August 25, 2015 / 5:13 PM / 3 years ago

High-end author A.L. Kennedy dives into sci-fi with Dr. Who

LONDON (Reuters) - A.L. Kennedy, the feted British writer of high-end literary fiction, knew she was reaching a different audience when websites such as started praising her depiction of Dr. Who.

Author A.L. Kennedy reacts after winning the Costa Book Award with her book "Day" at the Intercontinental Hotel in central London in this file photograph dated January 22, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico/files

The Scottish author, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Costa Book Award winner, has just switched dimensions into sci-fi by publishing “The Drosten’s Curse”, her first novel starring the face-changing time lord first made famous on BBC TV.

“I’ve always loved the Who world, although not obsessively, and it seemed a fun thing to do. I’d been asking for ages and they finally let me,” she told Reuters in an interview.

The novel makes her a fully fledged member of the Dr. Who universe - a phenomenon that started as a British children’s TV series in the 1960s and, boosted by a revamp 10 years ago and a dedicated fan base, has spread to win audiences on BBC America and beyond.

Kennedy’s past grown-up novels such as “Day” - which delves into the psyche of a World War Two veteran - are all page-turners but are not scared of challenging readers with their narrative complexity.

“The Drosten’s Curse” kicks off with the sentence: “Paul Harris was dying” and charges on with the Doctor and his helpers confronting a carnivorous golf bunker which turns out to be a mind-bending monster “at the edge of reality’s nightmares”.


“In literary fiction you’re ideally going through a process that produces prose that’s as crafted as poetry, but also pushing ahead a plot and characters - that’s the toughest gig you can have as a writer,” Kennedy said.

“In genre fiction, you’re serving a kind of brand, certainly in this case, and you’re reining in some of the prose because it would get in the way of the forward motion. It’s a different kind of story and you’re using a different part of your voice.”

Her Dr. Who is clearly based on actor Tom Baker’s TV portrayal of the time-travelling alien through the 1970s, complete with scarf, jelly babies and manic, toothy grin.

“The invention of sci-fi is exhilarating because that isn’t a part of literary fiction so much,” said Kennedy, now based in London. “You can’t usually alter the real world that much, unless you’re writing magic realism, which I don’t generally.”

The book has drawn praise from both the Who-verse - “10/10” Blogtor Who - and her usual reviewers, with The Independent newspaper calling it “giddying and adventurous”.

It remains to be seen whether space-travelling tales prove more lucrative or popular than literary novels.

“I’d doubt that and that’s not really why I did it,” she said. “There will be other excursions in other directions. It’s best to keep changing and learning and exploring, I think.”

Editing by Michael Roddy and Gareth Jones

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