Rob Shearman interview: his brand new book, writing Doctor Who and resurrecting the Daleks

The man who brought the Daleks back to Doctor Who talks to us about his new book, Loves Songs For The Shy & Cynical, and the joys of writing for the Doctor…

Rob Shearman is a busy man. He’s got a new book out, he’s got a BBC 7 series that keeps him writing every week, he’s working on lots of new projects and he still managed to find time to answer our questions. He’s also, as many Doctor Who fans know, the man who resurrected the Daleks when the show returned to our screens in 2005, and he tells us about that, about his contingency plan if the rights to the Daleks couldn’t be worked out, and also having one of his plays produced by Francis Ford Coppola…

What can you tell us about your new book, Love Songs For The Shy & Cynical?

It’s a collection of stories – 18 in all – which revolve around the idea of love. But in rather peculiar ways! This isn’t Mills and Boon stuff. These are tales about what happens when the Devil begins to get his romantic fiction published, or when a wife gives back to her husband as she separates from him his still beating and ossifying heart in a Tupperware box. There’s the pig in the Garden of Eden who falls in love with Eve and composes the world’s first ever love song, there’s the man who dates a woman who has an allergy towards his very own happiness. We’ve got succubi, we’ve got ghost cats, we’ve got the entire country of Luxembourg vanishing from the face of the world overnight.

So where did the ideas come from? Where do you find the themes for your stories?

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My first collection, Tiny Deaths, was all about looking at mortality from lots of different and bizarre angles – but what I found, deep down, was that most of the stories were really about love, and the way that people struggle to connect to each other. I think most stories are about love, actually! So when I launched myself into writing the follow-up, it just seemed fun to put that right at the centre of it – not only a series of quirky and surreal takes on love, but also asking just why we feel compelled to write love songs and love stories so much in the first place.

And what can we expect from a Robert Shearman love song?!

Oh, lots of jokes. I hope! They’re fairly dark stories, some of them – hence the title! – but they’re all quite funny, I think. There’s nothing quite as amusing as watching other people struggle even more fifully with dealings of the heart than we do! I’ve told some people to think of it as a self-help manual. Read the stories, squirm at the awkwardness and the really appalling sex – I mean, it’s really embarrassing, some of that, and I’m just relieved that those teenage fumblings that inspired it did something good for me in the end – and then take comfort that no matter how bad your relationships, and no matter how lonely you are, you can’t be as badly off as my poor characters.

Were you buoyed or intimidated by the success of Tiny Deaths? Is it refreshing that there’s still such an appetite for short stories?

Oh, I was buoyed! Utterly! I didn’t expect Tiny Deaths to make any impact at all. I’m frankly still startled when I find out people have read it in the first place. Short stories aren’t given very much attention – people can dismiss them as novels which run out of words (as if you started work producing an 800 page blockbuster but twenty pages in you got bored and decided to watch Cash in the Attic instead), or as something a bit more pretentious, like prose poetry, where the writer is far more interested in the words than in the story being told. So a lot of readers are wary of them – they’re either sneering at them, or intimidated by them.

But if a short story is told well, it has a punch like nothing else, it really does. Tiny Deaths suddenly got lots of award attention – it was nominated for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. And then it picked up the World Fantasy Award in Calgary, and I was gobsmacked, frankly. One of its stories has just been chosen as recipient of International Short Story by the National Library of Singapore, which is more than a little shocking too. So I was able to go into the new collection with the thought that people out there genuinely did want to read my stuff, and focus on that, and try to entertain them.

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Are you ever tempted to take one of the stories and try and turn it into a longer work, or are you a great believer in stories finding their natural length? Do you consciously set out to do short stories?

I don’t know, it’s funny. With the first book I resorted to ideas that I simply couldn’t make work in other media. For years I’d been writing nothing but theatre plays, and there are stories in Tiny Deaths that I had always wanted to put onstage, but could never find a way of doing so. What I’m finding now is that people are asking for film rights to the stories, and there are a couple now in active development as movies. So I find myself wondering whether I should look back and see whether I too can reinvent a few of them in other forms. It might be fun to try.

You’re right, when I set out to write a short story, I very consciously think of it as a piece of prose, and want it to celebrate prose as much as possible – but that doesn’t mean that the ideas can’t be reinterpreted in other ways. And yeah, I think stories should find their natural length as much as possible. There are some good novels out there that would have made great short stories but got strrrreeeetched. The pressure is always on to come up with novels rather than short stories, because novels sell so much better, and publishers are much much more receptive to them.

