Tag Archives: research

Ten Questions with Darlene Cypser

Oh, the stories he could tell….

Darlene Cypser, author of the popular look at Sherlock Holmes’ beginnings, The Crack in the Lens,  and its sequel, University (part of the planned Consulting Detective Trilogy), has been an active participant in the Sherlockian world since her own youth. In addition to her two novels and short stories (see below), she is also an attorney, small press publisher, and film producer. As someone who can take two hours to do the dishes, I am quite impressed, and happy that she found the time to answer a few interview questions….

First, of course, the question I ask everyone: How did you first encounter Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson?

I was an omnivorous reader as a child, reading library books by the foot. I graduated to the “adult section” at an early age when I had read all the children’s books.  There, too, I would start with the A’s and read through a genre. So I am sure that I had read many of the stories just in passing and, of course, I had watched the Basil Rathbone movies many times. In my mid-teens I got on a mystery kick, reading my father’s old Ellery Queen books and buying others by mail from closeout book catalog and a used bookstore in Indiana.* (I lived in New York.) Some of those books are considered rare and valuable now. From there I went through Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books. Then one day at the local branch of the public library my hand came upon William S. Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. I was about 15 at the time but I do really remember the moment almost 40 years later. It wasn’t just a mystery story. It was a biography. I took it home and read through it quickly. It contained references in the back to the Baker Street Irregulars.** I remember telling my parents “These crazy people think Sherlock Holmes was a real person.” I was hooked. I had to go back and re-read the “Canon.” I bought my own copy of Baring-Gould’s book. My mother gave me the Doubleday Complete Sherlock Holmes for my birthday. I wrote to Julian Wolfe of BSI who sent me a sample copy of the Baker Street Journal and referred me to the local scion the Hudson Valley Sciontists. I attended some of their dinners as a teenager. (Recently I returned to NY for their 40th anniversary dinner.)

Which is your favorite story in the canon, and why? And if you have one you don’t like so well, tell us about that one, too.

I always hate this question.*** There are different ones I like for different reasons. Some are pure fun like “The Speckled Band” or “The Sign of the Four.” Others show insights into Holmes’ character or the friendship between Holmes and Watson. Those include “The Three Garridebs,” “The Reigate Squires” and “The Copper Beeches.”

Do you read any pastiche, or other non-Doylean works about Holmes? If so, do you have a favorite book, story, or author, and why do you like them?

I have read many, many pastiches. What I find most important in a pastiche is that they get Holmes and Watson and their relationship correct. Too many pastiche writers are basing them on TV or movies which mostly get them wrong. It is absolutely necessary to read the Canon over and over to understand the characters and be able to write them. Once you get that correct you can go off on your own theories successfully. Writers also should check their historical data, which is so easy to do these days. I still like The Seven Percent Solution. A couple of odd ball pastiches that I really enjoy are the science fiction Time Enough for Sherlock Holmes and Cay Van Ash’s Ten Years Beyond Baker Street — a Holmes/Fu Manchu cross-over. I think Lindsey Faye did a fine job on Dust & Shadow but The House of Silk was poorly written and edited.

You’ve been involved in scion societies for quite some time. How did that come about?

As I said, Julian Wolfe who was “Wiggins” of the Baker Street Irregulars at the time introduced me to my first scion in New York. I tried to connect with some others during college and law school but I didn’t always have transportation to where they were meeting. I had heard of “Dr Watson’s Neglected Patients” when I lived in Boulder but I was starting my law practice and raising my son. I didn’t have a chance to connect with them until 2005. Now I am the “Chief Surgeon” of the Neglected Patients. We are the only scion in Colorado. The east coast has a lot more scions close together. They are more sparse in the west. I visited with the Desert Prospectors, a new scion in Tucson, AZ, in December.  I have also been a member of the Hounds of the Internet, a scion that is a e-mail mailing list.

Your two novels aren’t your only foray  into writing about Holmes. Tell us about your other writing.

I have written many things about Sherlock Holmes which have not yet been published. If we only include those that have been published, the first were two “trifling monographs” which were published in the Baker Street Journal in the 1980s. “A Capital Mistake: An Apocryphal Rebuttal,” and “Barker, the Hated Rival.” The former is a response to another writer’s article about “The Lost Special” and “The Man with Watches,” two stories considered part of the Holmes apocrypha. The latter was linking Cecil Barker in The Valley of Fear with Barker in “The Retired Colourman.” Those were published while I was in law school.

I just published in the Neglected Patients’ “Medical Bulletin” a week ago another essay called “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Courtroom” which I actually wrote about 6 years ago.

I have written 3 short stories. Two have been published as e-books: “The Adventure of the Apprentice’s Coin” and “The Mystery of the Ghostly Bells.”†

Many people who write about Sherlock Holmes choose to write about him as an adult. They choose a case from the dispatch box,  or match him up with a contemporary  figure or event. Why did you decided to delve into his early years, about which we know almost nothing?

Because we know so little. Like everyone else I’ve speculated over the “untold tales” but the truth is that ground has been gone over so many times that it is not interesting. What interested me first was how did Holmes get the way he is? I don’t agree with those who claim he was always that way. No one springs “full formed” like Venus. We are all influenced by everything that happens to us.

You used Baring-Gould’s biography of Holmes as one source. Where else has your research led you?

I consulted many, many references. Most of the research for The Crack in the Lens was done in public libraries and college libraries across the country. I didn’t always have enough money for photocopies. So I have pages and pages of hand transcribed notes from books.†† I used some fairly modern books like James Herriot’s and many books written by Sherlockians about the world of Sherlock Holmes. But I also hunt down books written in the Victorian era, both fiction and non-fiction. They help me recreate the world in which the characters move. This is a lot easier now that I can download such books from Google Books or Archive.org. I do consult the “Higher Criticism” by Sherlockians on matters such as which college Sherlock Holmes attended.

Whenever I write a male character, I always worry that I won’t get it “right.” Have you found it challenging to get into the mind of a young man in his late teens/early twenties?

It is a challenge, but I think it is more of a challenge to get in the mind of someone who lived 150 years ago. A young man of today has many different thoughts and concerns than a young man of that time.

Whether I get it “right” or not is hard to say, unless Holmes is willing to confirm it. 😉

One of your books’ strongest points is their gradual depiction of Holmes’ development. Do you chart this out in some way, or does it happen more organically?

I don’t have a chart that says Holmes changes in this way at this time. I know where I start and I know where I have to end up — that is with the Sherlock Holmes whom Watson meets in The Study in Scarlet. I look at the surroundings and who and what would have been there then for Holmes to interact with. I look at the Canon for elements of Holmes’ character, knowledge and experience that might match with those. Once I have my cast of characters I let them play out the scenes in my head. They tell me their stories. Some take on greater roles than I anticipated. Jonathan was one of those.

The book Sherlock Holmes consults in his efforts to salvage a fellow student’s reputation, written by his friend and physician.

You based the character of Dr. MacKenzie on Dr. George Mackenzie Bacon, an actual person. How did you encounter him, and why did you decide to use him as a character?

Dr. Mackenzie was another character who took on a much greater role than I anticipated.

When I was studying Cambridge of that time period, especially the medical facilities at that time, I encountered records mentioning Dr. Bacon. He was the medical superintendent at the Cambridgeshire Asylum near Fulbourne outside of Cambridge. From everything I read he was a very intelligent and sympathetic man. I literally fell in love with the man. I read about his whole family, who were prominent printers/publishers and supporters of the arts, especially music, in Norfolk.  Another Sherlockian helped me track down all his publications that I could find references to. That helped me rebuild his character. I changed the name in part because I was doing a reconstruction. I hope some day I can do a biography of the real man. That would take a lot more research.

When I met Dr. Bacon it clearly struck me that this was the man that Holmes needed to meet to really recover from what happened to him in the earlier book. Holmes needed to understand what was going on inside his own head in order to deal with it. For that I reconstructed the character of Dr. Mackenzie from Dr. Bacon.

Dr. Mackenzie will make a brief cameo in Part II of The Consulting Detective Trilogy. It will deal in large part with an issue that was only briefly touched up on Part I: Holmes’ interactions with women and feelings towards them. It is much different from their encounters in Part I. It is almost as if Holmes cycles through the entire emotional and psychological journey of Part I in the space of a few hours. He then makes a conscious decision. The fact that he can do so is a testament to how much more in command of himself he is at that point. We will again be exploring his strengths and his weaknesses, and the choices and sacrifices he makes to become the great detective.

