Author Interview with Una McCormack
Author Bio:Una teaches writing at undergraduate and graduate level. Her background is in sociology, and she has taught organisational behaviour at Judge Business School, Cambridge, and Cambridge University Engineering Department.
Una is the author of several science fiction novels (including a New York Times Bestseller!), and numerous short stories in that genre. She is also a prolific fanfiction writer, setting up and organising a number of online writing groups and resources for fanfiction writers.
She lives in Cambridge with her partner, Matthew, her daughter, Verity, several daleks and no cats.
BP: First off could you give us a short introduction as to who Una McCormack is? What are you hobbies, likes and dislikes?UMc: I have a young daughter, so I don’t get much time for hobbies at the moment in between work, writing, and being with her. But I do find time to read. I like reading novels – and I’m happy to read in any genre.
BP: You have been involved in writing books for Doctor Who and Star Trek, what gave you the idea for Weird Space Baba Yaga?UMc: I was invited to write in the Weird Space universe by the creator, SF writer Eric Brown. I’m a great admirer of Eric’s writing – he has such a natural, unforced style, and a great ability to tell an engrossing story – so I was very flattered to be asked, and keen to work with Eric on the book.
BP: Was writing Baba Yaga different that writing a tie-in book for Doctor Who or Star Trek? What kind of possibilities and limitations do you encounter in writing either a tie-in or a more standalone book?UMc: There were similarities in that you have to make the books consistent with what we already know about the shared world. Eric Brown went out of his way to be encouraging about every idea that I had, even if the ideas were different from his original concept. He’d invariably respond, “I like your idea and I think you should run with it!” The main difference was that this is a comparatively new shared world: the Star Trek universe, in particular, is very well drawn these days. So I was much freer in that respect.
BP: Baba Yaga was released last June, if you would have to sell it with a single sentence how would it go?UMc: A space opera with weird and fabulous aliens, exciting adventures, and people’s mums.
BP: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when during the writing of the Baba Yaga?UMc: As with all my writing, not having quite as much time as I would like! I was also very anxious to do Eric’s universe justice.
BP: Did you encounter any specific problems during your writing?UMc: Trying to find time in the day! My little girl was just over a year old when I started writing, so the minute she was napping, I was head down writing! I am incredibly well supported by my partner, who took over every night so that I could write in the evenings.
BP: Besides the problems and difficulties, which chapter, scene or character did you enjoy writing about the most?UMc: I became very fond of the Vetch child, Failt, who did that thing that authors love most – present himself as a fully formed character who practically wrote himself. I also enjoyed writing the scene in Fredricks’ office, when I tried to build up the hideous tastelessness of the space without describing it.
BP: Now that Baba Yaga is published, do you have any other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?UMc: I have another Doctor Who novel – a Twelfth Doctor adventure called Royal Blood – due out in September.
BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction in his or her own way. What do you like most about reading and writing science fiction?UMc: I like the opportunities science fiction gives for writers to think about the different ways in which we can organize societies. I like books about utopias, dystopias, and all the possibilities in between. I also like how contemporary SF has become increasingly ambitious in terms of literary ambition. I think books like Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Nina Allen’s The Race are wonderfully written.
BP: If you would have to give your top 5 favourite books, which would they be?UMc: Difficult to choose five and I think that the list would change if you asked me again tomorrow! But today my library would not be complete without:
The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien
Powers, by Ursula Le Guin
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson
The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold
BP: And just lastly, can you tell us a bit more of what might be in store for the readers of Baba Yaga?UMc: I don’t want to give too much away, but anyone reading to the end of the book might have an idea about which character I’d like to explore next!
BP: Thank you for your time Una and good luck with your future writing!UMc: Thank you for the invitation to answer questions at the Book Plank!