My short story, "The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet" is available now! I particularly like writing about the “history” of the Fangborn, my family of super-heroic werewolves, vampires, and oracles, because it gives me an opportunity to explore that world outside of my series set in the present day. I mean, traveling the world with Zoe Miller, an archaeologist and werewolf in search of her past and the secrets of Fangborn power, is extremely cool, but sometimes it's more fun to actually get into the past rather than looking at it through the distorting lens of time.
Writing that fictitious past also lets me play fast and loose with history, something I loathe as a recovering academic, but can't seem to resist as a writer. For example, it is not enough to say “that design on a clay pot from the American Southwest looks like the design on a pot from South Africa, so they must be related.” They may be related, but they might have nothing at all to do with each other. In my case, I've decided that when I see wolves or snakes on a piece of art from anywhere in the world, it may indicate the presence of my werewolves or vampires. But I still have to make a convincing story that fits the Fangborn into that culture. Even in writing fantasy fiction, logic is the key in determining what relationship, if any, there might be between those artifacts and those cultures.
Logic is what first drew me to the Sherlock Holmes canon (the fifty-six short stories and four novels written by Arthur Conan Doyle) as a kid. Everything seems much more manageable if you can apply science and logic; any puzzle, even those that appear to have supernatural elements, can be solved.
I think the idea of writing a Sherlockian pastiche, setting my Fangborn characters in the London of 1890s, and specifically at 221Baker Street occurred when my agent Josh Getzler and I were talking about the inconsistencies that are famously part of the canon. For example, Doctor Watson's war wound is sometimes in his shoulder and sometimes in his leg and the number and names of his wives is unclear; there appear to have been several living siblings all named James Moriarty. I began to play with finding explanations for these things: Perhaps Watson was actually one of my Fangborn werewolves, and couldn't keep track of which wounds he received because of his countless heroic actions. Perhaps, because of the longevity of the Fangborn and their constant moves to keep from being identified, he forgot his cover story along with the name of his present wife. Maybe Professor James Moriarty wasn't a supervillian after all, and his web of criminal activity was a cover for selfless actions undertaken in secret. Maybe Sherlock Holmes was really his ally, and they created the idea of a “Napoleon of Crime” to divert attention from the Fangborn fight against evil...
You'll have to read my short story “The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet” to find out how I decided to integrate the two worlds, but it was, despite the presence of werewolves, a game of logic. I had to obey the rules of ACD's world and my own Fangborn world, which was a terrific challenge. I also needed to keep true, so far as I could, to the actual conventions, language, and material culture of late Victorian London. It's not flights of fancy, but mathematics of a sort, a careful balance of factors within a complex equation that eventually gave me the story.
Next Tuesday, when I blog with the fabulous Jungle Red Writers, I'll tell you about how Sherlock's brother, Mycroft Holmes, and real-life spies in World War II fit into my short story. But for now: Do you have a favorite Sherlockian character or story? A favorite pastiche?