What happened to Professor Hastings?†††

You will have to wait a while for the answer to that one. Holmes himself does not find out the answer until late in his career. I’m not going to tell how he solves that out of context.

Darlene Cypser is the author of The Crack in the Lens (reviewed here 2/25/12), and The Consulting Detective Trilogy, Part I: University (reviewed here 7/11/12). She has also written two well-received short stories about Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Apprentice’s Coin,” and “The Mystery of the Ghostly Bells.” All are available on Amazon, and the books may also be found at these retailers: http://www.thecrackinthelens.com/buy.html. Each book has a comprehensive website: http://www.theconsultingdetective.com, and, of course, http://www.thecrackinthelens.com, as well as a Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed.


* “Proving, once again, there is more than corn in Indiana.” (Shout out for my fellow Hoosiers!)

** The organization, not the street urchins. It’s kind of a big deal. Membership is by invitation only, but you can subscribe to their publication here: http://www.bakerstreetjournal.com/


†Both of these short stories are available on Amazon, and both are quite enjoyable. In “The Adventure of the Apprentice’s Coin,” Ms. Cypser takes the unique tack of telling the story twice, using two different points of view.

††Oh, I have so been there!

†††Ok, that’s eleven questions, but I had to try, didn’t I?


Filed under Darlene Cypser, Interview

Ten Questions with Kathleen Kaska

Actually, I would never had thought of doing author interviews if it hadn’t been for Ms. Kaska; frankly, I would not have had the courage to approach anyone and ask! But when she e-mailed me to let me know that a revised, updated version of The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book  was in the works, she also offered herself for an interview, for which I’m very grateful, and I hope you are, too.

“It’s this ‘7 down,’ Watson. It should have been ‘aspidistra.’ ‘Ficustrees’ has put them all off.”

The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book was originally published in 2000, and has now been reissued by LL-Publications, along with its companions, The Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Books. It’s safe to assume, then, that you’re a mystery fan! What draws you to this particular genre? 

I’m an avid mystery fan. I began reading Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes when I was a child. I felt that I was not just reading a story, I was involved in solving a puzzle; what child doesn’t enjoy playing an adventurous game, trying to be the first to find the solution or the prize? I loved that Holmes had his magnifying glass and his very own laboratory set up in his flat on Baker Street. No wonder I pursued a career in science.

Why did you choose these particular mystery icons? 

These three creative geniuses have always been my favorites. I had the entire Christie and Holmes collection on my bookshelf, so it seemed like a great place to begin and I knew Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, would fit right in. I spent an entire summer watching his films in chronological order. Talk about an education; I saw how his talent evolved over his sixty-year career as a filmmaker. Studying these three icons helped immensely when I began writing my own mysteries.

Can you describe your first encounter with the Great Detective?

That’s an easy question to answer. It was when I read The Hound of the Baskervilles. I don’t remember how old I was, probably early teens, and I will never forget how the setting drew me in even before Holmes impressed me with his deductive reasoning. The eeriness of the moors and the terrifying idea that a bloodthirsty hound was stalking the Baskervilles seemed the most frightening thing I’d ever read.

Which is your favorite canon story, and why? Do you have a least favorite, and if so, why that story in particular?

Besides the Baskervilles, I really like “Silver Blaze,” which gave us the line about the “curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.” I’ll say no more as not to spoil the ending. “The Musgrave Ritual” is another favorite because of the riddle Holmes had to solve, and then of course, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” where the woman, Irene Adler, beats Holmes at this own game.

My least favorites are the two which were written in 3rd person and not narrated by Dr. Watson, “The Last Bow,” a spy story rather an a mystery, and “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone,” written from an adaptation of the stage play, “The Crown Diamond.” It’s not the same when dear Dr. Watson is not telling the story.

In one of your blog entries, you make a marvelous comparison between Holmes’ and Watson’s ways of dealing with the world that you call “show vs. tell,” which underlines Conan Doyle’s characterization skills. What do you like best about Doyle as a writer?

I used that comparison when I teach my writing class. We all know that showing rather than telling brings the reader into the story, puts them into the action, and paints a vivid picture. However, in Dr. Watson’s narratives, Conan Doyle so eloquently blends the two methods and gives us some of the best character descriptions I’ve ever read. For example, here’s a description of Violet Hunter in “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches:”

She was plainly but neatly dressed, with a bright, quick face, freckled like a plover’s egg and with the brisk manner of a woman who has had her own way to make in the world.

