Mystery Trivia Tuesday Welcomes a Special Guest: Amy Thomas

In keeping with my trivia theme, I've decided to pose three questions:
1.  Who's the talented young Sherlock Holmes writer new on the publishing seen?
2.  Who brought Holmes to South Florida and introduced him to Thomas Edison?
3.  Who wrote her first novel in seventeen days?
The answer to all three questions? Writer Amy Thomas, whose novel The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes, simply blew me away.
Welcome, Amy!

The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes takes place during the Great Hiatus when Holmes is believed dead. But as readers of Holmes’ stories, we know that he has simply gone underground to sort things out. In several Holmes’ pastiches, he has spent time in exotic locales across the globe, but this time Thomas landed the Great Detective in Fort Myers, Florida where he meets Thomas and Mina Edison and follows the bad guys into the recently planted citrus groves. Brother Mycroft requests his services in helping keep the woman alive and from financial ruin. Thomas has cleverly written the tale from both Holmes and Irene Adler's point of view: Holmes, appropriately written in third person, and Adler in first—nice technique that demonstrates Holmes’ elusive nature while allowing readers to get to know the woman on a personal level. 
           Holmes appreciates Adler’s wit and intelligence and does not harbor ill feelings against her for beating him at his own game when they first met. Adler learns to trust the detective, although he frustrates her to no end. The two become partners and friends. Without giving away the ending, I believe we may see these two again in future Thomas mysteries. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Now, let's see what Amy has to add.
1.  When and how did you first discover Sherlock Holmes? What was the first story in the Canon you read?
I remember first discovering Sherlock Holmes through an audiobook from the public library. The story I recall most clearly is “The Speckled Band,” which freaked me out. I also recall “The Five Orange Pips” and my amazement that Holmes had failed to save one of his clients. 

2.  You reread the Canon only recently. Have your thoughts about Holmes and Watson changed since the first time reading about their adventures?

 This time through, I was very struck by the subtlety of the humor and the masterful characterizations. Watson is a mesmerizing narrator, and the question of his reliability or lack thereof is always tantalizingly present between the lines. As a child, I enjoyed the excitement and mystery, but the sophistication of the writing is much clearer to me now.

3.  What was the inspiration behind the creation of your Holmes novel, The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes, which by the way is a wonderful title?

Thank you! When I reread the canon in 2010, I was particularly intrigued by “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the story in which Holmes meets Irene Adler. The story is a fascinating one because Holmes begins it with a very negative opinion of Irene and ends it thinking she’s clever and more honorable than his client. She’s an audacious and interesting character, and I found myself wanting to imagine a future in which she and Holmes could form an actual friendship based on understanding and respect. That was the subject that inspired me. I was also inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a program that encourages participants to pen a whole novel in a month, and that’s how I got the story fully on paper.

4.  What do you enjoy most about writing?
I’m a very character-driven author, so my favorite aspect of writing is delving into the minds of my characters and writing about their motivations and idiosyncrasies.

5. Can you give us a peak at your next Holmes novel?
At the moment, I’m working on a sequel to The Detective and The Woman that will tell the story of the disappearance of James Phillimore, an incident that is mentioned by Watson in the canon but not explained.

6.  What was your inspiration behind brining Holmes to Florida?
I live in Fort Myers, Florida, which was the winter home of the inventor Thomas Edison. His presence here attracted many interesting people, and Fort Myers society was alive with newness and possibility at the turn of the century. On the other hand, the area was also filled with orange groves and migrant workers, who were no less important to the area’s development. I was drawn to the possibility of a meeting between Holmes and Edison—two great minds—and to the tensions of a society that was dependent on both the rich and the poor to such a great extent.
The geographical location itself also inspired me. South Florida has a pace and feeling all its own, and life on the coast is filled with sea air and a special tropical beauty that I longed to communicate through the novel.

7.  As a member of the Baker Street Babes podcasting team, you’ve read and reviewed a lot of Holmesian literature. What are your thoughts on the ever-growing world of Sherlock Holmes?
I’m extremely privileged to be part of the Baker Street Babes, and I’m excited about the widening world of Sherlock Holmes. In the past few years, mainly as a result of the recent Sherlock Holmes films and BBC/Hartswood TV adaptation, a huge influx of newer and younger people has joined the ranks of Holmes fans around the world. I’m pleased by the increasing interest in the canon, as well as by the fact that new authors are trying their hands at writing new adventures for history’s greatest detective. Laurie R. King (author of the Mary Russell series of pastiches) is an ongoing inspiration for me, and I hope that other fans will find the same inspiration in Holmes-derived fiction.

8. With all the demands expected of writers today, tell us how you juggle all your responsibilities and schedule time for writing.
I have a non-writing, part-time office job, but I also suffer from Crohn’s Disease, an incurable digestive disorder. Illness sometimes limits my ability to be active outside my home, but it also affords me extra time for writing. I wrote The Detective and The Woman in 17 days, but my health challenges gave me plenty of time for editing and honing it afterward.
The best way to make time for writing is just to do it, whether someone has ten minutes or ten hours available. Many people want to write a novel, but only some actually do it. The difference is that some people take out a pen and paper or open a Word document one day and start writing—and don’t stop until they’re finished, even when they have to fit writing between other things in their lives. I believe the main secret to writing a novel is simply perseverance.

9.  I can’t resist asking this question. It’s been asked so often, it’s almost become a cliché, but I’ve found that Sherlockians light up when the question is posed. Who is your favorite actor, be it TV or film, who has played Holmes?
With all due respect to the magnificent Jeremy Brett, I believe Benedict Cumberbatch has done an unparalleled job of portraying a Holmes who is both thoroughly canonical and thoroughly modern. Before the Sherlock series was released, I had no idea how a modern adaptation would work, but after two brilliant series, I’m totally convinced. Benedict is a classic Holmes in every sense of the word.