Thursday, April 22, 2021

Raiders of the Lost Interview

 I just came across this, which I had almost forgotten about. This was an interview with a site which will remain unnamed, which for reasons unexplained they never published. So, hell--I'll publish it and you can still enjoy it. 



Hello Timothy Miller! As you're a relative newcomer to most readers of historical fiction, please take a few moments to introduce yourself. In particular, tell us about your writing background before you took on your first novel. 
 Well, I took on my first novel the summer after first grade, but I only got as far as ten pages, so perhaps that doesn’t qualify.
      [Note: these were the characters. Weird-O's, they were called.]

 I got serious after college with poetry in traditional forms, which I would recommend to anyone wanting to learn how to write compactly—which, when your favorite writer is Dickens, is something you really need to learn. Then somewhere along the way I drifted into screenwriting, which taught me plot and structure. (In case you’re wondering, I was a theatre major in college, not a creative writing major, which is why I had to teach myself all these basics—slowly and painfully.) Then I felt I was ready to take on a novel—not this novel, but a children’s fantasy novel (sort of The Borrowers on acid), which I still hope may see the light of day. Then I thought I was ready to take on this novel. 

 For years, many writers have created Sherlock Holmes "mash ups" featuring Holmes encountering a wide range of both historical and fictitious figures from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Why did you take the creative leap of having Holmes and Watson working on a mystery featuring the characters George Bernard Shaw created in his play, Pygmalion? And those of Robert Louis Stevenson? 
 My characters first bumped into each by accident other when I was teaching Italian in Milan. I had a young couple who were having trouble with English prepositions. There are something like six prepositions in Italian, and, if I recall rightly, about thirty-five in English, so you can imagine. So I decided to write a little fill-in-the-blank story centered around prepositions, and a detective story suggested itself. So there was Sherlock, well-known to even Italians, and a well-known villain, Hyde, and a well-known setting—27A Wimpole St., the home of Professor Higgins. I think in that one, Eliza murdered Higgins. The next twenty years were spent figuring out why my subconscious had suggested this particular grouping. 

 Tell us about the research you did to prepare for this story. Clearly, you explored a lot of details about London, the minutia of the time period, and, of course, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon. 
 This was a little different from your ordinary historical novel, because most—not all—of the characters are fictional. (Although Holmes, due to the fervor of his fans, who play the Great Game, is almost real, like the Great Pumpkin.) Probably the most important thing was simply to read and re-read the Holmes canon for one thing—Watson’s voice. I didn’t want a word out of his mouth that didn’t sound like him. Certainly I had to consult contemporary maps, and currency, and train schedules, and fashions and a thousand details which actually became more important for cementing a fully dimensional world. But I was awfully lucky in my research. Did I need a member of nobility interested in Eliza? I found that the prince of Bavaria’s wife had just died. Did I need something to delay a train? There had been a plane crash near Oxford and both airmen had lost their lives. It was like dealing with a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. 

 Beyond Doyle, Shaw, and Stevenson, Who have been your literary influences? As I mentioned above, Dickens above all. For big hearty scoops of shameless pathos and gut-busting humor, he has no peer. Certainly Nicholas Meyer, whose Seven Per-Cent Solution opened the world of Holmes pastiches to me (and to, I suspect, half the writers working in the genre). And then Italo Calvino, who taught me the virtues of lightness. 

 What is next for Timothy Miller? Clearly, you didn't set us up for a sequel, so we should all expect some non-Holmes surprises down the road? And where can readers go to learn more about your novel and learn more about you?

Actually I have another Holmes pastiche, set earlier, already taken by Seventh Street, and I’ve got a third in the oven—set later. After that, I think I’ll wander afield, although I have a couple of ideas which might include a cameo role for Holmes. Where can people go to learn more about me? Well, I’m a southerner, so I would say to drop by for coffee, but apparently there’s this pandemic thing going on, so that’s out. So I’ll try to keep folks up-to-date on my web page, https://www.thestrangecasesofsherlock.com/, and on Goodreads and Amazon. Thanks for reading!


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