Paul Cornell is better known for his comics and Doctor Who writing, but on December 6th Tor UK publishes his first foray into urban fantasy, a gritty police investigation into the seedy underworld (literally underworld!) of London. We've had high praise from George R. R. Martin, Russell T. Davies and Ben Aaronovitch for this exciting novel and we're offering you a free and exclusive extract of the first two chapters here. We caught up with Paul recently to find out a little more.
So cops, monsters and a wicked witch – what inspired you to write London Falling?
I think I wanted to write a fantasy that could go to some very dark places and yet feature some very down to earth characters. 'Wicked witch' is a lovely descriptor, because it describes a very precise archetype, which my police start to take apart as soon as they get past their initial terror. How, exactly, can this be a witch? And as the book asks, how wicked is she, really?
You’re probably best-known for your work with Doctor Who and comic books – how did writing for these help you with your novel writing?
I think they gave me a work out in how to connect honestly with a mainstream audience. My previous SF novels were a little pretentious, a little awkward, and working in these other media gave me a feeling for how I could really square the circle and write a book that was as serious and weighty as I wanted it to be, but that could still move along at high speed and be (I hope) really entertaining.
What did you find the most difficult about writing a novel?
How much plot is enough? Getting a feel for that is very tough. And it varies from book to book. Damn it.
What authors do you read for pleasure and has anyone inspired your writing?
Christopher Priest, Dorothy L. Sayers, Brian Aldiss, Stephen Baxter, Geoff Ryman, John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire . . . that's just off the top of my head, many others, many of which I'm now privileged to count myself friends with. But in terms of inspiration, I should really name Terrance Dicks. He's a great writer, and I hope I've told him that enough that he's starting to believe it.
If you could have an encounter with a supernatural entity – which would it be?
Well, I kind of have . . . but apart from contact experiences with a deity (later for that, no, really, much later), I've always thought I'd like to see a ghost. You know, just to know if they were real. And then I could do all sorts of experiments, like try and communicate with it, to see if it's some sort of recording or not. When we're on holiday I always ask my wife if we can go and check out the haunted castle, but for some reason she's never keen.