My good buddy Ann Margaret Lewis, one of the speakers at Holmes, Doyle, &Friends Six, has many arrows in her quiver. She’s a Sherlockian, a Holmes pasticheur, a science fiction novelist, and trained singer. See how those talents all come together:
When and how did you become a Sherlockian?
In high school I had read all my mother’s Agatha Christie books, so she suggested I read Sherlock Holmes. I read The Hound of the Baskervilles and was immediately hooked. My mom didn’t know she’d created a monster. (Or maybe she did…)
The topic of your talk at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six is the polyphonic motets of Lassus, a subject upon which Holmes once wrote a monograph. You are singer of great ability. How do Sherlock Holmes and music come together for you?
Great ability? Who am I, Roberta Peters? (laugh) With Holmes and music, I often contemplate what sort of music Holmes would listen to (we know of some, of course), or music he might have grown up with, or was exposed to. I like to do little Victorian selections for our Illustrious Clients Victorian Dinner in January. And, of course, I had Holmes dealing with a singer (Watson’s mysterious second wife) in my novel The Watson Chronicles, so both of my great loves came together in my writing, too.
You’ve written two wonderful books of Holmesian pastiche – Murder at the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and The Watson Chronicles: A Sherlock Holmes Novel in Stories. What is your philosophy of pastiche writing?
While writing my story, I keep my head solely in the Canon and I do not read other pastiches. First, that prevents idea creep (I don’t want to accidentally steal someone else’s idea). Second, I immerse myself in Doyle’s writing, analyzing word choice, tone, sentence structure, story structure, characterization, description. Avoiding other pastiches helps me stay away from imitating the imitator in those areas. That’s not to say I don’t read other pastiches (I do, including yours, Dan!) I just can’t do it while I’m writing my own.
And you also write science fiction. Tell us a little about that.
I love science fiction, especially space opera. I have had this universe I’m writing now in my head for 20 years begging to come out, but Sherlock stood in the way. (He has a tendency of taking over that way). But now that I’ve told the stories I think I wanted to tell with Sherlock (at least for now) I can jump into my “Gilgamesh meets Star Wars” space opera world for a time. The first novel of my space opera trilogy, Warrior of the Kizan, will be out this spring from Superversive Press.
You worked in New York for DC Comics. Reflect on that experience a little and how it has influenced your other writing.
I was a lowly copy-slave, an editorial assistant, for DC back in the 1990s, so it’s been a while. But I had a lot of great experiences working with the editors there and I met a lot of great people. I especially took a comic book writing class with Denny O’Neill (Batman editor) and learned so much about story structure and visual story telling from him. It was hard work and I was paid little, but what I learned was invaluable.
You are a member of Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, the Vatican Cameos, and S.P.O.D.E. What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?
Friendship. Meeting smart, interesting people who do fascinating things. Eating a lot of great food with great people—that seems to happen all the time.
What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?
What is my favorite Sherlock Holmes story? It’s really hard for me to pick, but mine is “The Yellow Face” because Holmes changes and grows in that story. My husband often says that one learns more from failure than one learns from success, and I think that is the case with that story.
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