Thursday, October 16, 2014

Baskervilles Read-Along: Interview with Laurie R. King!

I feel like there should be eighty exclamation points after the title of this post.  Because in case you hadn't noticed, this post contains an interview with Laurie R. King, the New York Times bestselling author of some of my favorite books, like The Beekeeper's Apprentice.  My favorite living author, in fact.  And she graciously consented to do an email interview with me for this read-along.


I'm trying to remain calm.  Trying really hard.  Honest :-)

Laurie R. King writes mysteries, including a series about a pair of detectives named Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.  (You're starting to see why this interview fits with this read-along, right?)  I absolutely adore her writing, and The Beekeeper's Apprentice is one of my top ten favorite books of all time.  She brings Sherlock Holmes to life in a way that thoroughly delights me, and I heartily recommend her Russell/Holmes books to anyone who enjoys reading good mysteries.

Something too much of this.  Time for the interview!


Me:  You worked The Hound of the Baskervilles into your Russell/Holmes book The Moor.  You haven't used any other canon stories to such a degree -- what is it about Baskervilles that made you want to build your own mystery around it?

Laurie R. King: The Hound of the Baskervilles is such a gorgeous novel: mystery, spookiness, romance -- and Sherlock Holmes! Even Dr Watson gets to show his best side here, which isn't always so in the stories. When I first went to Dartmoor, it was a sunny June day, with cheerful sheep, perky little ponies, and hikers all over: really not what you think of when someone says, "Dartmoor." But the next time, it was October. Everything was dripping including the sheep, the ponies were glum, there was both heavy fog AND a strong wind. Now, it's not that I like to torment my characters, exactly, but… shall we say, Mary Russell has yet to travel to a nice warm vacation spot.

Me:  Do you revisit any particular canon stories for inspiration when you're writing a new Russell/Holmes book?

LRK: It depends on what I'm working on. For the pair of books about Damian Adler, for example, I took a close look at "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Adventure of the Empty House," as well as several of the stories that touch on Holmes' attitude toward women, such as "Copper Beeches" and "Solitary Cyclist." For The Moor, obviously I pored closely over The Hound of the Baskervilles and "Silver Blaze."

Me:  How old were you when you first encountered Sherlock Holmes?  Did you read the stories or see an adaptation first?

LRK: I must have read a couple of stories when I was young, probably Hound and "The Speckled Band," but I didn't start reading them methodically until I began writing the Russell stories. The Jeremy Brett series was being televised at about the same time, so I suppose my print and film immersions were about simultaneous.

Me:  Do you have any favorite filmed adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles?

LRK: In fact, I did love the recent re-telling in the BBC’s Sherlock, "The Hounds of Baskerville." The entire series approaches the Sherlockian canon with marvelous creativity, mixing a deep respect for the stories with a bold iconoclasm. Newcomers to the Conan Doyle stories view the BBC productions simply as great tales; those who know every detail of the originals can delight in the twists, references, and word plays.

Me:  What draws you to the mystery genre and makes you want to write mysteries more than some other form of fiction?

LRK:  I wrote a short piece for the Edgars Annual some years back on precisely this question (link), concluding: Why the mystery? Because it's human.

I can't thank Ms. King enough for answering my questions for this interview!  If you're interested in learning more about her and all her books, please visit her website,  My absolute favorite is The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and I'm even considering doing a read-along for it at some point.  I re-read it earlier this year, and you can read my review of it here.  If you like Sherlock Holmes at all, or mysteries, or books set in the early 20th century, definitely give it a try!  This year is actually its twentieth anniversary, and a new hardcover edition has been released -- read more about that here.

Also, the latest Russell/Holmes book, Dreaming Spies (number thirteen!), will be coming out in February.  I'm eagerly awaiting its release, as you might imagine.  You can read more about it here.

I hope you've enjoyed this interview with Laurie R. King -- I know I still get all tingly and bouncy when I realize that this happened for real :-)  


  1. How exciting that you managed to get an interview with Ms. King!

    I liked "The Beekeeper's Apprentice." Quite a lot. Enough to own it, in fact. More so than the later books, for reasons of Holmes abandoning his asexuality. I was a bit of a canon puritan in my childhood...

    1. I've never been committed to the idea of Holmes as an asexual, so that's never bothered me. I've more seen him as too absorbed in his work to make time for being interested in women, and also simply never finding a woman who interested him, other than Irene Adler. But that's just my take. (And also, you know I'm no purist.)

      Apprentice is definitely my favorite of the series, but I also really love "The Game," and greatly enjoy the others (some more than others, of course).

    2. Doyle was very progressive for his time... in having a woman outsmart Holmes and prove herself his equal. He kept her portrait in a silent nod to her intellect. I loved that.

      I think I only read ... three of them, back in the days of my youth? I didn't realize there were more.

    3. I didn't start reading LRK's books until after college -- my college lit prof/adviser/mentor/friend told me I would love ABA, but I didn't have time to read it until after I'd graduated (my biggest joy about graduating: I can read what I choose now!). Now I've read all but two of her books, and those are both not in the Russell/Holmes series. (Doing that enjoy-the-anticipation-and-make-things-last-as-long-as-possible thing :-D.)

    4. It entertains me how different we are. I devour things... en masse, all at once, in a whirling rush of enthusiasm and total obsession, marathoning until I have consumed whatever it is entirely, pulled it apart to understand it, thrown it back together again with an addendum of my thoughts, and then ... I find another new obsession.

      You take them all one bite at a time, trying to make it last, with infinite patience that I fear I will never have. :D

    5. The only show I have ever inhaled as fast as possible was Lost. I could never stop with just one episode -- I had to watch as much as I could in the time left to me. I got into it when it was like 4 seasons in, and my oldest was a toddler and still took naps, so I would watch as much as I could on DVD while he slept, getting a new disc or two from the library every week. Could not devour it fast enough. Even so, due to having another baby, moving, and having to wait for the last season to come out on DVD, it took me like 2 years to finish the whole show.

      I also watched all of Firefly within like a week, because my s-i-l was home from college for Christmas and wanted to see all of it before she went back to school. I really regretted that.

  2. Nice! I've read most of these books, though I've missed the last three. I agree that The Beekeeper's Apprentice is the best of the lot. Have you ever checked out ? It's my go-to site for all things Holmes.

    1. I really liked both Pirate King and Garment of Shadows -- I thought they were rather better than The Language of Bees and God of the Hive. Or at least, I liked them better. Garment of Shadows was especially absorbing, but Pirate King was more fun.

      Thanks for the link! My goodness, that site looks like a rabbit hole I could fall down....

  3. I haven't read any of the Mary Russell books but as soon as I saw the title for this post I was thrilled for you! :) You must have been flailing when Laurie R. King got back to you! And her answers were so nice as well!

    Did you have a date in mind for The Beekeeper's Apprentice read-through?

    1. :-D Thanks! Yeah, I was kind of in shock when I got the answer back. The squealing-and-being-incoherent kind of shock.

      I'm planning to start a "Little Women" read-along in late January or early February, and I'm also hoping to do a "Hamlet" read-along in July. So perhaps a Beekeeper's read-along in between those?

  4. Ooh, what a coincidence! I was thinking of re-reading those books as well! :) How exciting!

  5. Oh, wow; I can only imagine how seizure-inducingly exciting this must have been for you. :-) And what great answers she gave.

    I looked through her stuff on Amazon, and my curiosity is so piqued right now. It's a shame I have too much other stuff I'm reading. The Garment of Shadows looks really interesting, but my question is that if Mary meets Sherlock when she's 15, how on earth do they get married?

    1. First of all, it was terror-inducing to write to her and try to sound like a rational human being. (Helped that I was actually writing to her publicist.) And then when she said yes, I pretty much sat in the computer chair staring at the screen with my mouth open for probably 3 full minutes. And then screeched and whooped and got generally giddy.

      And then I repeated all that when I got her answers :-D

      I really do want to do a read-along of the first Russell/Holmes book, A Beekeeper's Apprentice, either next spring or next fall. So if all else fails, you could read that with me then!

      As for the age thing... short answer is that LRK changes the chronology of the canon a wee bit. She posits that Holmes was actually right around 20 when he and Watson met, but that to make his incredible abilities seem more credible, Watson described him as older so that the public wouldn't think Holmes was just some cocky punk. So when Mary Russell is 15 and meets him in 1915, he's 52. There's no romance in the first book at all.

      In the second book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, Russell turns 21, and Holmes is 58, and that's when they realize they mean more to each other than student-and-mentor or detecting partners. Which is a major age disparity, but... it works splendidly nonetheless.

    2. Awh...that sounds exactly like what I'd do if Julie Andrews ever found my singing videos on Facebook. :-)

      A readalong would be a good excuse, if I'm not up to my gizzard in homework.

      Oh...well...*cough*...erm...that's-that's an age disparity, yes. I'm sure it sounds nicer in the book. Kinda like you don't think about the Emma/Knightley age difference, I guess.

    3. The Germans have a lovely expression I use a lot: Ich habe die Nase voll. Literally means "I have the nose full," but really means I am full of (busyness, annoyance, etc) up to my nose. Gizzard works too.

      Anyway... age disparity, shmage disparity. Look at Rochester and Jane! Maxim de Winter and Mrs. de Winter! Mr. Knightley and Emma! Granted those aren't quite so wide -- 37 years is a lot. And the rule of thumb is supposed to be the older person's age divided by 2, then add 7, and that's the lowest age that would work for them, which totally doesn't work at all for Holmes and Russell, and yet... they work.

      OH! Buffy and Angel. That's a much bigger age disparity. Same for Wolverine and Jean Grey, or Wolverine and Silver Fox, or Wolverine and Mariko.

      The truth is, you've stumbled on one of my passions: May-December romances. Positively love them.

    4. Ooh. I'm gonna have to write that one down.

      Well.....yes, true to those pairs you mention. I guess it's the idea of a wrinkly old man, and a young spry girl, that messes with my head. If Holmes isn't actually wrinkly, then I guess it doesn't matter. :-)

      Do comic book/fantasy couples even count?! :-D I mean, David Boreanaz ALWAYS looks good. And Wolverine never ages, and generally looks hot, so it's not as weird. It also helps that Hugh Jackman gets better-looking with age. :-) I think my point is that if they both look relatively the same age, then it's not weird. If they're obviously not the same age, then it's weird to me.

    5. I think Holmes in his 50s would be like Harrison Ford in his 50s. Think "The Fugitive" and "Sabrina." Older, but mmmmmmmmmm, still so handsome. There would be an obvious age disparity, but not... icky. It's not icky, I swear. It's quite beautiful.

      David Boreanaz and Hugh Jackman = probably the two men I find hottest ever. What were we talking about?

  6. How awesome that this happened, Hamlette!!!! I'll add a few more exclamation points because this post definitely deserves a few more of them!!!! ;)

    I will confess that I haven't read any of her books, but I've heard nothing but rave reviews for the Holmes/Russell series. One day! Hopefully.

    1. There are too many good books in this world. We're never going to be able to read all of them. This depresses me, sometimes.

      But anyway, yes, I'm still pretty agog that I got to interview Laurie R. King. Wow. Just amazing.


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