Vicki, as an introduction, tell readers what you’ve been doing since the last Constable Molly Smith mystery.
Quite a lot! I loved writing that series, but as things happened I’ve become mainly a cozy writer in the last couple of years. Under the pen name of Eva Gates, I write the Lighthouse Library series. The first three books were published by Penguin, but they fell victim to the great cozy massacre at Penguin. Crooked Lane Books stepped up to the plate and will continue the series. The Year Round Christmas series continues for at least one more book with Penguin. My newest endeavor is the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane. I also write adult literacy novellas for the Rapid Reads imprint. Those books are more on the gritty side.
Would you introduce us to Gemma Doyle?
Gemma is the owner and manager of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in West London, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod). She’s English and came to West London to run her Great Uncle Arthur’s bookshop. On first glance she’s a normal cozy character, a nice young woman with a circle of friends and an interesting store. But look deeper, and she’s rather like the Great Detective himself. Gemma has an amazing memory (for things she wants to remember), incredible observational skills, and a lightning fast mind. She is also, shall we say, somewhat lacking on occasion in the finer points of social skills. The complex character of Gemma, makes the series slightly edgier than the normal cozy.
When Renalta Van Markoff, author of the controversial Hudson and Holmes mystery series is murdered at a book signing in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, the game is afoot and it’s up to the unusually perceptive Gemma Doyle and her confused but ever-loyal friend Jayne Wilson to eliminate the impossible and deduce the truth before the police arrest an innocent man.
Where did the idea for the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street, and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room come from?
When I was looking for inspiration for a new series, I thought a bookstore would be fun. The idea popped into my head: A bookstore dedicated to all things Sherlock Holmes. There isn’t much more popular today in the world of popular culture than The Great Detective.
When I started to do some research on that, I quickly discovered it’s not such an unfeasible idea. You could easily stock a store with nothing but Sherlock. Not only the original books and the all the novels and short story collections of the pastiche, but the stuff that goes with it: DVDs of TV shows and movies, calendars, playing card sets, tea towels, games, puzzles, action figures, cardboard cut-out figures. The list is just about endless. Throw in nonfiction works on Sir Arthur and his contemporaries, maybe a few books set in the “gaslight” era. And, presto, a fully operational bookstore. What would a bookstore be without a cat? In this case, one Moriarty, who has a strange antipathy to Gemma.
I’ve enjoyed stocking my bookstore, and as befits a book about a bookshop, I drop a lot of names of real books. Many I have read, some I haven’t, but I enjoy fitting the book to the imaginary character buying it.
Because cozy lovers (and me) love food to go with their reading, I put Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door, run by Gemma’s best friend Jayne Wilson.
What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes tacky collectible in the bookshop?
The I Am Sherlocked Mugs. And yes, there’s a lot of tacky stuff to do with Sherlock. The Great Detective would not be amused. Like the books (except for the ones by Renalta Van Markoff, a character in Body on Baker Street,) everything sold in Gemma’s shop exists in the real world.
I love Moriarty in your series. Tell us about him.
Moriarty is the shop cat. But he’s a lot more than that. He’s a great shop cat but he has a particular aversion to Gemma, even though she tries to be nice. Something to do with his name, perhaps? Nevertheless, she rarely leaves an encounter with Moriarty unscathed.
Gemma has so many of Sherlock Holmes’ gifts, but she also wants to be loved. Tell us about creating her.
Thanks for this question, Lesa. My original idea for the series was that she would be a normal cozy character owning an interesting bookstore. But by page 2, she became Sherlock-like. And that’s been a lot of fun put also presents challenges. I see Gemma as a young, modern woman who just happens to think somewhat like Sherlock Holmes. And that can’t be easy. She knows things other people don’t know (or don’t want you to know) and can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t see the things she does. She says what she’s observed and what’s on her mind, and wonders why people don’t trust her. She’s fallen afoul of the police when they don’t believe that she simply deduced the things she knows, and now she has trouble trusting them. She was once in a serious relationship that ended when she ruined his big surprise by observing and deducing what he was up to. She’s decided that she’s finished with romance. But he’s back in town and now he’s the lead detective on the West London police. I suspect their relationship is isn’t quite over.
She’s not arrogant at Sherlock could be, nor nearly as confident in her abilities. Highly intelligent people can be difficult to get along with, I suspect, but like Sherlock Holmes, all Gemma Doyle wants to do is the right thing. Unlike Sherlock she just wants to run her business, have good friends, and a love life without complications. But that isn’t going to be allowed to happen, is it?
Of course, mystery readers should read Doyle and the canon. What other authors inspired you when you wrote these books?
I love the Mary Russell books by Laurie R. King. Ms. King’s character of Russell was my first exposure to creating a new type of Sherlock. As these books are essentially cozies, with a very slight edge, I was also inspired by the work of my favorite cozy authors, particularly Kate Carlisle and Jenn McKinlay.
Can you give us any hints about the next book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series?
Happy to! The Cat of the Baskervilles will be out in February 2018. A theatre troupe arrives in town to put on a stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room is asking to prove the fund-raising refreshments. The legendary, and long past his prime, actor Sir Nigel Bellingham is given the role of Holmes. When Sir Nigel is murdered the police focus on Jayne Wilson’s mother, who has a secret of her past to keep concealed. As does Gemma Doyle who removed a piece of incriminating evidence from the scene.
Thank you, again, Vicki. My review of Body on Baker Street will be up tomorrow.Vicki Delany's website is www.vickidelany.com