Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sherlock Holmes before he was famous

Katherine Tomlinson at Dark Valentine magazine has graciously consented to let me cross-post this interview.

Sherlock Holmes as a teenager; his brother Mycroft called home to talk him out of his new hobbies…

Victorian adventure ensues in Steve Poling’s new story The Aristotelian (with cover by our own Joanne Renaud). Available for 99 cents at, the book is the first in a planned series.

Steve Poling stopped by Dark Valentine to tell us a little about the book and what he has planned for the Holmes boys.

DV: The Aristotelian is an engaging romp. How long did it take you to take to write it?

SP: Thank you. It came together over a couple months in fits and starts. I had lost interest in writing, and wrote it as an exercise to get back in touch with what I loved reading most. I’d always thought Mycroft’s supposed laziness a cover for something else that Watson never knew and Sherlock only suspected. For instance, the metal filings on Mycroft’s sleeve is not indicative of locksmithing.

A singular character such as Sherlock Holmes must have had a singular family life growing up. It was a joy exploring it.

DV: I love that Mycroft tells the story. Why his point of view?

SP: Because I studied mathematics in school and minored in philosophy, I identify more with Mycroft or their father than I do with Sherlock. I take a perverse pleasure showing a formidable, yet immature, Sherlock Holmes getting in trouble.

DV: In fact, why Sherlock? Are you a longtime Conan Doyle fan?

SP: I’ve liked the Sherlock Holmes stories since I was a youth. I like pretty much everything I’ve read of Conan Doyle, but particularly his Holmes stories.

DV: What kind of research did you do to make the period come alive?

SP: I’ve been interested in the Victorian era ever since I started reading steampunk. Obviously, reading period literature is a big deal. I have three shoe boxes of photographs passed down through the family. The oldest are the most interesting. And Dr. Google has been very helpful in answering the questions that came to mind. I had the great good fortune to visit the Sherlock Holmes museum last summer, and that gave me a feel for the neighborhood of 221b Baker Street.

DV: Our colleague Joanne Renaud did the cover. How did you find her artwork?

SP: The credit belongs to Dr. Google. An image search string for “steampunk” restricted to the site yielded a number of delightful images, the best of which was done by Joanne. I was pleased when she consented to do the cover for my story.

DV: Will there be more adventures in this series?

SP: Yes. The Aristotelian is Mycroft’s application to the Diogenes Club.

Circumstances did not allow him to submit this application to the Duke of Denver until several years after the events described therein. I am in the midst of writing Steamship to Kashmir, Mycroft’s first adventure as a member of that institution. I anticipate that the archives of the Diogenes Club hold records of additional adventures by Mycroft and other members as well. For instance, I hear rumors that the missing volumes of Lewis Carroll’s diaries are stored there.

DV: Who are the authors you enjoy reading?

SP: I go through phases with different authors, and serially obsess thereon.

It depends on the genre. For starters… Dorothy Sayers, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Michael Connelly for their mysteries. And John Scalzi, H. Beam Piper, and Jerry Pournelle for their SF.

DV: What’s next for you?

SP: I am writing the manifesto. This web site will enable readers to find the best ebooks in their price range and provide links to purchase them. It will also enable authors or publishers to promote their works, and enable reviewers to sort the wheat from the chaff. It also hopes to bring together editors and illustrators with authors before publication, and enable readers to note typos in ebooks after publication. Technology is disintermediating traditional publishing. In so doing, traditional tasks of rating works and editing them are not being done– hopes to crowd-source these tasks.

In short, I’m trying to save civilization.

Those more worthy than I: