I am a fan of James’ fiction reviews, so when given the chance to give him a place to talk about his new Sherlock Holmes novel, the answer was an easy, “Oh hell yeah.”
Tell Us About Yourself: Who The Hell Are You?
I the hell am James Lovegrove, author of more than 45 books, father of two sons, husband of one wife, owner of a cat and a dog. I am in my late forties and have been a professional writer since I left university. I live on the south coast of England with a view of the sea from my study window, which I never stare out at dreamily when I should be working, honest. I review fiction regularly for the Financial Times and I am a complete, out-of-the-closet comics nut, contributing consistently to the bimonthly magazine Comic Heroes. I’m Capricorn, stand six foot two in my socks, weigh don’t-know-how-many pounds but probably more than I should weigh, and have been known to be cantankerous.
Give Us The 140-Character Pitch: Where Does This Story Come From?
It’s Sherlock Holmes meets steampunk Iron Man analogue. With added French kickboxing.
How Is This A Story Only You Could’ve Written?
No one else would be crazy enough to. A mash-up of a classic detective fiction character with a steampunk superhero? I am uniquely positioned to be the fellow who came up with that idea. Mainly because I am into comics (see above) and I have been a Holmes nut ever since my father read most of the stories and novels to me when I was a wee lad.
What Was The Hardest Thing About Writing Sherlock Holmes – The Stuff of Nightmares?
Making sure the plot worked. I’m something of a novice to the detective genre and there are various rules and stipulations you just have to abide by, e.g. clues cannot fall into the hero’s lap, he must find them for himself. It was tricky getting the story absolutely right so that it worked as both mystery and rollicking action-packed thriller, and I owe a great deal to my editor Cath Trechman, who shepherded me through the whole process and offered brilliant and cunning solutions to any plot holes I inadvertently dug.
What Did You Learn Writing Sherlock Holmes – The Stuff of Nightmares?
Make sure your mystery plot is completely, thoroughly sorted out beforehand. I’m an instinctive plotter. I rough out a synopsis for each novel, but by the time I’m halfway through actually writing it I’ve almost always strayed some distance from the original storyline and am flying by the proverbial seat of my pants. That’s fun, and it keeps things fresh, but with a detective tale there has to be a consistent backbone to build the novel around. I learned that lesson on the job, and I’m pretty proud of what I achieved with the novel and the new skills I picked up in the process.
What Do You Love About Sherlock Holmes – The Stuff of Nightmares?
It kicks butt. It moves along at a fast lick. It’s got twists and turns and loop-the-loops. But it also succeeds as a Sherlock Holmes novel and is firmly canon, in my mind. I went to great pains to make sure it fitted into the established timeline of Holmes adventures, and I used a glancing reference from one of the stories as the niche into which to slot it. I also think I’ve captured Watson’s (and Conan Doyle’s) literary voice pretty well, not aping it slavishly but adapting it to dovetail with my own style and vice versa.
What Don’t You Like About It?
That it had to finish. I had a blast writing it. The first draft took me seven weeks, the rewrites (with edits) a further week. I haven’t turned out a novel that quickly since my debut, The Hope, back in 1988. I was on fire with this one.
Give Us Your Favorite Paragraph From The Story:
(Sherlock visits Mycroft at the Diogenes Club)
Holmes’s brother awaited us there, and the pair fell to talking immediately, without preamble or greeting, as was their wont. I never failed to be amazed by the difference between them – the corpulent and well-connected Mycroft, the wiry and antisocial Sherlock. It seemed almost inconceivable that two such dissimilar creatures could have sprung from the same set of loins. The sole feature this study in contrasts shared was a prodigious, voracious intelligence.
What’s Next For You As A Storyteller?
I’m three quarters of the way through my sixth Pantheon novel, Age Of Shiva, which tackles the Hindu gods. After that, it’s another Holmes, Gods Of War, which is, I guarantee you, the first Sherlock Holmes godpunk novel ever.
James Lovegrove: Website