In one simple sentence, we know Violet, what she looks like, we know she is a straightforward, levelheaded woman who is about to present Holmes with a challenging problem. I included several of these character descriptions in a quiz entitled “Characters According to Watson.”

“And my hair. Let’s not forget my hair.”

Do you read Sherlockian pastiche? If so, do you have a favorite author, book, or story, and why that one in particular?

I’ve read several and I enjoy the ones that stick close to the Conan Doyle traditional style of writing Holmes. Recently, I read one of the best ones ever. It is a short story written by a fellow Sherlockian Dan Andriacco. The title is “The Peculiar Persecution of John Vincent Harden.” Had I not known its origin, I would have believed it was written by Conan Doyle.

I also enjoy Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series in which Holmes has retired to the country to keep bees. He meets a young woman whom he later marries. She’s the motivation he needs and they soon resume “the game.”

You also write your own mystery series, featuring reporter Sydney Lockhart. Would you like to tell us a little more about her and her adventures?

I have so much fun with Sydney. She does and says things I would never have the nerve to say or do. She’s a tall redhead with a sassy mouth. This series, set in the early 1950s, has often been called the “hotel murder mystery” series because each one takes place in a different historic hotel. Sydney’s a reporter who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. The stories are light and humorous, but with a noir feel to them. Think of Janet Evanovich meets Raymond Chandler.

Birds are another of your passions, and you have a book coming out this fall with the Univ. of Florida Press about Robert Porter Allen’s work to save the whooping crane (called, well, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane). How did writing non-fiction differ from your fiction work? Do you prefer one over the other?

The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story was the most difficult book I’d ever written, but it was a labor of love. My passion for this glorious, but severely endangered bird, and learning of Bob Allen’s tireless efforts to save the species from extinction, inspired me to turn a couple of articles on the subject into a book. The reason it was so difficult is because I was writing about a real person whom I’d never met. I wanted to paint an accurate picture, not just of an ornithologist, but of a husband and a father, too. Fortunately, during my research, I located his only daughter and she was wealth of information. Bob Allen’s life full of adventures, successes, failures, but his tenacity and determination never faltered. Few people knew of his accomplishments and contributions to saving birds. I felt his story deserved to be told.

I really love the trivia bits in your book. What was the most surprising fact you uncovered? The most interesting?

The most interesting fact was a link between Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. It involved her disappearance in 1926 when she drove off one evening and vanished. Her car was found abandoned in a ditch with the motor running. The entire country was on the lookout for the missing writer. Conan Doyle was called in on the case as a consultant. He visited a medium who told him that Christie was alive and would surface the following Wednesday. The prediction came true. The odd thing was that the Christie case was similar to a Sherlock Holmes story, Conan Doyle had written a few years earlier. All that was lacking was a Hitchcock movie about this odd Christie/Conan Doyle connection.

Was it difficult to come up with all of the questions in the Sherlock Holmes quizzes? Did your background in teaching science to middle-schoolers come in handy? Speaking of which…were your tests hard?

My Sherlock Holmes trivia book was my third one and by this time, I knew how I wanted to structure and organize the book, so it wasn’t that difficult. As I reread the stories, I jotted down questions in a notebook. When I finished the quizzes, I researched information about Conan Doyle’s writing of each story so I could get a clearer understanding of the inspiration behind them. This was how I discovered many of the trivia bits you mention.

I wouldn’t use the word difficult; my science tests were challenging. With many different learning levels in one classroom, I had to design questions for all the various leaning styles and levels. My GT students knew what I expect of them. They had additional questions, many were essay, and they knew that a few words would not be enough to get them a good grade. I love this grade level. If you give them expectations, make them accountable, give them phrase and encouragement, they will shine.

Kathleen Kaska is the author of The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, (reviewed in this blog on 6/23/12), as well as its companion volumes, featuring Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock. Her books area available in both print and e-pub editions from your favorite booksellers. You can find her blog (which features a special Friday section on small presses) at http://kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com/


Filed under Interview, Kathleen Kaska, Non-fiction

Ten Questions with Alistair Duncan

“I know what you’re saying, Holmes. I just don’t think the agony columns are the proper place in which to communicate with my readers.”

Alistair Duncan is well-known in Sherlockian circles for his non-fiction work. Beginning with an analysis of Holmes (and some other characters) both in the canon and on-screen in Eliminate the Impossible (London: MX 2008) continuing through Close to Holmes; The Norwood Author; and An Entirely New Country, Mr. Duncan continues to produce books that examine both Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle in the context of their environments. Mr. Duncan is also very active in the movement to preserve Undershaw, home of the Doyle family from 1897-1907, and where The Hound of the Baskervilles was written and Holmes’ return from the Great Hiatus was recorded. I asked him a few questions about his books, life as a writer, and his views on Undershaw….

Many writers who are drawn to Sherlock Holmes start writing pastiche. Why did you choose the non-fiction route?

I suppose I like to research and analyse facts and I have quite an analytical mind. This kind of mind lends itself towards non-fiction. For me it is like solving a mystery; you have to gather the facts, decide what is relevant, put it all together and arrive at a conclusion that pleases people. In some ways it is tougher than fiction as you have to work with facts; you cannot invent things to get yourself out of a hole.

Which of your books has been the most fun to write, and why?

The last two have been equally fun to write. The Norwood Author was fun because I knew I was breaking new ground and uncovering information that had not been widely seen (if seen at all). An Entirely New Country was fun for very similar reasons but also because it is part of a much bigger battle – that to save Undershaw.

You’ve said in your blog that you don’t like Sherlock Holmes pastiches with a supernatural theme. Do you have any favorite themes? Pastiche books/stories? Any favorite authors? And why these?

I don’t have any favourite pastiche authors as I don’t read that many. I also don’t have any favourite books for much the same reason. As for themes, I want pastiche stories that stick to Conan Doyle’s world. No fairies, no demons, no “Holmes is a wizard” and no interaction with characters from other stories (particularly those of other authors). In my opinion Holmes’s world is quite clearly defined and you should operate within it. However I accept that other people enjoy works that depart from the canonical world.

Which do you enjoy more, research or writing, and why?

Both; boring and concise answer I know but true.

“Remember that rather impertinent reviewer, Watson? Well, I don’t think he’ll be troubling you anymore.”

In your blog, you’re very open about the joys and tribulations of being a published author. What has surprised you (or not)? What do you enjoy about being published the most? What do you find more frustrating?

Being published undoubtedly gives kudos. Your opinion, if your book is a success, tends to carry more weight than those of other people (even when it should not). However the flip side of the coin is that people tend to be more ready to attack you and sometimes do so in a nasty way. The internet has made this more possible and people can often be vicious as they know they can be anonymous. It is cowardly but one of the things you have to face.

The most frustrating aspect is that if someone does decide to have a go at you it is not wise to respond. I have occasionally slipped and taken someone on but whether you are right or wrong it tends to do more harm than good to you as an author. So having to bite your tongue can be very frustrating.

Have you found blogging and social media to be helpful to you as a writer? Do you prefer one over the other, and why?

They are both helpful and help you to maintain a public presence even during those times when you are not working on anything. Twitter is a personal favourite as it is very easy to reach large numbers of people very quickly. The blog is a place where I can put a lot more information; so the two are used in tandem. I use Twitter to drive people to my blog where I expand on subjects of interest.

 Currently, the fate of Arthur Conan Doyle’s home, Undershaw is the subject of fierce debate. Why do you believe Undershaw is worth preserving?

Where to start? Well it is the only home that is currently vacant and largely as he left it (with the exception of an extension). So much of significance took place during the time that he owned it. I would go into details but then you would not need to buy my book.

Rather than repeat myself I would encourage people to visit my blog:


(Blogger’s note: You will, indeed, find plenty of information on Mr. Duncan’s blog, both on his views of the UPT’s mission, and on current UPT efforts. Also, if you’re at all interested in Doyle’s life, or in Undershaw, I do encourage you to buy An Entirely New Country; proceeds from each sale go to fund the UPT’s efforts–plus, it’s just a very interesting book!)

Should the Undershaw Preservation Trust’s efforts be successful, what challenges will they face, and what support will they need?

