How to think like Sherlock Holmes

This was a great interview on this week’s Sunday Edition with Michael Enright that I had to post.

Take a listen below (15min) or download the podcast here:

Retooling Thrice Burned

Adjectives that describe Portia Adams

On the advice of my lovely new agent, I went back and really thought out the motivations for all the characters in Jewel of the Thames. It was a very useful exercise, revealing a couple of potholes that I would fix if I were to do it all over again. BUT the good news is I have lots of other books to apply this new policy to.

So for book 2 (currently called ‘Thrice Burned’) I’ve been pulling apart the characters and doing an outline of their actions and motivations through each chapter in the book. In doing so, I’ve <I think> strengthened the plot and made it that much more believable that my characters are capable of doing the things I write about them doing.
Here’s an example:

Chapter 1: Portia is feeling alone and betrayed in her new knowledge of just who her family really is so she isolates herself from people and throws herself into a series of arsons plaguing London. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, walking the arson scenes all over London.

Chapter 1: Feeling guilty for her part in deceiving Portia and angry at her former-lover’s exposure of their secrets, Irene Jones plots her next steps in regaining her granddaughter’s trust. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, licking her wounds in Edinburg.

Chapter 1: Able to separate the emotion from the action, Sherlock Holmes gives Portia the space and time to absorb everything she has learned, choosing to not worry about the development in their relationship, and instead planning how to help his granddaughter become the best consulting detective Baker Street has ever had. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, going about his usual business.

Chapter 1: Unaware of what has transpired over the holidays in Edinburg, Brian Dawes has missed his beautiful landlord and wants to catch up with her, and perhaps take their relationship to the next level as he’s been working up the courage to ask her out. He senses that something has happened, but can’t get Portia to open up and tell him about it, which is frustrating and does nothing to add to his courage. ACTION: Waiting for Portia, trying to get a moment alone with her, at Baker Street.

The fine line between an homage and copying an idea

Formula for an effective homage

Thanks to Keith Sawyer over at the Creativity and Inspiration blog who chased down this quote from T.S. Eliot:

“Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal”

In other words, Good writers borrow, great writers steal.

This is one of those fine-line, grey area parts of writing I find, especially when you are writing a series that spins off  from another author’s work – in my case the great Arthur Conan Doyle.

So, when I decided it was time in Book 7 for Portia Adams to have a slightly more prominent client, I remembered of course The Adventure of the Illustrious Client from the original canon.

I reread it today because the only part of the story I was planning to emulate was Portia taking on a case with someone ‘illustrious,’ not the premise for the mystery or the solution of the crime — in fact I want to head in an opposite direction from that.

Holmes is hired in the Illustrious Client to convince young Violet not to marry a murderous Baron (who has not been successfully linked to his previous crimes) which he does with the help of the Baron’s former lover.

No problem, I’m planning for Book 7 to be about a client who is blackmailed for political information.

Hopefully, this formula (see image above) I just came up with holds true:

The original idea (an illustrious client)  +  my respect for Conan Doyle’s work + a new take (blackmail) = an effective homage.

Looking for a London newspaper in 1930

The Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror front page as taken from

Spending a bit of time this morning researching newspapers that were publishing in London in the 1930s.

I’m thinking of using The Daily Mirror as the oppositional newspaper to Annie Coleson’s work at The Sunday Times.

From the Wikipedia article on The Daily Mirror

Leigh Brownlee went into newspapers and he is picked out as one of the senior figures representing the Daily Mirror at the funeral of the newspaper’s then editor, Alexander Kenealy in 1915.[10] Brownlee was himself editor of the Daily Mirror from 1931 to 1934, though this was a difficult period for the newspaper, which had fallen significantly from its achievement of the first one million circulation in 1918 because of price cutting by rival newspapers. The Mirror was sold by Lord Northcliffe in the mid-1930s and Brownlee appears to have left then: the newspaper relaunched as an American-style tabloid after he left. He went into partnership in a news agency, but the partnership was dissolved in 1936.