When my first Doctor Who novel Heritage was published, I desperately wanted to make my mark in the world of Doctor Who. I wanted more novels, short stories, and I wanted audio plays. Big Finish Productions had been set up by Jason Haigh-Ellery and Gary Russell and were licensed by the BBC to produce Doctor Who audio plays starring – at that time – any of the surviving Doctors they wanted. But I knew Big Finish were strictly invite only, and I thought the best thing to do would be to wait for an invite. In my head, closed submissions meant I couldn’t even make contact and say how much I wanted to work with them if the opportunity arose.
Incredibly, my approach nearly worked.
Jacs Rayner – who had pulled Heritage from the BBC’s slush pile – was editing a short story collection for Big Finish called Short Trips: Zodiac, and invited me to pitch for it. I send her a finished story – Virgo – which she politely declined. I was disappointed, but decided that all I needed to do was wait for Big Finish to ask me to pitch again. So I waited.
But while I waited, I was invited to go to the Gallifrey convention in Los Angeles. I flew over on the Friday on my own, terrified of aeroplanes and wide awake for every second of the 21 hour flight. I stayed for two nights and then flew back to the UK on the Sunday, still wide awake and terrified but slightly comforted by the knowledge that Colin Baker was also on my flight and somehow convinced that made it less likely it would crash. Everyone was very welcoming, but I was young, nervous and many miles from anyone I knew. I made the mistake of drinking to relax.
By the time I chatted to Gary Russell, I was so relaxed that I still have no clear memory of most of the conversation. At the end of the weekend, I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t bring myself to get in touch with Gary to say sorry, let alone ask if he wanted to hire me. It took two years for me to decide to grow up, and I wrote to Gary to apologise for any offence I had caused and to tell him how much I would like to work with Big Finish. A few months later, I was included on a round-robin email inviting pitches for Gary’s second Short Trips collection, The Solar System.