At the moment I’m working on something that could be turned into a novel, but deep down I suspect will be better as a long-ish short story. So although it won’t sell so well, the short story has to win.

Is it right that Francis Ford Coppola produced one of your plays? That must be an insane feeling? How was the experience?

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Ha! It was very odd. I wrote a play called Easy Laughter, back in the early 90s. Not a very pleasant play, actually! Ultimately it was a domestic comedy about a family Christmas set in a world where the holocaust had been successful. But it was quite funny, and it achieved a certain notoriety, and it won the Sunday Times Playwriting Award.

I was very young, and was rather startled to find international interest in the thing – and the one that always sounds the best was the US version of the play produced by Zoetrope, which is Coppola’s company. I never saw the production myself – and I’ve honestly no idea whether Coppola did either, come to that! – but it was my first brush with a Big Name, and it still makes me feel slightly smug. A production I directed was seen by Alan Ayckbourn’s now wife, Heather Stoney, and soon afterwards I was invited to write for Alan’s theatre in Scarborough. On and off I went on to write for Alan, one of the greatest comic playwrights ever, for eight years.

You’ve tackled many classical tales on stage – have you ever fancied transferring one to television?

I do enjoy adapting the great novels to the stage – Hardy, Dickens, Austen – and that’s partly because it’s a tremendously exciting challenge to take something that was clearly always designed to work as a doorstopper of a novel, and turn it into a new work that feels like it might have been intended as a three hour show in the theatre. It’s about trying to make the audience forget that they know its origins are elsewhere – and you get away with that by exploring the limitations of theatre and pushing at them and somehow celebrating them. If you’re going to burn Miss Havisham to death in her wedding dress, you have to find a theatrical way to suggest it.

With TV you’re looking at another process of adaptation altogether – it’s much more realistic, because almost all the TV we see purports to offer us something which is fully formed. If you see a Dickens story on the screen, you’ve got to believe that if you ducked down any of the cobbled streets you’d still find Victorians walking about – it has to be a fully formed world.

The genius of writers like, say, Andrew Davies, is that he finds a way of constructing those worlds completely. The reason why his Pride and Prejuduce was so popular, or his serialisation of Bleak House was so exceptional, is that you believed in them utterly, and they seemed wholly identifiable. Whereas my stuff is usually pushing at the borders of artifice a bit. That’s always been the appeal for me. Putting something on to the stage which pretends to be real, but winks at the audience that it knows it’s not. I’ve done the same thing with my radio work, or my short stories. I just like playing around with that. It’s fun!

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How did you get involved with Big Finish?

I’d been at university with Nick Pegg, and he was one of the very first writers and directors for the range. They were casting about looking for professional writers when Big Finish began, and Nick knew I wrote for BBC radio, and that ten years ago when we’d first met I used to pop over to his house off campus so I could watch stories like The Curse of Fenric in peace. He knew I was a fan!

Were you a fan of Doctor Who when you took on the writing of the plays? Who was your Doctor?

Oh, I’d been a huge fan. I mean, for a good three or four year period in the early 80s, it was an absolute obsession of mine. I think it worried my parents quite a lot. I was a very shy kid, with a pronounced stammer, and at the age of 13 the only place I really relaxed was in front of the TV watching over and over again the recordings of Peter Davison stories I’d taken with our new video. I was distraught in 1985 when Michael Grade postponed the show for 18 months. And yet I was obviously very fickle – by the time it returned I’d moved on, I’d discovered girls. And although I watched the last years of the programme, it was with an ever more jaundiced eye. It took my writing for Big Finish again to reawaken that sleeping fan gene that had stayed stubbornly in my body.

Once I began writing for the Doctor, I could never really go back. …Oh, my poor wife. When she met me, she’d no idea I’d been a fan, it simply wasn’t important enough to crop up in the first few months of conversation. She’s one of Katy Manning’s best friends, and had always accompanied her to conventions a lot because Katy’s as blind as a bat. Now she jokes that she’s become a Doctor Who widow all over again. I’m pretty sure she’s joking. Yes, she must be.

When did you first hear that you’d been chosen to write a Doctor Who episode? What kind of brief were you given?

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I was on a bus! I had a phone call from my agent, who told me I’d been offered a commission. Not even an interview, an immediate commission, just like that! – episode six, to bring back the Daleks.

