Titan Books has released a number of Sherlock Holmes books over the years and their latest novel, Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau, mixes the famous detective with the H.G. Wells classic. The novel was written by Guy Adams and I had a chance to ask him about creating new fiction for such an iconic character, his development process, working for Hammer, and what we can expect from him in the near future:
Thank you for taking the time to talk with Daily Dead. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your recent work as an author?
Guy Adams: No problem at all! Thanks for taking an interest. I’ve been working full-time as a writer for six years now and I’ve been lucky to keep busy. At the moment I’m finishing the first in a series of original novels that Titan will be publishing from next year. The series is called Deadbeat and it’s a fun, pulp, horror affair that centres on two unusual heroes. Perhaps not such a world away from Holmes after all! The first book is called Makes You Stronger and it will be out next summer.
I’m also working on a pair of weird westerns called The Heaven’s Gate Chronicles about a ghost town that contains the entrance to Heaven. Imagine what might have happened if Sergio Leone had directed Brigadoon. They’ll be coming out from Solaris next year.
I’m scripting a monthly comic from new company Madefire which is exciting stuff. They’re utterly revolutionising how digital comics can work on the iPad, with lots of animation and sound. I’m working with the artist Jimmy Broxton and it’s launched — for free no less! — in a couple of weeks, I couldn’t be more excited.
Finally, as something of an experiment, I’ve dipped my toes into the eBook market with an exclusive series of Apocalyptic novellas called The Change. They’re being published by a company called Endeavour Press who are causing great waves in the UK with their original eBooks so here’s hoping that takes off.
That’s about all I can talk about right now but my days are full and hopefully there are fun times ahead.
What about Sherlock Holmes really got you hooked on the character at a young age? Did you start by reading the novels or was it a TV series/movie?
Guy Adams: It was actually the books, discovered in my school library. I fell in love with the characters and Doyle’s writing is timeless, a beautiful pleasurable read that seems ageless.
I later fell in love with Jeremy Brett’s portrayal onscreen which certainly fanned the flames!
Was The Army of Doctor Moreau an idea you developed and pitched before writing the previous Holmes novel? What made you decide on this particular mash-up versus another idea?
Guy Adams: I developed both ideas at the same time. When Titan asked if I would be interested in writing them — and they knew I would as I’d already told them how much I’d like to! — they wanted me to come up with some simple pitches. They were particularly interested in stories that would combine Holmes and Watson with other well-known figures, historical or fictional. These two felt like a good balance, one supernatural one scientific. I was also determined to tread virgin territory, not always easy considering how many Holmes pastiches have been written.
With this book and the previous novel, did you feel a lot of pressure to follow what had been done in the earlier novels or were you free to change and update the characters as you saw fit?
Guy Adams: I was given free reign because they knew how steeped I was in the original stories. You do feel pressure but you have to let go of that. I quickly decided it would be a mistake to try and ape Doyle’s style, this would have to be Holmes and Watson as I saw them rather than just a literary impression. Characters are malleable and we see them subjectively, I’ve been lucky that most people seem to resonate with my spin on them, I hope the books are fresh but still very much in the Doyle tradition.
What kind of research did you conduct to mix these popular characters/works in a way that felt natural?
Guy Adams: I re-read Wells’ novel but that was about it. I re-read the original Holmes stories so frequently that it’s easy to tap into that world. There was some historical research too, just to ensure I got my details right. Oh… and I watched a couple of the Rathbone movies, a nod to one is in the book!
Where you happy with the reader feedback on The Breath of God? Did that influence the work or any changes that went into The Army of Doctor Moreau?
Guy Adams: I was very happy. I was lucky to only stumble on one really negative review (which was particularly poisonous and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t put me in a grump for the day!) For the most part people seemed to really like my take on them, they liked the relationship, the humour and the sense of adventure. I think Holmes and Watson work best when you put them in a punchy story, some writers have tried to make them a bit heavy, a bit earnest. Doyle was an entertainer, he wrote stories that were designed to chill, excite and amuse, that’s what I’ve aimed for to. The books are designed to be good company for a few hours, a noble enough aim I think.
You have to be careful being influenced too much by what you think readers want, a point I address in the opening of this book actually! The important thing is to follow your gut, stay true to your intentions and do the best you’re capable of. Second-guessing a response will only lead to tentative, uneven writing.
Are you interested in continuing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes with new novels? Do you have any ideas for what you’d like to write next? What is the chance of you moving forward with another Holmes novel?
Guy Adams: I’m very interested and hope it will happen. Frankly the decision is not mine to make but I have more stories and would love nothing more than to be able to tell them.
Regardless of rights issues, what is your dream choice for a fictional character you’d like to pit Sherlock Holmes against in a novel?
Guy Adams: That’s a very good question and one I don’t really have a single answer to! One of the ideas I’d like to develop would be to play with the detective story (as I already have with the ghost story or the scientific romance). That would feature the Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, the various other consulting detectives that sprang up at the same time. I like the idea of him looking at these people he’s inspired and loathing them with a passion!
Sherlock Holmes is seeing a revival with the movie, BBC series, new books, and an upcoming TV series. Is it exciting to be a part of introducing this character to a new generation? Would you like to see your stories adapted to the small/big screen? Is that something you’ll be pursuing?
Guy Adams: It is exciting and I’ve just finished work on a non-fiction book based on the BBC’s Sherlock series so it’s been nice to send a little time in that world too. I think Moffat and Gatiss have created an amazing spin on the characters, one that has managed to hit that unlikely combination of everyone involved being perfect for their roles (both on and offscreen). It’s an absolutely phenomenal piece of work and the American show is going to have its work cut out coming close.
As for adapting the novels for the screen… Of course I’d like to! But I think it’s unlikely. Screenwriting is something I’m determined to do more of. I’m a film obsessive and worked as an actor for many years so scripts are a natural and exciting format for me. Time will tell if I get the opportunity.
You’ve also done some work for Hammer and your latest novel, Hands of the Ripper, was just recently released. Can we expect to see additional Hammer novels from you in the future? Are there any films in particular that you’re really interested in adapting?
Guy Adams: I’m very pleased with Hands of the Ripper — which sounds insufferably smug, sorry, but writers are their own worst critics so we’re chuffed when we actually like something we’ve done!) I have one more novel forthcoming, an adaptation of Countess Dracula which relocates the story to thirties Hollywood. I’m very excited about that and, as a Hammer fanatic, I can’t say how wonderful it’s been to play a small part in it all.
Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau is now available in the US and will be available in the UK later this month. Here are links for those interested in learning more about the novel:
If you’d like to follow Guy Adams online, he has an official website, Twitter account, and Facebook account: