, about a woman they’ve recently seen… Well, got to draw a line somewhere. ;) But I can quite easily be one of the lads – as long as it doesn’t involve football or ignorant comments about women.
When did you start writing; is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
To employ a cliché, all I can remember is wanting to write. It’s true. As a child of nine in Trevethin (a little town in South Wales) I was always writing Doctor Who stories in my little pad (and doing the illustrations!) – even now I can remember it as clear as day, and I shudder at the memory since I had very strange notions on what made good Doctor Who back then (not to mention that, for some inexplicable reason, the Master had a ‘star head’ instead the cowled-skeletal look he sported on TV in 1981!). The real interest in writing, though, came about in about ’87 in the third year of Secondary School. Nearing exam time and I just got this real desire to write more and more. I remember a particular story I wrote, and my English teacher, Steve Kruger, telling me, ‘I liked this story, in its crazy way. Three stories in one, really’, which to me meant that even then I had a very good understanding of multiple plot-threads. From then it really was just a matter of time, and application. Alas, being a bit of a dreamer in my younger days, the application came much later. Now it’s simply a case of desire; there’s not a day that goes by without me working on one story or another, and I’m glad to say that I’m almost in the position where I will be writing and editing for a living... To be rid of the day job! Ah! Can’t wait.
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
A tough one. It’s certainly getting there. I never lose the buzz of excitement at signing a contract for a story (indeed I signed one today, for a book that’s due out in December this year), and I honestly can think of nothing better than creating worlds and characters, exploring the nature of people through the safe environment of fiction. In some ways, though, I’ve been quite lucky to work with publishers who are very amenable to my ideas and suggestions; I’ll never be one of those authors who will simply write a book, fold my arms, sit back and say ‘right, now it’s all yours’. I don’t think in the publishing industry of today such an author would get very far. It’s all become very hands-on, a very collaborative effort for both the author and publisher. Both have a very strong, pro-active role to play in promoting the work. Of course, if you have the right kind of publisher that can be a fantastic thing, but if you end up with a lazy publisher (and there are many) it can be a bit one-sided and quite disheartening. It helps that I have an editorial background, too, as it gives me an idea of how much work goes on behind the scenes.
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
Awesome! Yes, a word used too frequently these days, and it’s lost a lot of its power, but in the strictest sense of the word that is exactly how it felt. When I received that email from Gary Russell (then editor of the Doctor Who anthology books at Big Finish, and more recently script editor at the BBC), way back in 2004, that simply said ‘Commissioned!’ (after a bit of toing and froing with ideas), it was truly a moment of awe. I re-read that one word several times, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. It didn’t matter that it was only a short story, it was a Doctor Who short story and thus a fulfilment of two life-long dreams. Being professionally published, and writing official Doctor Who! Really, pretty fantastic! Years on and nothing has changed, in that respect. I still get the same buzz, I still savour every moment of the publishing process, collecting all my contracts (and rejection letters – for there were many!), and just ‘living the dream’.
What's your favourite part of writing a book?
The characters. I simply love creating characters, finding the right kind of people with which to tell the story. Plot, although important, is nothing without the right kind of people to carry it. I get quite excited when I take characters on major emotional journeys, trying to anticipate what kind of reactions they will receive from the readers. In ‘Seeker’, for instance, I loved creating the bond between two particular characters (can’t say which, for reasons that will become obvious in a moment), and the response this bond has received from almost every single reader. It was exactly as I had hoped, and confirmed to me that I’m totally justified in what I will be doing with this bond in the second book next year. People will probably hate me, but they’ll be hooked and be hungry for the consequences of what happens to these characters.
Out of your books so far, do you have a personal favourite?
It has to be ‘Seeker’, simply because this is the book (the series!) I was born to write. I’ve always been a fan of vampires, both in fiction and the mythology behind them, and it was inevitable that I’d eventually write a vampire novel. The irony is ‘Seeker’ was never intended as a vampire novel (and, as many people have pointed out, it still isn’t, really), but it was initially going to be a novel about an incubus and a succubus (which crop up in my next short story release from Untreed Reads, ‘Times Change’), but the research led me in several different directions that ultimately ended with vampires. So I simply gave in to fate and wrote a book with vampires in it. Even then, though, I was determined that ‘Seeker’ was never going to just be a vampire novel; it would have many different layers, it’d be as much an exploration of people and relationships as it was about doing some new and interesting things with vampire mythology. Judging by the rave reviews, I succeeded, which is brilliant to me as it confirms that, yes, I really was meant to tell this story. I should also mention ‘The Dead Man’s Story’, as that was my first professional commission and so it will always hold a special place in my heart. It resonates on several personal levels, in particular, 1) the emotional journey of Jake Morgan was very much what I was going through as I wrote it, since it unexpectedly turned out to be written as my own relationship with my then-partner was falling apart around me, and, 2) because there’s a scene in the story where Jake visits his dying father, an almost-prophecy of what happened to me towards the end of last year. All the emotion, the rawness, was as true for Jake as it was for me six years later. For a Doctor Who short story it was pretty intense, really.
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
I love reading, almost as much as writing, and I have always got at least one book on the go. I try to vary what I read, jumping from genre to genre with each successive book. When it comes to authors I have two favourites, people I am guaranteed to enjoy from the very first word, and they are John Connolly and Karin Slaughter. With these two it’s very hard to find something that’s remotely mediocre, and they’re almost always great. I read a lot of ‘supernatural’ fiction, or I suppose what they call ‘urban fantasy’ these days. Books set in the real world but with supernatural elements; such as Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series. I do try to read the lesser known authors, too, but that can be very hit and miss. What tends to happen is the lesser known authors are either lesser known because they’re not actually very good, or they’ve got very bad editors and so come across as particularly terrible when all they need is a good edit. Of course, saying that, once in a while you do come across a gem – such as Tricia Heighway. She had her first book published last year, and it was quite simply one of the most moving, whimsical, and well-crafted novels I’ve ever read – easily one of the best books of 2010. (By the way, it’s called Paddytum and I cannot recommend it enough!) Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing? Let’s see, I’ve done science fiction, I’ve done horror, thriller, real world, urban fantasy, and currently steampunk. Hmm. I’d love to do a good old-fashioned crime novel, but not too sure if I’d be any good at that, mostly because almost all my work tends to delve into horror of some kind (even the steampunk book I’m currently writing has a few horror elements to it). One thing I do want to write, at some point, is a kind of memoir of my experience with my father’s death and how I’ve dealt with it (if indeed I have). It’s something I think I need to do, and it is surely something many readers will be able to draw something from. I’ve even got a title for it; ‘Becoming a Cliché: A Son and His Father’.
Please tell us a little about your current release.
That’ll be ‘Seeker’, which is book one of The Garden series of novels. There’ll be four in total (and I’ve got them all planned out – more or less). It’s a cross-genre novel, more about people and relationships than about actual vampires. Even the vampire element comes down to the characters and less about the lore. There are two themes that run through the series (well, there are several more, but two main themes), and they are, 1) predestination vs. free will, and, 2) sexual identity. All the main characters are thrown head first into those themes in some way or another; no one is immune. Not unlike people in the real world, really, since there’s barely a day that passes where our sexual identity doesn’t become relevant or we wonder ‘why?’.
She swung his legs over, and with a painful sting in his groin he managed to sit on the edge of the roof next to Robin, who smiled at him, then looked out from the top of Michael Stewart House. From their vantage point on the roof they could see across Fulham and out past Charing Cross Hospital. It was a clear night, offering a good view, but it was chilly. Fortunately, due to their very own version of extreme indoor sports, and the subsequent climbing onto the roof, Ste didn’t feel much of that chill. His muscles were sore, his body warm, he was also in some pain. But it was a nice pain. “It’ll probably go septic by the morning,” he said. Robin shrugged. “Not necessarily. Depends on how well you heal.” “Well enough,” Ste said, gently pulling the crotch of his jeans away from his now very sensitive genitals. “Still, that was... Where did you learn that?” “Jassy, a small place in Moldavia.” “Right. You’ve travelled a lot,” Ste said, having forgotten the amount of places Robin had mentioned in a first-hand-experience kind of way. They’d only known each about four months, met in a pub off Oxford Street. Ste noticed something in Robin he’d found very familiar, and decided to introduce himself. Soon found out they had much in common, including a love for extreme sports. Of course, back in November Ste had no idea that Robin liked to take those extreme sports into the bedroom. But hey, Ste was up for trying anything once, and that first night when Robin had applied pressure there Ste had almost fallen to his knees. It had hurt at first, but then the adrenalin kicked in, the endorphins were released, and he found himself incredibly turned on by the pain. Now here they were. Ste would never call himself gay, nor Robin come to that, but they had developed a rather interesting friendship, one with very few boundaries. It wasn’t about sex, none of it was, it was about the rush, the high they both got. Be it with each other or with women involved, it didn’t much matter. What mattered was the end result; the high! “What if I told you that you’re still missing out on the biggest high of them all?” Robin asked, almost as if he had read Ste’s mind. “Then I’d say let’s do it, man!” Robin nodded his head slowly. “Right, okay, but I need to show you something first.” “What?” Robin looked at Ste and winked. Then, without preamble, he flung himself off the roof. For a second, unable to believe his eyes, Ste continued to look in the spot Robin had occupied, then he lowered his head, his heart beating faster than it had ever beaten before, and saw something that he just couldn’t accept. Excerpt from ‘Serere, A Prelude: The Garden’ by Andy Frankham-Allen; get this novelette free when you buy ‘Seeker: The Garden Book One of Four’ direct from the publisher.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Many things, I have a very full calendar. I will literally be jumping from one project to the next, with no real time off until at least March next year. Coming this month we have ‘Times Change’, a short story about, surprisingly, the way sexuality has changed over the decades. This will be followed in July by ‘Hearts of Stone’, which is the first book in Untreed Reads’s new series, Space 1889 & Beyond. This steampunk series is headed by me, that is to say I’m the line editor, and so am in charge of the overall direction and commissioning of the entire thing, There’ll be subsequently four stories following my own, written by some real top authors (the names of whom will be revealed very soon), and then series one concludes in December with ‘Hearts of Men’, which I’ll be co-writing. Now, not to give too much away, but the theme of homosexuality will be featured in this series through at least one character, although as it’s set in the 19th century expect it to be dealt with in a very different kind of way. Your readers will most definitely find reading it at least as interesting as I find writing it. In between my two novels there, I’ll be working on a project I’m calling ‘Larkin’ About’, which is a true story about one of my dearest friends and his experience of contracting HIV. It’s going to be a very tough one to write, but it’s one of those projects I feel is absolutely necessary. This won’t be available until early 2012, though, I suspect, around about the same time as book two of The Garden series. Anything you want to say to your readers. I’m here and I ain’t going anywhere. ;) Seriously, though, I have no intention of presenting ‘positive’ images of gay people in my works, because I think that would be as untrue as presenting negative stereotypes. But you can be assured that if ever a gay character appears, and at least one will in pretty much everything I write, they will certainly be real. I think, as a gay man myself, I have a duty to promote sexual equality in my writing, but to never preach it. I don’t write fiction as a soapbox, and I don’t intend to capitalise on my sexuality, but I will always do my best to be honest in my fiction and create characters that everyone can relate to on some level.
Books by Andy Frankham-Allen:
- Serere, A Prelude — published 2011
- Reflection — published 2011
- Legacy 1.2 — published 2011
- Legacy 1.1 — published 2010
- One Mistake — published 2010
- Off Flesh — published 2010
- Doctor Who - Re:Collections (The Best of Short Trips, #29) — published 2009
- Short Trips: Snapshots (Doctor Who Short Trips Anthology Series) — published 2007
- Short Trips: Solar System (Doctor Who Short Trips: Solar System (Doctor Who Short Trips Anthology Series) — published 2006
- The Lunar Inheritance (Space 1889, #4) — published 2005
- Short Trips: Repercussions (Doctor Who Short Trips: Repercussions (Doctor Who Short Trips Anthology Series) — published 2004
- Seeker (The Garden, #1)