It was funny, because I’d only recently told my agent I never wanted to write for a television series again unless I was creating it myself – I’d had a recent bad experience, and I was still venting a bit. Fortunately she didn’t take me at my word! Russell [T Davies] had heard my Big Finish audio, Jubilee, and asked if I could use it as the basis for an onscreen adventure.

What amazed me was just how much Russell left up to me – over the months we’d work together teasing at many drafts, but he was always keen that I take possession of my own script, and could develop it myself. Looking back I’m frankly astonished that Russell took a writer of such relatively low experience in screenwriting – I was a theatre writer, really – and not only had the faith to give him his own episode, but such a pivotal one to the series too, with Radio Times cover and everything. It was an extraordinary act of professional generosity.

Your Doctor Who episode, Dalek, briefly fell into difficulties during the making of the first season, when the Terry Nation estate refused to allow use of the Daleks. What was your contingency plan for the episode?

Oh, I didn’t have one! I’m afraid I panicked a bit for a week or two. I came up with other ideas for new episodes altogether, but I was trying too hard – and eventually Russell sat me down, gave me a new monster to plug the gap, and sent me back to work. The identity of that monster, the fact it wasn’t an iconic Dalek, changed the entire script from top to bottom – it made it much funnier, actually, which I rather liked. What he gave me was a silver ball, and told me that within it he’d later reveal an entire human head from the end of time – they had come out of nowhere, these mysterious creatures, killed the Time Lords, killed the Daleks.

I wrote it a bit as a demonic child, because I’d enjoyed writing one in my first Big Finish audio play, The Holy Terror, and there wasn’t much time to think of something else! Then, after the script was submitted, ever so wittily titled Absence of the Daleks, the BBC and the Nation estate came to an agreement, and the Daleks were back (And thank God, really. I quite liked my script, but it wouldn’t have had the same impact as ‘Dalek’.)

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Russell told me that he had in mind that those silver balls were part of a season three idea he’d now brought forward – and, sure enough, at the end of season three there they were, now called the Toclafane. He’s a clever chap, Russell.

Is there any reason that you didn’t go on to write more for the show?

It sounds terribly ungrateful – but I just didn’t want to keep doing the same thing. I’d been trying to get out of Doctor Who, in the nicest possible way, for a couple of years already. In 2003 I’d written three different stories for Big Finish, and with my final one, Deadline, I pretty much told the listeners that I was going to be taking a break from the series for a long while. I began to feel I was repeating myself, and that I wasn’t taking enough risks.

I know it’s a little precious, but I do feel tremendously privileged that I’m allowed to be a writer, that against the odds there are people out there who’ll pay me so I can make it a full time job. I think what you pay back is that you don’t fall into the trap of getting too comfortable, or too complacent. It was really hard to walk away from the theatre in 2001, but I was all too aware I was being defined as an ‘Ayckbourn writer’, and I had to challenge myself with something different.

There’s such an industry surrounding Doctor Who, and it’d be so much fun just to bask in it forever. But going out there and doing something which scared me to death seemed the right thing to do. Prose had always scared me that way – so I decided to try writing books. And I had the double bonus of being able to watch Doctor Who as a viewer again, untainted by knowing what happened during the making of it!

What ambitions (if any) do you still have left that you’d like to fulfil in the world of Doctor Who?

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Oh, I’d love to return to Doctor Who one of these days. Either on screen, or with my old friends at Big Finish. I know I have more stories to tell. But I’d be lying if I said I had the remotest idea what those stories were yet! I shan’t stay away forever. I love Doctor Who too much, and owe it too much as well.

And what are you tackling next?

Two more books – another collection of shorts, and my first novel! Both of those are being written side by side, and are going pretty well. I’m writing my first play for the theatre in some years, which ought to be in the West End late in 2010, we think. I’m directing theatre again too, which is always something of a guilty pleasure. (Guilty because it’s great to work with a script and pretend I don’t have a first hand experience of writing whilst I do it!)

I’ve a radio series currently running on BBC7: called ‘The Chain Gang’, it’s a show where each week I write episodes of an ongoing story as directed by the listeners’ comments of the week before. In practical terms, it means that I write an episode on a Thursday, it gets recorded by the BBC on Friday, and broadcast on Saturday. And then next Thursday morning I receive fresh instructions from my producer, and need to write another script by the end of the day to keep the process going! Really great fun, and it really keeps me on my toes, trying to construct a coherent and entertaining narrative whilst allowing my faraway contributors to make their impact. And I’ll be doing some more TV work soon, I think, which will be fun.

