Let’s welcome author Tim Symonds, who’s here to tell us all about being a Sherlock Holmes author.
What’s a day like in the life of a writer?
A novelist’s life must sound like Paradise to a 9-to-5 ‘wage slave’ – after all, we go to bed and get up when we want, we can live in exotic places like Acapulco or Honolulu, or countries offering tax-breaks like France. We get invited to all kinds of parties from London’s Hampstead to New York’s Manhattan to California’s Beverley Hills (even Hollywood). We buy snazzy convertibles or a 1960s’ Pontiac and roar along country roads to those nearby beautiful beaches such as Australia’s Bondi…
OK, let’s get real! That’s what did happen to my uncle, the now-deceased Elleston Trevor. Elleston started scribbling adventure stories in the Royal Air Force and ended up in a wonderful house in the mountains of New Mexico advising Hollywood scriptwriters working on a film of his novel ‘Flight Of The Phoenix’. For the rest of us, a tantalizing bit of the above is true – even I at the lower end of the food-chain with five Sherlock Holmes’ novels under my belt have lived in beautiful places. I started on a novel soon after leaving UCLA, spending months down in deepest Mexico – San Blas and then the other side, at Vera Cruz. I took myself off to a house in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. Eventually I arrived in a beautiful English county, in a converted oast house surrounded by deep woodland.
For the past five years I’ve produced a novel a year, written on a laptop at home or even in winter seated on a canvas chair in a glade where only deer and badgers roam. The restored 1960s Pontiac? No, it’s a fifteen-year-old Volkswagen Golf, and the usual worry about finding the rent each month and paying taxes… but would I change anything? Not right now I wouldn’t.
What is it about writing that draws and energizes you?
Writing novels is a creative activity by definition. All novelists want to entertain an audience, even if it’s tens of thousands rather than millions. To do so we have to compose stories readers will enjoy in whatever leisure time they can grab in a very busy world. Most people like to be taken out of the world they inhabit every minute of their lives – many really like to settle back and for a few hours live in the late-Victorian/Edwardian era most Sherlock Holmes plots are set in. My five ‘sherlocks’ have ranged from around 1900 to 1910, the year King Edward V11 passed away and Holmes was tending his bee-hives in the Sussex Downs – and the ominous presence across the North Sea of a strutting German Kaiser was making Europe uncomfortable.
What’s your fascination with Sherlock Holmes?
I can’t say I’m fascinated by Holmes, he reminds me of a senior prefect at my old school in Guernsey, Elizabeth College, who was a very cold fish but possessed of a formidable brain. Elizabeth College was built by Queen Elizabeth the First (and yes had a ghost or two) in the form of a castle. We minnows would make sure we dodged the fellow whenever we saw him striding along the long corridors towards us and I think I’d probably dodge Holmes too if he came my way. It’s dear old Watson I really like. In my novels I give him a really good part while being aware he does not possess that exceptional ability Holmes has – sheer genius – in putting two and two (or even one and two) together and solving a mystery which may have left Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade swimming madly in his wake. Without Holmes there would be no Watson, of course, but there’s a good argument that without Watson there would be no world-famous Holmes either.
What’s up next for you?
I had planned to write another novel this year which would see Holmes and Watson getting a further commission from England’s most famous Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, following two earlier commissions in ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Case of The Bulgarian Codex’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil’.
It’s the fateful year 1917. His Majesty King George V and Sir Edward have a serious problem on their hands. Britain’s World War One ally, the vast country of Russia, is collapsing following defeat after defeat at the hands of Germany. Unpalatable as it will be to the people at large, Sir Edward feels the dictatorial but endangered Russian Tsar should be offered asylum, otherwise the whole Romanov family will be murdered by the Bolsheviks. Nicholas 11 is a close relative of George V. The situation is already desperate. Only Holmes with Watson at his side can get to St. Petersburg and get the Romanovs safely on to a British destroyer.
However, I have just been asked to contribute a further short-story to the next MX Book Of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Profits from sales go to the restoration of Arthur Conan Doyle’s old home ‘Undershaw’ in the Surrey countryside which now hosts a school for young people with physical and mental difficulties. I plan to use my St. Petersburg plot for the short-story and see later whether I should then expand it to a 300-page novel.
About Tim Symonds
MYSTERY OF EINSTEIN’S DAUGHTER
Publisher: MX Publishing
Publication Date: January 13, 2014