Well first you must understand that while I support the UPT I am not a member of it and am therefore not privy to its decisions and strategy. The UPT is only trying to overturn the planning consent. If that is successful the UPT has achieved its aim. In the event the house ends up back on the market, the challenge will be to find someone with both the money and the desire to restore it to its former glory.

You’ve recently finished editing Phil Growick’s book, The Secret Journal of Dr. Watson for MX Publishing. Did you enjoy editing? What was it like to edit another writer’s work?

I’ve edited before but never on that scale. The editing had two sides to it. The first was simply to look for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. The second aspect was to ensure that it was canonically accurate. Fortunately Phil was not overprotective of anything that he had written and he typically followed my advice (although he did not do so without the occasional question – which was good). As a result we have managed to produce something that is already getting some nice praise.

Editing someone else’s work is challenging because you have to remember that it is their book and not yours; if you don’t like the plot, characters or pace, you can advise but nothing more. So it has the potential to be frustrating at times especially if you invest too much of yourself in it.

And of course we want to know about any future projects you have planned? Do you think you’ll ever make a foray into fiction?

I’m toying with the idea of writing a couple of short pastiche stories but you won’t see them for a while yet. I’m far weaker when it comes to fiction and will take my time over it.

Alistair Duncan’s books are available from major online retailers, as well as from the Baker Street Babes’ store, and the MX Publishing website. He is active on Twitter, and regularly updates his blog at http://alistaird221b.blogspot.com/


Filed under Alistair Duncan, Interview, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw

Ten Questions with Amy Thomas

One day, while wondering how to vary blog content while still keeping with the book review theme, it dawned on me that readers tend to be interested in all aspects of book-making, not just the final product. With that in mind, I decided to ask several authors of books I’ve recently reviewed if they would like to answer some interview questions. Without exception, they all quite kindly agreed. I now plan to make this a fairly regular blog feature.

“Not that kind of book-making, Watson. Put your cheque-book away, or I shall be forced to lock it up again.”

My first interview is with Amy Thomas, Baker Street Babe and author of the recently released and well-received The Detective and the Woman (London: MX, 2012), an adventure which teams Holmes up with the Woman, Irene Adler. This is Amy’s first book, and I wanted to get her take on what it’s like to be a new author, as well as her experience writing Holmes, and her views on the enigmatic Irene Adler….

Is it true that The Detective and the Woman began as a NaNoWriMo project? Did you think of it specifically for  NaNoWriMo, or had it been percolating awhile? And, the obvious question is: how in the world did you finish?

Yes! It started as a NaNoWriMo project in 2011. I had heard of NaNoWriMo a while ago, and last year I realized that I had the time and the desire to actually take the plunge and attempt it. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it for the first few days in case I couldn’t finish, but as I got going, I became more confident that I could do it. I’m not even sure how I finished—the novel actually took me seventeen days! I spent most of my free time writing, obviously, and I found the free tools on the NaNo website really helpful because they tracked my wordcount and gave me a way to make sure I wasn’t getting behind.

Doing NaNoWriMo was also a chance for me to find the silver lining in a dark cloud, namely, the fact that I have active Crohn’s Disease, which is an autoimmune digestive disorder and major health challenge. Because of my physical limitations, I have a lot more time to devote to things like writing than I would have had if I was working full time outside the home.

As far as thinking of the content of the novel, it was a combination of ideas that had been percolating in my brain and new ideas that came during November. I was very inspired when I re-read the Holmes canon in 2010, and many things in the novel are definitely a result of those thoughts.

How did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

I encountered Sherlock Holmes some time before the age of ten. I remember being vastly creeped out by an audiobook that had “The Speckled Band” on it, and I went on to read many of the stories. I was extremely heartbroken when Holmes “died,” but my older sister took pity on me and told me about “The Empty House,” which, if I recall correctly, greatly annoyed my mother, who wanted me to have to discover it all for myself.

Over the next few years, a friend introduced me to The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King, and I became a huge fan of her Holmes series as well.

What drew you to Irene Adler as a heroine?

The Sherlock Holmes canon contains a very small quantity of feminine characters, and as an adult woman re-reading it, I found myself thinking about how I would respond to Holmes if I were a part of the stories and identifying, to some extent, with Irene Adler. I particularly enjoyed Irene’s lack of awe at his brilliance coupled with her respect for him as a man and an equal. In addition, I found her character arc in “A Scandal in Bohemia” fascinating because Holmes begins the story thinking of her as the villain and ends up regarding her as honorable, more so than his client.

