Tell us about yourself and the types of books you write.
I’m a professor of history and a lifelong Sherlockian. I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes when I was eleven years old and stumbled upon “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” I began collecting every Sherlock Holmes story or novel that I could get my hands on, which wasn’t easy. (I grew up on a farm near a town that didn’t have a bookstore, and this was long before the days of the internet!)
As a historian, my first job was to write history books, and I have three (with two more coming out this year), all on Florida history topics, including the state during the Civil War and the history of its tourism industry. But when I joined my local scion society (The Survivors of the Gloria Scott in Greenville, SC) I began writing essays, short parodies, and skits for my group. I enjoyed this so much that one summer I did a lot of historical research into supernatural aspects of the nineteenth century—and that lead to the Shadows series of pastiches.
What makes your stories different from other Holmes’ pastiches?
I noticed that Holmes’s astonished clients often gasp, “You’re a wizard!” Well…what if he was? That’s the idea that started the Shadows series (Shadowfall, Shadowblood, and Shadowwraith). I asked myself, if Sherlock Holmes actually was a wizard—a product of a place called the Shadows—how would he act? Would he want to keep his abilities a great secret, because he believed that the logical mind was more powerful than magic? Would he have hidden his supernatural talents from Watson? What if some mystery which originated in the Shadows called him back, forced him to acknowledge his heritage? That’s the basic premise of the first book and the adventures that follow. While they are filled with strange and fantastic characters, I work very hard to write them in a traditional pastiche style, with Watson as the narrator.
I’ve always said that my stories may not be everyone’s “cup of tea.” After all, in the canon Holmes clearly rejects supernatural explainations! But I couldn’t resist playing with this idea, especially because I have always believed that what makes Holmes so wonderful as a character is his ability to pictured in different ways. As long as one is true to certain basic elements—the power of the mind, the strength of friendship, the idea of a hero who has flaws—then Holmes can travel anywhere and even take on different forms. One of the first pastiche collections I owned was Sherlock Holmes : Through Time and Space, edited by Isaac Asimov. It really shaped my belief that Holmes belongs to everyone and can be re-imagined forever.
Also, pitting Holmes against the supernatural allowed me to dive deep into mythological and historical research. I could play with real people and places, but also with bizarre creatures and ideas. In Shadowblood, I was able to combine my interests in Florida history and tourism by setting part of the story in St. Augustine, where Holmes is in a race against time with an evil opponent seeking the Fountain of Youth. Other books have key scenes in Highgate Cemetery and the catacombs of Palermo. Holmes sometimes seeks the aid of Doctor Dee and Hypatia, and I’ve even had the mummified head of King Henry IV of France witness a crime. In short, I’ve had a great time writing these novels, and I hope anyone who is willing to try my (admittedly odd) interpretations will have fun as well.
Currently I’m working on two projects: a collection of essays on women in the canon and a collection of parodies and skits. I’d like to publish the skits for fellow Sherlockians to perform and enjoy at their galas and dinners.
When you’re not reading Conan Doyle, who’s your go-to author or genre?
I love historical fiction. I also like books on historical mysteries—I just finished The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth, which considers the possibility that Jack the Ripper began his bloody career in Austin, Texas.
Do you have a favourite fellow pastiche writer? Who and why?
I’ll salute Dan Andriacco, Kieran McMullen, and Amy Thomas—fine writers and lovely people!
Other than Holmes, who is your favourite detective?
It’s a magician named Harry Colderwood, the star of a series by Patrick A. Kelley that I read back in the 1980s. Harry was a great character—funny as well as sharp-witted. I’m a huge fan of stage magic, and the books were really clever.
Who are your heroes?
No matter what their calling or profession, people who use the power of reason and make the most of their talents are people I most admire.
Your favourite quote, Sherlockian or otherwise?
It’s from “221b” by Vincent Starrett—the “sacred sonnet”—Here dwell together still two men of note/Who never lived and so can never die. To me, that sums up everything essential. As long as we love them, Holmes and Watson are immortal.
For more about Tracy, check out her blog here
Her books are available from Amazon