Rob Shearman, thank you very much!

Find out more on Love Songs For The Shy & Cynical here.

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Rob Shearman is a busy man. He’s got a new book out, he’s got a BBC 7 series that keeps him writing every week, he’s working on lots of new projects and he still managed to find time to answer our questions. He’s also, as many Doctor Who fans know, the man who resurrected the Daleks when the show returned to our screens in 2005, and he tells us about that, about his contingency plan if the rights to the Daleks couldn’t be worked out, and also having one of his plays produced by Francis Ford Coppola…

What can you tell us about your new book, Love Songs For The Shy & Cynical?

It’s a collection of stories – 18 in all – which revolve around the idea of love. But in rather peculiar ways! This isn’t Mills and Boon stuff. These are tales about what happens when the Devil begins to get his romantic fiction published, or when a wife gives back to her husband as she separates from him his still beating and ossifying heart in a Tupperware box. There’s the pig in the Garden of Eden who falls in love with Eve and composes the world’s first ever love song, there’s the man who dates a woman who has an allergy towards his very own happiness. We’ve got succubi, we’ve got ghost cats, we’ve got the entire country of Luxembourg vanishing from the face of the world overnight.

So where did the ideas come from? Where do you find the themes for your stories?

My first collection, Tiny Deaths, was all about looking at mortality from lots of different and bizarre angles – but what I found, deep down, was that most of the stories were really about love, and the way that people struggle to connect to each other. I think most stories are about love, actually! So when I launched myself into writing the follow-up, it just seemed fun to put that right at the centre of it – not only a series of quirky and surreal takes on love, but also asking just why we feel compelled to write love songs and love stories so much in the first place.

And what can we expect from a Robert Shearman love song?!

Ad – content continues below

Oh, lots of jokes. I hope! They’re fairly dark stories, some of them – hence the title! – but they’re all quite funny, I think. There’s nothing quite as amusing as watching other people struggle even more fifully with dealings of the heart than we do! I’ve told some people to think of it as a self-help manual. Read the stories, squirm at the awkwardness and the really appalling sex – I mean, it’s really embarrassing, some of that, and I’m just relieved that those teenage fumblings that inspired it did something good for me in the end – and then take comfort that no matter how bad your relationships, and no matter how lonely you are, you can’t be as badly off as my poor characters.

Were you buoyed or intimidated by the success of Tiny Deaths? Is it refreshing that there’s still such an appetite for short stories?

Oh, I was buoyed! Utterly! I didn’t expect Tiny Deaths to make any impact at all. I’m frankly still startled when I find out people have read it in the first place. Short stories aren’t given very much attention – people can dismiss them as novels which run out of words (as if you started work producing an 800 page blockbuster but twenty pages in you got bored and decided to watch Cash in the Attic instead), or as something a bit more pretentious, like prose poetry, where the writer is far more interested in the words than in the story being told. So a lot of readers are wary of them – they’re either sneering at them, or intimidated by them.

But if a short story is told well, it has a punch like nothing else, it really does. Tiny Deaths suddenly got lots of award attention – it was nominated for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. And then it picked up the World Fantasy Award in Calgary, and I was gobsmacked, frankly. One of its stories has just been chosen as recipient of International Short Story by the National Library of Singapore, which is more than a little shocking too. So I was able to go into the new collection with the thought that people out there genuinely did want to read my stuff, and focus on that, and try to entertain them.

Are you ever tempted to take one of the stories and try and turn it into a longer work, or are you a great believer in stories finding their natural length? Do you consciously set out to do short stories?

I don’t know, it’s funny. With the first book I resorted to ideas that I simply couldn’t make work in other media. For years I’d been writing nothing but theatre plays, and there are stories in Tiny Deaths that I had always wanted to put onstage, but could never find a way of doing so. What I’m finding now is that people are asking for film rights to the stories, and there are a couple now in active development as movies. So I find myself wondering whether I should look back and see whether I too can reinvent a few of them in other forms. It might be fun to try.

Ad – content continues below

You’re right, when I set out to write a short story, I very consciously think of it as a piece of prose, and want it to celebrate prose as much as possible – but that doesn’t mean that the ideas can’t be reinterpreted in other ways. And yeah, I think stories should find their natural length as much as possible. There are some good novels out there that would have made great short stories but got strrrreeeetched. The pressure is always on to come up with novels rather than short stories, because novels sell so much better, and publishers are much much more receptive to them.

At the moment I’m working on something that could be turned into a novel, but deep down I suspect will be better as a long-ish short story. So although it won’t sell so well, the short story has to win.

Is it right that Francis Ford Coppola produced one of your plays? That must be an insane feeling? How was the experience?

Ha! It was very odd. I wrote a play called Easy Laughter, back in the early 90s. Not a very pleasant play, actually! Ultimately it was a domestic comedy about a family Christmas set in a world where the holocaust had been successful. But it was quite funny, and it achieved a certain notoriety, and it won the Sunday Times Playwriting Award.

I was very young, and was rather startled to find international interest in the thing – and the one that always sounds the best was the US version of the play produced by Zoetrope, which is Coppola’s company. I never saw the production myself – and I’ve honestly no idea whether Coppola did either, come to that! – but it was my first brush with a Big Name, and it still makes me feel slightly smug. A production I directed was seen by Alan Ayckbourn’s now wife, Heather Stoney, and soon afterwards I was invited to write for Alan’s theatre in Scarborough. On and off I went on to write for Alan, one of the greatest comic playwrights ever, for eight years.

You’ve tackled many classical tales on stage – have you ever fancied transferring one to television?

Ad – content continues below

I do enjoy adapting the great novels to the stage – Hardy, Dickens, Austen – and that’s partly because it’s a tremendously exciting challenge to take something that was clearly always designed to work as a doorstopper of a novel, and turn it into a new work that feels like it might have been intended as a three hour show in the theatre. It’s about trying to make the audience forget that they know its origins are elsewhere – and you get away with that by exploring the limitations of theatre and pushing at them and somehow celebrating them. If you’re going to burn Miss Havisham to death in her wedding dress, you have to find a theatrical way to suggest it.

With TV you’re looking at another process of adaptation altogether – it’s much more realistic, because almost all the TV we see purports to offer us something which is fully formed. If you see a Dickens story on the screen, you’ve got to believe that if you ducked down any of the cobbled streets you’d still find Victorians walking about – it has to be a fully formed world.

The genius of writers like, say, Andrew Davies, is that he finds a way of constructing those worlds completely. The reason why his Pride and Prejuduce was so popular, or his serialisation of Bleak House was so exceptional, is that you believed in them utterly, and they seemed wholly identifiable. Whereas my stuff is usually pushing at the borders of artifice a bit. That’s always been the appeal for me. Putting something on to the stage which pretends to be real, but winks at the audience that it knows it’s not. I’ve done the same thing with my radio work, or my short stories. I just like playing around with that. It’s fun!

How did you get involved with Big Finish?

I’d been at university with Nick Pegg, and he was one of the very first writers and directors for the range. They were casting about looking for professional writers when Big Finish began, and Nick knew I wrote for BBC radio, and that ten years ago when we’d first met I used to pop over to his house off campus so I could watch stories like The Curse of Fenric in peace. He knew I was a fan!

Were you a fan of Doctor Who when you took on the writing of the plays? Who was your Doctor?

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Oh, I’d been a huge fan. I mean, for a good three or four year period in the early 80s, it was an absolute obsession of mine. I think it worried my parents quite a lot. I was a very shy kid, with a pronounced stammer, and at the age of 13 the only place I really relaxed was in front of the TV watching over and over again the recordings of Peter Davison stories I’d taken with our new video. I was distraught in 1985 when Michael Grade postponed the show for 18 months. And yet I was obviously very fickle – by the time it returned I’d moved on, I’d discovered girls. And although I watched the last years of the programme, it was with an ever more jaundiced eye. It took my writing for Big Finish again to reawaken that sleeping fan gene that had stayed stubbornly in my body.

Once I began writing for the Doctor, I could never really go back. …Oh, my poor wife. When she met me, she’d no idea I’d been a fan, it simply wasn’t important enough to crop up in the first few months of conversation. She’s one of Katy Manning’s best friends, and had always accompanied her to conventions a lot because Katy’s as blind as a bat. Now she jokes that she’s become a Doctor Who widow all over again. I’m pretty sure she’s joking. Yes, she must be.

When did you first hear that you’d been chosen to write a Doctor Who episode? What kind of brief were you given?

I was on a bus! I had a phone call from my agent, who told me I’d been offered a commission. Not even an interview, an immediate commission, just like that! – episode six, to bring back the Daleks.

It was funny, because I’d only recently told my agent I never wanted to write for a television series again unless I was creating it myself – I’d had a recent bad experience, and I was still venting a bit. Fortunately she didn’t take me at my word! Russell [T Davies] had heard my Big Finish audio, Jubilee, and asked if I could use it as the basis for an onscreen adventure.

