Friday, September 4, 2020

Q&A with Laurie R. King

Photo by Josh Edelson
Laurie R. King is the author of the new novel Riviera Gold, the latest in her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series, which began with The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Riviera Gold, the latest in your Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series?

A: Two books ago (The Murder of Mary Russell) I mentioned that Mrs. Hudson was leaving England for Monte Carlo. Rich folks, Mediterranean climate, and gambling seemed to me an interesting setting for a woman who had put up with Sherlock Holmes for so many years—and it turns out, feisty old ladies are a treat to write!

Q: How do you think your characters have changed over the course of the series?

A: In the first one, Mary Russell was an adolescent who had just lost her family, and Sherlock Holmes was a lonely man whom the world had left behind. Obviously, in the early ones she grows tremendously, but after half a dozen books or so, I started to become interested in how her presence might change him.

Since then, Holmes himself has evolved in ways Conan Doyle would never have expected. But then, Conan Doyle could never envision his character in any setting after the Great War began.

Q: Did you need to do much research to write this new novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: I always learn fun new things—in this book, I got to spend time with Lillie Langtry and arms dealer Basil Zaharoff, with Pablo Picasso, Sara & Gerald Murphy, and Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald. I learned about the Czar’s gold and how to pour bronze. But I also took a trip to Monaco—I had to, right?—which was great fun. A country of gardens and casinos, that you can walk across in a morning!

Q: What first interested you in Sherlock Holmes, and what do you think accounts for the  ongoing fascination with the character?

A: As I said, I started writing the books with a focus on Mary Russell, a young woman very like Holmes in abilities and attitudes. Then I started letting him have a more central role—and the interesting thing from a writer’s point of view is how little Conan Doyle tells us about him.

Holmes is a clever mind with poor social skills and almost no history, and 140 years of reading him has left a lot of us determined to give him both a backstory and a three-dimensional personality!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m in the final stages of Russell & Holmes #17, called Castle Shade—set in Transylvania… Out next June. There may be vampires. No promises.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Well, if there is, I have a ridiculously active social media life—from newsletter and blogs to Instagram and Facebook (both author page and a readers’ group.) If there’s anything you want to know, it’s probably there.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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