Irene has been used as a heroine, a villainess, or love interest for Holmes many times. How do you think your version of Irene differs, and how did you decide on the way in which you wished to portray her?

One of the main differences between my version and others is that I wrote Irene primarily as a person, rather than as a woman. That isn’t to say she’s unfeminine. Conan Doyle emphasized aspects of her femininity, and I did as well; however, I wanted to explore her motivations and intelligence beyond her sexuality.

I imagined what would have happened if Holmes and Irene had been thrown together again after “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and I found that the level of respect they both displayed for one another by the end of the story provided a solid basis for a friendship of equal minds, albeit one that goes through several necessary trials of trust.

Irene is a bit of a blank slate in the canon, but Sherlock Holmes is not. Did you find his character hard to write? Why or why not? Did you try to mimic ACD’s version, are there other versions you used for inspiration, or did you let your imagination take over?

My story is a non-traditional pastiche in the sense that I did not seek to imitate Conan Doyle’s writing style or use Dr. Watson as a narrator. I was far more interested in exploring the psychology of Holmes and Irene and following their thought processes through a case. The canon is certainly my main influence, but Conan Doyle definitely did not approach his characters the way I did. As a result, my imagination had to take me from Holmes as he’s described by his creator to the more internal world I wanted to portray. Laurie R. King was an inspiration in this area because she provides a more internalized perspective than Conan Doyle. I did not seek to copy her portrayal, but I was inspired by her approach.

My analysis of Holmes’s character had been part of my thought processes since re-reading the stories in 2010, so when I sat down to actually pen the novel, I didn’t find him difficult to write. His actions flowed from the idea of him that I had already formed mentally.

Do you read a lot of pastiche? If so, do you have favorite authors, books/stories, or themes? 

I write book reviews for the Baker Street Babes, so I am always reading Holmes pastiches of all kinds. Laurie R. King is my favorite pastiche author, and I also think The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer is an exceptional example of the genre. Generally, I prefer books that do not try to sound exactly like Conan Doyle because it’s very difficult to do well.

You’ve written some fan fiction. Did you find this experience useful when writing The Detective and the Woman?

Definitely! Fanfiction is great writing practice because there are many accessible ways to make it available online and receive feedback from readers. One of the only major differences between a quality work of fanfiction and a pastiche is that the second has been published for profit, and fanfiction can be a wonderful way for someone who wants to write a novel to get their feet wet. The positive comments I received from readers of my fanfiction helped give me the confidence I needed to write a full-length book and offer it to be considered for publication.

You’re one of the Baker Street Babes, which is a very diverse group of young women. How did you all meet each other?

I met a few of my fellow Babes through the Baker Street Supper Club, a fansite devoted to the BBC’s Sherlock television series. Several of them were already podcasting together when they asked me to join them to help interview Laurie R. King in 2011, and they invited me to join them permanently in early 2012 as a contributor to the podcast and one of the book reviewers for the website.

What’s it like being a published author? Is it like you expected? What’s surprised you?

The publishing process happened very quickly for me, much more quickly than I had ever expected. In some ways, I feel like I’m still in shock when I see my name on the front of a published novel. One of the main surprises has been the ease of the process, all the way from finding a publisher to the book launch. I know that my experience has been atypical in many ways, but I’ve been very blessed to work with a wonderful publisher (Steve Emecz from MX Publishing) who truly understands and supports Holmes pastiche.

And of course we all want to know about your future writing plans…

Right now I’m working on a sequel to The Detective and The Woman, which is based on a tantalizing quote from the Holmes canon about a man who goes into his house to retrieve his umbrella and disappears forever.*

“Oh, c’mon Holmes! It’s not fair that Miss Adler gets to know what happened to James Phillimore and I don’t!”

*Raise your hand if the James Phillimore story is your favorite of the “tin dispatch box” cases!  *raises hand*

The Detective and the Woman is available through traditional online sites. It is also available from the Baker Street Babes’ shop; purchasing it there will help the Babes continue to add much-needed bandwidth for their popular podcasts.

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Filed under Amy Thomas, Baker Street Babes, Interview