Today, I have the pleasure of sharing an interview with Katie Magnusson, one of the authors in Mocha Memoirs Press’s new Paranormal Sherlock Holmes anthology, An Improbable Truth. Here is what she has to say for herself and her story. 🙂
How long have you been writing?
I wrote stories for myself all through high school and college, sometimes quick flash fiction, other times whole books, but only in the past two or three years did I start to think that maybe I could actually use all these ideas in my head, that someone else would find them interesting.
What was your reaction when you made your first sale?
I think I may have sat in front of the computer for a moment and said, “Holy f***.”
Where you do get your inspiration?
Much of it comes from other stories. I see things I like in other characters and wonder what would happen if _________________, fill in the blank… and then sort of go from there. For example, in my short story “Sherlock Holmes and the Hungry Ghost,” I had the premise of a paranormal/horror mystery to work within as part of an anthology. Paranormal mysteries have been done, so often, and often with the same character types, Holmes vs Dracula and such, I wanted to do something a little different. So, the first thing that came to mind was a ghost story. I didn’t want to do vampires or monsters, I wanted something simple and haunting. Haunting, hey, what if Holmes isn’t investigating a haunting, what if he’s the one being haunted? Why would a ghost haunt him? Is a ghost really haunting him? If not, is it in his mind? The story progressed very quickly from “Holmes vs Ghost” to “Holmes vs Inner Demons” with a horror story flare. And honestly, there are few things as terrifying as the things we hide from inside ourselves, as cliché as that sounds.
Have you found it difficult to market your work? Any tips for things that worked?
To be perfectly honest, this is the first story I’ve successfully published. It worked though, so I guess the advice I can give would be to keep up on what people are looking for. Don’t discount smaller, independent markets, and ultimately don’t be afraid to just get your stuff out there.
Do you enjoy interacting with fans, or are you an introvert? Do you get much fan mail?
If I had fans, I think I would love to interact with them. [So be sure any let Katie know if you read and like her story! — Rie]
What has been your most challenging project to date?
I’ve had a series of short stories in the works for years that I’m now trying to polish and publish as a book series. Cyberpunkish Sherlockiana, I suppose would be the way to describe them. Can you tell I like Sherlock Holmes? It’s a challenging project just because it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done, I’ve been doing it for so long, and it’s going to be hard to finally say, “I’m finished,” instead of “Wait, let me fix that…”
Have you always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes?
I got into Sherlock Holmes about six years ago. I tried reading The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was a kid, but I didn’t really like the story. I don’t know if I was just too young to appreciate the descriptions of the gloomy landscape of the moors, or if it was diving into a Sherlock Holmes book that actually features very little Holmes, but whatever the reason, I never really gave the character much thought after that. Much, much later I saw The Complete Sherlock Holmes at a used bookstore, and bought it completely on a whim. Took it home, opened it up, and was instantly hooked. I’m certain that had I started with the short stories as a child instead, I would have liked it a lot more. As it was, I became somewhat obsessed, quickly devouring pastiche and media, everything I could find. Still do, clearly.
What was your favorite original story?
“The Adventure of Silver Blaze” immediately comes to mind, for the line about the curious incident with the dog in the nighttime if nothing else (“The dog did nothing in the night-time.” “That’s what was the curious incident.”). Also “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”, and “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” feature suspenseful plots with women who have a sensible head on their shoulders, and delightfully colorful confrontations between the villains and Holmes. “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs” is amazing for the single moment when Sherlock Holmes finally lets the walls down and we get that glimpse of the great heart along with the great mind… but I could go on like this for ages. You asked for one story, I just listed five. Such is fandom.
Did you stick to the canon characters or invent a new companion?
For this story, there isn’t any companion present. As a general rule, I don’t think a new companion should be introduced unless there’s a good reason for it, and I didn’t have a reason. Initially, Watson was going to be a presence, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only did he not belong in this story, but it was essential that he be absent.
What are your other hobbies and interests?
I dabble in cosplay, perfumery, puppetry, online and tabletop gaming, painting… working with my hands and escapism, essentially.
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully more writing, and hopefully some of it will be published.
What advice do you have for new writers…or just those of us not as accomplished as you are? 😉
One bit of advice for when you’re stuck – write fanfiction. Seriously, it’s a great, entertaining exercise. Write about your favorite show, write about your own characters, it doesn’t matter. It’s good to keep the gears moving, and maybe you’ll uncover an idea you didn’t know you had.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Six years ago, Katie Magnusson picked up a copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes on a whim, and promptly devoured it. After picking the pages from her teeth, she sought out other sources of Sherlockiana, and discovered the often delightful world of pastiche. She has a particular taste for cross-genre tales, and is thrilled to be included in a paranormal Holmes anthology.
Katie lives in Wisconsin with an eccentric philosopher husband, and their cherubic Viking-ninja son.
Excerpt from “Sherlock Holmes and the Hungry Ghost” by Katie Magnusson:
The next few days were mundane. Holmes occupied himself with a chemical synthesis, finished updating his scrapbook, played concertos by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and Paganini, and read every news publication in London. Twice.
His mind raced, an overworked engine threatening to break itself apart at any moment. He hadn’t eaten all day. He couldn’t. He was exhausted, but he couldn’t sleep. He had to do something. Anything. Everything. By God, what he wouldn’t give for a puzzle to walk through the door, for some crime to be committed! A horrible murder, a theft, blackmail, an encoded message, just give him work!
In a fit of exasperation, he pulled open his desk drawer. The case and bottle lay there, where he’d shut them away, out of sight. His hand trembled as he reached for the bottle, stopping just as his fingers brushed the surface. He took a breath and closed the drawer. The only way to know the damage done to his mind was to resist. He had to provide a consistent, controlled environment to assess his faculties, and so he would suffer through the boredom of existence.
Holmes tossed some pillows onto the floor, sitting down with his legs tucked up underneath him. He relit his pipe and closed his eyes, hoping he could manage to calm his mind at least for a moment. Just one moment’s reprieve was all he wanted…
He opened his eyes, lying on the floor. He’d fallen asleep. His body had finally rebelled and forced upon him the rest he sorely needed, much to his amused chagrin. He stood slowly, stretching his long limbs, and beheld his correspondence scattered across the room.
The jackknife that usually held it in place on the mantel was gone.
He turned, scanning the room. The knife was easy to spot, embedded in the opposite wall from the fireplace. He didn’t remember throwing it there.
“You’re going mad.”
“Who’s there?” He looked around and saw no one. He was alone.
“They’ll leave you–”
“Where are you?”
“–just like everyone else.”
It was a woman’s voice, and it seemed to come from everywhere at once. She laughed as he searched, and a tingling feeling crept across his skin as if an insect were crawling down his spine.
His head felt as if his skull was being hollowed out with a red hot poker. His chest was tight. He couldn’t breathe. “Voices that aren’t there…” he wondered aloud. Could the damage to his mind be so great?
“No. I refuse to believe it,” he pressed his hands to his ears as the woman laughed again, taunting, though it did nothing to dull the sound. “I am sane! If I were not, then I would not recognize my decline! These experiences have nothing to do with the cocaine,” he stalked over to the knife in the wall, yanking it out and firmly sticking it back in its proper place in the mantel, “I refuse to believe it,” he said again, softer, slowly absorbing the significance of his statement. “If I am not mad, then what is going on?”
You can also find An Improbable Truth in these locations: