Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Conversation with Mystery Author Kim H. Krisco

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Kim Krisco
with Kim Krisco

We are delighted to welcome author Kim H. Krisco to Omnimystery News today.

Kim follows in the footsteps of master storyteller Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by adding five, totally new adventures to the canon in Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years (MX Publishing; November 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats). He captures the voice and style of Doyle, as Holmes and Watson find themselves unraveling mysteries in, and around, turn-of-the-century London that, as Holmes puts it, "appears to have taken on an unsavory European influence."

We recently had the chance to catch up with Kim and talk a little more about the book.

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Omnimystery News: Give us the backstory to your new book.

Kim Krisco
Photo provided courtesy of
Kim H. Krisco

Kim H. Krisco: Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years is a new collection of Holmes pastiches. As such, the main protagonist is Sherlock Holmes and, as Doyle did in 54 of his stories, Watson is the storyteller. However, the "supporting cast" in this new collection of five novellas includes Irene Adler — "the woman," and two new diabolical antagonists, among a large cast of other characters. Although Holmes and Watson are well known, I wanted to explore how their relationship might have evolved as they aged. I also enjoyed researching and writing some remarkable "real life" historical characters such as G.K. Chesterton, Leander Starr Jameson, Emmeline Pankhurst, Harry Houdini, and President Theodore Roosevelt. I didn't set out to include these larger-than-life characters, but they seemed to naturally emerge from the rich historical backgrounds for these stories. As one of my editors put it, "These tales read like mini-historical novels." The research was time-consuming, but rewarding to me as a writer — and hopefully to my readers, as well.

OMN: You mentioned you wanted to explore their relationship as they aged. How have you addressed that in these stories? And how have the other characters fared over time?

KHK: It is interesting that you pose this question because that's very question that consumed me as I began writing this book. I endeavored to walk a thin line between being true to the Sherlock Holmes we all love, but at the same time, revealing his deeper nature. Regarding other characters, this collection is a hybrid-literary form — something between a series and a stand-alone. There are five separate adventures or tales — each having their own plot, beginning and end. But, each of the stories follow one another chronologically, which allowed some characters to move from story to story, while others are left behind.

OMN: How did you decide whether or not a supporting character moves on or not?

KHK: This may sound strange … it depends on them. I give them life, but then it's up to them to earn the right to continue living in my stories. As a writer, I know when I have a good character. They actually come alive for me and, I suddenly find I get great joy from writing them … their dialogue bubbles out of me. Maybe these characters are hidden part of my personality. Now that's a scary thought!

OMN: From a genre perspective, are these stories comparable to those of the original canon?

KHK: At one level, Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years may seem easy to categorize because it is a series of Sherlock Holmes detective mysteries. But, I wanted to create an even richer "reader experience." I did this in a number of ways: I created detailed historical backgrounds, but I also added more action and suspense than one might find in a typical short story from the Doyle canon. And, I suppose you could say that I even dabbled in the paranormal a bit, especially in my last tale: "The Kongo Nkisi Spirit Train". I dipped into the supernatural realm a little as a way to explore the perplexing incongruity between the highly rational Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You may know that Doyle spent the latter part of his life advocating for Spiritualism — the belief that we can commune with the spirits of people who have died. So, it's appropriate to label Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years as a collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries … but they are a bit "juicer" than most readers might expect.

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

KHK: The book sheds new light on the real relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler — something that intrigues most fans. These revelations will tug at your heartstrings.

OMN: How much of your own personal experience have you included in the stories? And are any of the situations in which the characters find themselves based on real events?

KHK: My first name often leads people to believe I'm a woman. If you look at the picture in my book you'll hopefully see I'm not. As we all know, men pals (mates the British and Aussie's might say) relate to one another in a peculiar and universal way. Affection is often hidden in little jibes and jests. That was missing for me in the relationship between Holmes and Watson — so I made their relationship a bit more "puckish."

In terms of characters operating within real events — you bet! All of my historical and fictional characters are set within real historical events. For example, Harry Houdini and President Theodore Roosevelt did meet on a trans-Atlantic voyage, just as they do in the story "The Cure that Kills". Indeed, truth is often stranger than fiction.

OMN: Describe your writing environment.

