Friday 4 June 2010


Una McCormack: I’m a science fiction writer. I’m the author of three Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels, published by Simon and Schuster: The Lotus Flower, Hollow Men, and The Never-Ending Sacrifice. A Doctor Who novel, The King’s Dragon, will be published by BBC Books in the summer. My short fiction has appeared in Glorifying Terrorism (ed. Farah Mendlesohn), Subterfuge (ed. Ian Whates), The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Vol. 25 (ed. Gardner Dozois), and in various other places including Doctor Who Magazine. I live in Cambridge with my partner, Matthew, and our small army of Daleks.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

Right now, I’m finishing up an academic project, a collection of essays on Doctor Who that I’m co-editing. That’s called Impossible Worlds, Impossible Things, and it’s due out from Cambridge Scholars Publishing later this year. When that’s done, I want to wrap up a couple of short stories (one fantasy, one science fiction). After that, I’ll most likely go back to my current novel project – a political thriller set in an alternate post-Roman Britain where history has followed a different course.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of Una McCormack’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

I’m at my best first thing in the morning. I try to work from eight till twelve. Then I do email and other procrastinations over lunch, and I try to do a couple more hours’ writing in the afternoon, usually 3-5pm. It probably sounds a bit dull, but the only way I get anything done is to switch off the internet and hit my word count targets.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I teach sociology at a local business school. And read. A lot.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime (or science) fiction scene?

Find yourself a good writing group, whether online or in your local area, and make sure it’s one that understands your genre. Set one up if there isn’t one. Get support and be supportive. Go to conventions and conferences and meet people. Decide whether you’re pursuing commercial success, in which case treat it like any other business venture, and research markets and so on, or whether you’re content to write primarily for pleasure.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I recently discovered Edmund Crispin, and have been working through the Gervase Fen novels. I think they’re fabulous and I wish someone would adapt them for television. I loved Ruth Newman’s Twisted Wing, which is set amongst the cloisters of Cambridge.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

I usually have several books on the go. Right now, I’m reading Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin, Zero Moment by MG Harris, and Conflicts, a science fiction anthology edited by Ian Whates and published by NewCon Press, in which I happen to have a story! I’m also halfway through rereading all the Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels (just reached The Hound of the Baskervilles). I found a collected Holmes as an iPhone app, and I read while I’m exercising.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Finish Lavinia? I’m terrible at planning. My chief goal is to publish a novel that isn’t a tie-in novel. It’s enormous fun writing both Star Trek and Doctor Who, but I’d love to publish a novel set in a world of my own devising (or possibly even our own world). I’d also very much like to try writing children’s fiction.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

I’m starting to think that I should have got myself a plan! So far I’ve been very lucky – projects have turned up just as I’ve been turning round looking for something to do.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

I honestly can’t think of anything. While writing is frequently a frustrating process, it’s worth it when you see the book in print, and particularly when people are complimentary about something you’ve written.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

I think we’ve covered everything! I hope readers enjoy the anthology and that it does well.

Thank you, Una McCormack!

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