What amazed me was just how much Russell left up to me – over the months we’d work together teasing at many drafts, but he was always keen that I take possession of my own script, and could develop it myself. Looking back I’m frankly astonished that Russell took a writer of such relatively low experience in screenwriting – I was a theatre writer, really – and not only had the faith to give him his own episode, but such a pivotal one to the series too, with Radio Times cover and everything. It was an extraordinary act of professional generosity.

Ad – content continues below

Your Doctor Who episode, Dalek, briefly fell into difficulties during the making of the first season, when the Terry Nation estate refused to allow use of the Daleks. What was your contingency plan for the episode?

Oh, I didn’t have one! I’m afraid I panicked a bit for a week or two. I came up with other ideas for new episodes altogether, but I was trying too hard – and eventually Russell sat me down, gave me a new monster to plug the gap, and sent me back to work. The identity of that monster, the fact it wasn’t an iconic Dalek, changed the entire script from top to bottom – it made it much funnier, actually, which I rather liked. What he gave me was a silver ball, and told me that within it he’d later reveal an entire human head from the end of time – they had come out of nowhere, these mysterious creatures, killed the Time Lords, killed the Daleks.

I wrote it a bit as a demonic child, because I’d enjoyed writing one in my first Big Finish audio play, The Holy Terror, and there wasn’t much time to think of something else! Then, after the script was submitted, ever so wittily titled Absence of the Daleks, the BBC and the Nation estate came to an agreement, and the Daleks were back (And thank God, really. I quite liked my script, but it wouldn’t have had the same impact as ‘Dalek’.)

Russell told me that he had in mind that those silver balls were part of a season three idea he’d now brought forward – and, sure enough, at the end of season three there they were, now called the Toclafane. He’s a clever chap, Russell.

Is there any reason that you didn’t go on to write more for the show?

It sounds terribly ungrateful – but I just didn’t want to keep doing the same thing. I’d been trying to get out of Doctor Who, in the nicest possible way, for a couple of years already. In 2003 I’d written three different stories for Big Finish, and with my final one, Deadline, I pretty much told the listeners that I was going to be taking a break from the series for a long while. I began to feel I was repeating myself, and that I wasn’t taking enough risks.

I know it’s a little precious, but I do feel tremendously privileged that I’m allowed to be a writer, that against the odds there are people out there who’ll pay me so I can make it a full time job. I think what you pay back is that you don’t fall into the trap of getting too comfortable, or too complacent. It was really hard to walk away from the theatre in 2001, but I was all too aware I was being defined as an ‘Ayckbourn writer’, and I had to challenge myself with something different.

There’s such an industry surrounding Doctor Who, and it’d be so much fun just to bask in it forever. But going out there and doing something which scared me to death seemed the right thing to do. Prose had always scared me that way – so I decided to try writing books. And I had the double bonus of being able to watch Doctor Who as a viewer again, untainted by knowing what happened during the making of it!

What ambitions (if any) do you still have left that you’d like to fulfil in the world of Doctor Who?

Oh, I’d love to return to Doctor Who one of these days. Either on screen, or with my old friends at Big Finish. I know I have more stories to tell. But I’d be lying if I said I had the remotest idea what those stories were yet! I shan’t stay away forever. I love Doctor Who too much, and owe it too much as well.

And what are you tackling next?

Two more books – another collection of shorts, and my first novel! Both of those are being written side by side, and are going pretty well. I’m writing my first play for the theatre in some years, which ought to be in the West End late in 2010, we think. I’m directing theatre again too, which is always something of a guilty pleasure. (Guilty because it’s great to work with a script and pretend I don’t have a first hand experience of writing whilst I do it!)

I’ve a radio series currently running on BBC7: called ‘The Chain Gang’, it’s a show where each week I write episodes of an ongoing story as directed by the listeners’ comments of the week before. In practical terms, it means that I write an episode on a Thursday, it gets recorded by the BBC on Friday, and broadcast on Saturday. And then next Thursday morning I receive fresh instructions from my producer, and need to write another script by the end of the day to keep the process going! Really great fun, and it really keeps me on my toes, trying to construct a coherent and entertaining narrative whilst allowing my faraway contributors to make their impact. And I’ll be doing some more TV work soon, I think, which will be fun.

Rob Shearman, thank you very much!

Find out more about Love Songs For The Shy & Cynical here.