KHK: I live in relative seclusion — which works for me as a writer — in a beautiful straw-bale home I built over a five-year period. It sits in a stunning canyon in south-central Colorado west of Trinidad — one of the best places I've ever lived. When I moved into Longs Canyon, seventeen years ago, I was the only home or person living in the area. Now I have a couple neighbors within a quarter mile … so it's time for me to move further up river into the mountains. So, if there are writers out there looking for a great place to live and write — have I got a deal for you!

It takes time to write well. I write 6 to 7 hours every day. With non-fiction books (Krisco has published three on leadership and coaching), I could set a goal of so many pages in a day — usually about 5 or 6. With fiction, it's different. Some days are all research — no pages. Other days, the pages fly from my printer. Of course, writing is primarily about RE-writing. The stories in this collection … I didn't keep tract … but I would guess were re-written between 40 and 60 times each.

OMN: How did you go about researching the plot points of the stories?

KHK: The Internet is, in most ways, great for writers — a wealth of information at your finger tips. But, I've learned to use multiple sources. There's a lot of erroneous information out there on the web. For this collection, my biggest challenge was getting the "American" out of my language. Since I wanted to be true to the Doyle canon, I had use proper, turn-of-the-last-century British terms, phrases and words. As you probably know, the British spell words differently than we do in the states. I hired a "special editor" to help me — a fellow named Joe Revill in the UK. His job was, primarily, to help me with my language. He often assisted in other areas as well, but he mainly focused on helping me write like a Brit — a one hundred year old Brit at that.

OMN: How true are you to the historical settings of the stories?

KHK: Most of my five stories are set in real places. For example, I had to get old maps of London, Scotland and Africa to find the original streets, places, town, and country names for my stories. I was meticulous in my detail. For example, when Holmes and Watson go out for supper in London, I not only had to set the scene in a real 1912 restaurant, but also reveal the menu for that 100-year old restaurant. I wanted Holmes and Watson to be eating what people came there to eat. That's the level of authenticity to which I am committed. That said, I did create one or two fictitious settings for some of the stories when the plot necessitated it.

OMN: If we could send you anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, to research a setting for a story, where would it be?

KHK: I traveled to Aviemore Scotland in the spring of 1913 to do research for the first story in my collection — "A Bonnie Bag of Bones". I was in Scotland for a month, traveling all around. I would love to go back. There is something magical about that country, and I love the people. So, I might say Scotland. A new choice might be Australia. I created a character — Lucas Murdoch — who hails from Australia. He's a bold, beautiful and loveable guy and I would like to keep in around a while, so … I 'd like to do research in Australia. Can I send you my expense report?

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author? And what might you say to aspiring writers?

KHK: Best advice: Write every day — especially when you don't want to.

Harshest criticism: When a new reader first points out a typo or grammatical error — that hurts. Not just because I hate mistakes, but because it suggests that they were not engaged enough in the story to put the error in the background.

Advice: It's true that a writer must love to write, but, what is often unsaid is that you have to give yourself the opportunity to fall in love with writing. I always liked to write and did, but when I finally decided to "dive completely" into writing I fell in love with it.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a mystery author and thus I am also …".

KHK: I am a mystery writer and thus I am also difficult to live with. I bark at anyone who disturbs me when I am writing. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to social events. I spend far too much money on books and, according to my lady, waste reams of paper printing out research from my computer (although, in my meager defense, I use both sides of the paper). So, like Holmes, I need someone to ground me in daily life. I have my Watson — her name is Sara.

OMN: How did you come up with the title for the book? And were you involved with the cover design?

KHK: Sherlock Holmes, you may know, retired about 1904. He reappeared again 1914 in "The Last Bow", the last Holmes story — chronologically. But what did he do between 1904 and 1914? I wanted to explore Holmes and Watson in their post-retirement years … maybe because that's where I am now in my life. A title should clearly communicate what a book is about, and/or create an aura of intrigue — ideally both. Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years clearly describes what the book is about. The cover art (by a guy named Bob Gibson) — a ghostly woman rising from Holmes's smoke of a pipe provides the intrigue … I hope so, anyway.

OMN: What kind of feedback do you most enjoy receiving from readers?

KHK: I love to hear when a reader gets totally pulled into my stories — i.e. "I couldn't put it down." I know, as a reader, that's the kind of present moment experience I seek and enjoy. I want to give that to my readers.

OMN: There is no shortage of actors who have played Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. But suppose your "golden years" stories were adapted for screen, who do you see playing the key roles?

KHK: Interesting question, since I’ve just completed a screenplay adapted from one of the stories in my five-story collection — "The Kongo Nkisi Spirit Train" — and I am hoping to find an agent or producer who might be interested in this property. Holmes has been portrayed in about 250 movies — played by 75 or more different actors. Right now I think it would be hard to beat Jeremy Brett as Holmes. But, I have more fun thinking about who might play Irene Adler. I've seen her portrayed by several different actresses, and in my opinion, none of them captured her. I think Cate Blanchett might make a good Irene Adler.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

KHK: I read mostly non-fiction most of my life. So, I suppose it was natural that, when I turned to writing for a living, I initially wrote non-fiction. Then, something happened when I moved into the isolated Rocky Mountains, I began reading fiction almost exclusively — all kinds: science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, etc. I thought about writing fiction for a long time before I actually sat down to my laptop. I suppose, this is because I instinctively knew that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction. I can say most anything in non-fiction and people will believe it. With fiction, you have to make people believe. Of course, before writing Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years, I read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and more than that, I read everything that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote … and he wrote a lot! It was a warm-up before I ran the race.

OMN: And what do you read now for pleasure?

KHK: It's getting harder for me to read just for pleasure. Oh, I can still get into a book like any reader, but that flow experience is often uninterrupted when I get intrigued with a phrase or word along the way … or a particularly beautiful description, or a clever plot-twist. When this happens, I cease being a reader and become a writer. But, there is one author that is so good that he makes me hesitate to call myself a writer — William Shakespeare. I get caught up in the music of Shakespeare's language and his deep insights into human nature. He reminds me that all fiction writers are mystery writers, because human beings are the ultimate mystery.

OMN: What's next for you?

KHK: I am busy marketing my book … getting it launched. I have an obligation to the book … to help it take its "first steps" into the world. It's not about money. It's more like that iconic horror scene from that old 1930's Frankenstein movie where Dr. Henry Frankenstein says, "It's alive. It's alive! It's alive! That's how I feel about my new book. I gave it life. Whether or not it stays alive depends on my readers. So, I have an obligation to get it into the hands of readers.

Did I choose a poor metaphor here … with Frankenstein? As I recall that story did not end well for Dr. Frankenstein's creation. But, that story is still alive — as is Sherlock Holmes, and I intend to keep him alive through my stories. Thanks for helping me get my book into the hands of readers who can help keep it alive.

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Kim H. Krisco's diverse career created a circuitous route to his becoming a full-time writer. He has taught college; managed instructional media and distance learning programs, written and directed TV and films; and served in corporate communications, human resources and training functions. As he puts it today, "I am being re-educated by Nature." This is his way of saying that he lives in a relative seclusion in an area of the Colorado Rockies, in a straw-bale home he and Sara Rose built themselves.

For more information about the author, please visit his blog at Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook.

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Sherlock Holmes: The Golden Years by Kim Krisco

Sherlock Holmes — The Golden Years
Kim Krisco
A Short Story Collection

Sherlock Holmes lamented, "I fear that retirement will elude me." It surely does in this five-story chronicle:

The saga begins with "The Bonnie Bag of Bones" that lead the infamous duo on a not-so-merry chase into the mythical mountains of Scotland and ultimately to the "the woman" who is tangled within a mystery that has haunted Holmes for a quarter century.

"Curse of the Black Feather" continues the adventure in which Holmes teams up with the Irregulars and a gypsy matriarch, to expose a diabolical "baby-farming" enterprise. Their quest arouses a vicious adversary, Ciarán Malastier, who has Holmes struggling for his very life.

"Maestro of Mysteries" begins with a summons to Mycroft's office and ends with a deadly chase in Undertown, far beneath the streets of London. Malastier escapes, but only into the next adventure.

"The Cure that Kills" sees Holmes and Watson in hot pursuit of Ciarán Malastier, racing across America and pitting them against the largest detective organization in the world.

In the final story, "The Kongo Nkis Spirit Train", Holmes and Watson travel to the Dark Continent to derail a "spirit train" that ensnares people's spirit, and enslaves their bodies.

In the end, this historically accurate chronicle sheds new light on greatest mystery of all, Sherlock Holmes himself. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)


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