First things first, she knows her stuff. If you listen to any interview or read any article she's ever written about Sherlock Holmes, it is clear that she has been steeped in the Canon for a long time and loves every bit of it. Her first book, Dust and Shadow, is hands down the best pastiche I've ever read. And I made the mistake of reading her collection of short stories, The Whole Art of Detection, while I was writing my book The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street. Talk about developing an inferiority complex!
But if you look at Lyndsay Faye, you don't see the stereotypical bibliophile. She isn't tucked away in some dusty library or hunched over a desk. This is a woman who has fun and is happy to share her fun with anyone around. Have you seen the Baker Street Babes episode of Cake Boss? Oh yeah, she was one of the founding members of the Baker Street Babes, a group of young female Sherlockians that brought a whole new energy to our hobby.
But she's not just a Sherlockian. Her newest book, The Paragon Hotel, is a great trip to the 1920s that makes you feel every emotion her wonderfully written characters go through. Jane Steele was a rip roaring reimagining of Jane Eyre. And her Timothy Wilde trilogy puts you right in old New York for good and bad.
Without further ado, March's Interesting Interview with Lyndsay Faye:
How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
A Sherlockian is a person who says "I'm a Sherlockian!" A Sherlockian is also a person who doesn't say "I'm a Sherlockian!" but collects all the Rathbone and Bruce films, or owns every season of House MD, or grew up on Sherlock Hound. There are more Sherlockians in the world than even they are aware of!
How did you become a Sherlockian?
I read "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" when I was ten after I was done with all my Nancy Drew mysteries and my dad told me I should check it out. He said if I didn't like that one, then skip it, I wouldn't be into the rest--well. We can clearly see how that turned out.
What is your favorite canonical story?
This is always the worst question, ha. I tend to go with "The Bruce-Partington Plans." It has everything--Lestrade and Mycroft cameos, the future of Britain at stake, a killer mystery with a corpse on the roof of a train, Holmes saying to Watson, "I knew you would not shrink at the last."
Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
It's a rare day when you meet a boring Sherlockian, so this is a rough one. I would refer folks to m'colleague Dr. Ashley Polasek, who is the world's only PhD scholar in Sherlockiana. Her degree is in comparative film studies as see through the lens (as it were) of Sherlock Holmes film adaptations. If that's not interesting, then I don't know what is! Plus she's marvelous and hilarious and kind.
(Editor's Note: You can my interview with Ashley Polasek HERE)
What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
Er, all of them? Actually, it's much easier for me to answer this way: I am not a chronologist. There are people who are remarkable at that sort of minutiae and I am not in their number. In fact, I've written so many Sherlock Holmes pastiches at this point that an interest was expressed in wedging then into the chronology, and David Marcum (editor of the MX anthology series to benefit Undershaw and Stepping Stones) rolled up his sleeves and shoved and squeezed my twenty or so works into the Baring-Gould time frame. It was extraordinary. Watson and I are on squarely the same page--our dates are the biggest mystification of all.
What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
It like to infuse my pastiches with a touch more of the sort of adherence to historical veracity that Dr. Watson wouldn't have been paying attention to, because he was living during the time period--he had no expectation of representing all of its facets, only the ones he saw or recognized or thought it appropriate to write about. Whereas I'm stepping back in time thinking, what was it really like for the Baker Street Irregulars? Were they starving before Sherlock Holmes came along? What kind of terror were women really experiencing during the Ripper murders? I have more of a responsibility now to widen the scope a bit.
Additionally, I love getting the little details right--this would have been a Turkish rug, her cuffs would have been trimmed with this sort of feather, that street led into a dingy little courtyard featuring a siren spitting water into the air. That stuff is catnip for me.
How does Sherlock Holmes influence your non-Sherlockian writing?
In every way possible! I'm fascinated by stories about loyalty and compassion and forgiveness and courage and self-sacrifice, and the canon is chock full of those things. I love stories about permanent, undeniable friendships. I want stories about people risking their lives for each other. Both the people in the cases they encounter and Holmes and Watson themselves exemplify all those passions of mine.
What does the future hold for The Baker Street Babes?
We have no idea, and that's the best thing about the Babes! We adore interviewing people, we plan on revamping the Daintiest Thing Under a Bonnet Charity Ball for wounded soldiers this year, you'll find us in force at SDCC and 221B Con--we always do a bit of a regroup in spring after the push of the BSI Weekend, so stay tuned!
What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
A non-Sherlockian book, you mean? I am particularly in love with The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. It's a gorgeous, slowly-unraveling Victorian London mystery with a hefty dose of magic realism, which I adore.
Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
There are going to have been a dozen fresh, brilliant takes on the canon, and those new adaptations are going to bring even more friends into the Sherlockian fold! It's going to be amazing, and I can't wait to be a part of it.