Ghosts, time travel, espionage, spirit guides, astral projection, telepathy, karma – A War in Too Many Worlds has it all! The third book in Elizabeth Crowens’ acclaimed Time Traveler Professor series is a breathless romp through time and space with Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, H.G. Wells, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, and the eponymous professor, who doubles as a spy in Berlin during the Great War. Fasten your seat belt!
I asked the pseudonymous Ms. Crowens, once a fellow Cincinnatian, a few questions about the series, this latest entrant, and what's ahead:
What was the genesis of the Time Traveler Professor series?
Like the average person on the street, when someone mentioned Arthur Conan Doyle, I equated that solely with his creation of Sherlock Holmes. Before writing the first novel, my familiarity of Sherlock Holmes was primarily with the old Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce films with a few others here and there such as The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Young Sherlock Holmes, Peter Cushing’s version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and the recent Robert Downey, Jr. versions. I had no idea Doyle wrote over 125 works including novels, short stories, magazine articles, and non-fiction reference books. Least of all, I had no clue that he wrote tons of ghost stories, belonged to the Society of Psychical Research (SPR), or that he was into Spiritualism and friends with Harry Houdini.
On the other hand, I always loved Victorian ghost stories and for years had been fascinated by some of the metaphysical writings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially when British explorers and archeologists went to Egypt and opened the tombs of the Pharaohs. To this day, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is one of my top five favorite films. In addition, I used to have an antiques business and worked with estate liquidations. Personally, I love to collect old, unusual books. At one point I came across some diaries by an obscure 19th century Scottish guy who claimed he tried some metaphysical experiments and mentioned something about consulting with Doyle about them. That got me wondering, what if he did?
Assuming the role of Sherlock Holmes, I couldn’t find any conclusive evidence but that’s when I discovered that Doyle was interested in that type of stuff. So, that was essentially the springboard that got me going about coming up with a highly fictionalized, alternate history series, but it also made me curious to dive headfirst into actual biographies of Doyle.
In creating this gaslight paranormal fantasy series, I had the ability to play around with blending fact and fiction. Apparently, that’s my writing style. I do the same, but in a very different way, with two other historical mystery series that I’ve written and am shopping around to get published.
Who is your favorite character in the books and why?
It would have to be the protagonist, John Patrick Scott. He’s a bit of an anti-hero, but these books are based on his “secret diaries.” For the first two books, I told his story in First Person POV (point of view). In A War in Too Many Worlds, after much debate, I switched the POV to Close Multiple Third, because that book focuses a lot more on what’s going on with Arthur Conan Doyle and the challenges he faces. He’s clearly in a supporting role as Scott’s mentor in the first two books.
There is a lot of fact as well as fiction in A War in Too Many Worlds and its predecessors. How did you research?
Research was the most time-consuming part of writing the series, but it also was the most exciting. I had to make about six, month-long trips overseas. While over there, I’d spend an enormous amount of time in museums, libraries, and used bookstores, and I also took thousands of photographs for visual references. While researching A War in Too Many Worlds, I had to test my memory of the trip I made to Germany five years ago, and because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, I couldn’t go back. When I needed a pre-WWI street map of Berlin and realized I already owned one, I was ecstatic.
One of the biggest challenges was finding information about what civilian life was like in Germany, France, and Britain during the First World War. Most material was about trench warfare, which was important for Book Two, A Pocketful of Lodestones. Also, MI6 for British intelligence was in its infancy during the Great War, but I have a knack of finding obscure books and found a few gems on espionage. That’s one of the reasons why my invested name in the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (ASH) is “A Collector of Obscure Volumes,” which came from The Adventure of the Empty House, when Holmes surprises Watson and reemerges from the dead in the disguise of an old bookseller. As I mentioned earlier, I’m an antiquarian book collector and have an eclectic library.
This is the third book in the series, and it ends with an open door to the next book. How many more volumes do you foresee?
There will be one more book called The Story Beyond Time, which will bring us from the summer of 1922 when Doyle started to have his falling out with Harry Houdini to the end of both Arthur Conan Doyle’s and John Patrick Scott’s lives.
What do you most want people to know about this book and the series as a whole?
The Time Traveler Professor series is a “serialized” series as opposed to a stand-alone series, similar to both Outlander and the Harry Potter books in that it follows a timeline, and it really helps to read the books in order to understand the characters, their backstory, their motivations, and how they grow or regress over the course of time. Since I encourage everyone to read Silent Meridian (Book One) first, the eBook is discounted on Amazon. Unfortunately, discounting the trade paperback or the audiobook is out of my control. Since there were a few years in between the release of each book, I definitely urge everyone, regardless of whether they’ve read the previous books or not, to read the Authors Note at the beginning of the book which summarizes the previous books in the series. It’s easy to forget.