Martin Daley, a writer who is re-inventing Sherlock Holmes, discusses how he undertakes this Herculean task and the writers and events that inspire his work.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and mystery writing?
It never ceases to amaze me how many crime writers list Conan Doyle as an inspiration and without sounding a bit clichéd, I probably have to join the end of that long line! I don’t claim to be Sir Arthur’s biggest fan but Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are probably my two favourite literary characters, and it was probably the Holmes stories that drew me towards crime fiction in the first place.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?
I wish I could say I studied English Literature at Oxbridge and them fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition in becoming a writer, however the truth is I sort of fell into it by accident. I had a fairly modest education (I wasn’t a good learner as a child and my teachers were hopeless – the lot of them!). In adulthood I started to properly educate myself: reading books that I wanted to read, travelling etc.
I was studying the life of an ancestor of mine and found so much information about him that I thought his story might make an interesting book. To test my own writing ability I entered a national short-story competition and – although I didn’t win it – I received some really good feedback from the judges. This encouraged me to write about my great-great grandfather; the book was well received locally and I got the writing bug as a result!
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
That’s quite an easy one! I write both fiction and non-fiction, and all of my books to date have been inspired by either my own ancestry or local history. Like everyone else who reads this I’m sure, I have an interesting heritage and we don’t have to go very far back to fine some interesting characters that can capture our imagination.
The other point with me is that I’m from such a historic city. Carlisle has over two thousand years of history dating back to the Romans – if you can’t find something there of interest there’s no hope for you!
This all led to me combining my interest in fact and fiction. To explain: as I said earlier I’ve always been a fan of the Holmes stories and I thought wouldn’t it be great to set one of his adventures in Carlisle (great for me anyway!). So I used Watson’s links with the military to have our two heroes come up north in 1903 to investigate the theft of the Arroyo Drums, the Border Regiment’s most prize possession.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
Regarding fiction, I suppose the obvious choices would be some of my favourites – Dumas or Dickens perhaps. But thinking a bit more about it I will plump for Stieg Larrson. I loved the Millennium trilogy and the way he used characters that were different to the standard cop and sidekick were really interesting and inspirational.
From a non-fiction point of view, I think I would go with Simon Schama. I suppose I harbour a bit of a long-term ambition to write a history of Carlisle, and who better than my favourite historian to help me do it?
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
Yes, I’m excited to say there is plenty going on right now. By way of background I should say that when I wrote the Holmes pastiche I deliberately didn’t make my local detective a buffoon (like in so many Holmes stories) because I wanted to give him some adventures of his own. Detective Inspector Cornelius Armstrong was born!
A couple of months ago I signed up with MX Publishing, who not only wanted to publish Volume III of the Armstrong Casebook, but Steve (Emezc) suggested we re-brand the series and publish the first two volumes leading up to the brand new book in December. The cover designs by Brian Belanger are sensational!
While there are other Armstrong stories in the pipeline, I am also working on a modern-day transnational thriller that is something different for me. Hopefully it will see its way into print late next year or early 2019.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?
I’m always eagerly anticipating Charles Cumming latest spy novel and – following David Lagercrantz picking up Stieg’s Millennium baton – I believe there are to be further Salandar/Blomkvist adventure, so I’ll be looking out for them too.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I suppose I should give a shameless plug to my Armstrong series with MX Publishing, and if there is anyone interested further in my ramblings they can follow me on twitter or check out the new blog I’ve just added to my website.
Thanks for taking the time Martin, it’s been a pleasure. You can find out more about Martin and his work HERE.