You only have to take one look at his picture to see the cut of Derrick Belanger’s gib:
mischievous, funny, and very bright. When he’s not writing, he works as a Special Education teacher. I’ve no doubt his kids love him to bits.
Over the years, I’ve learned what a resourceful, bright and engaging man he is. A font of information on all things Sherlock Holmes, and an all-round good guy to boot. He was kind enough to let me interview him for this blog.
Tell us about yourself and the types of books you write.
First off, thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. I am a teacher, author, and publisher. My day job is as a middle school Special Education teacher. I love working with kids, so no matter how successful I become as an author and publisher, I’ll probably always stay in the classroom.
For writing, I write traditional pastiches such as Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Peculiar Provenance and Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Primal Man, and I also write the children’s book Sherlock Holmes series, The MacDougall Twins with Sherlock Holmes.
Sometimes I dabble in horror, and historical fiction on occasion. I also write essays and reviews and have had my work published in Gifted Child Today, The Colorado Reading Journal, and my Sherlockian pieces are published on the blog I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere.
I have given talks and lectures at education conferences on a variety of topics, some Holmes related and some not.
Lastly, I am now a publisher. Belanger Books focuses on children’s literature, steampunk, and new Sherlock Holmes books. We have only been publishing for about a year, and we’ve already published New York Times bestsellers such as Tracy Hickman and Christopher Golden in the horror anthology My Peculiar Family, and Nebula award winner Jack McDevitt in the Sherlock Holmes story collection, Beyond Watson. What I love about being a publisher is being able to discover incredible new authors and bring their writing to an audience. Some of our forthcoming projects include the delightful Sherlock Holmes children’s book Scones and Bones on Baker Street: Sherlock’s Dog (Maybe) and the Dirt Dilemma and the pastiche collection Holmes Away from Home: Tales of the Great Hiatus.
What makes your stories different from other Holmes’ pastiches?
I always like to do something a little different with my pastiches while still staying within the norms of a traditional Holmes story. The MacDougall Twins series by its nature is the least traditional because it is specifically written for Elementary / primary grade students. The language is more simple. The books are written in third person and are illustrated. Of course, Holmes, Watson, and Mycroft are their traditional selves and remain wholly recognizable.
My other pastiches are more traditional. Of those, the one which strays the most is Peculiar Provenance. The reason for this is that I followed the lead of Baring-Gould in his Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street where he identifies the Martha mentioned by Holmes in His Last Bow as being Mrs. Hudson. So, I do have some of the characters refer to Mrs. Hudson by her Christian name, and that has been a step too far for some purists.
I should probably also note Beyond Watson here, the first Sherlock Holmes anthology from Belanger Books. What makes this anthology different is that each author tells a Sherlock Holmes story from a narrator who is not Dr. Watson. The book contains some of my favorite Holmes authors, and I’m proud to have been the editor and publisher of this incredible collection of stories.
(FYI, Derrick was kind enough to include one of my own short stories, Mrs Hudson’s Lodger, in his anthology.)
When you’re not reading Conan Doyle, who’s your go-to author or genre?
I enjoy reading many different authors and genres, but if I had to choose one, it would be weird fiction. Lovecraft is just as important to me as Doyle, and I love most writers who were part of the Lovecraft circle. Being a school teacher, I also enjoy great children’s and young adult literature. The Giver is one of my all time favorite books, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games series. The Harry Potter books are some of the best fiction ever written. Lastly, I’ll toss in graphic novels and comics. I’ve always loved sequential art, and I’m glad it has finally earned the literary respect it deserves.
Do you have a favourite fellow pastiche writer? Who and why?
That’s a tough question, and I really need to cheat and just say it depends on where I am in my writing and in my life.
David Marcum is one of my favorites on most days of the week for when I need to look at the 100% traditional pastiche. You are also one of my favorites, particularly when I need inspiration for the softer, more emotional side of Holmes.
(My blushes, Derrick!)
Baring-Gould is my favorite when I need to know the background and day to day life of Holmes. When it comes to understanding character and motivations, I think Mitch McCullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind is the very best. When it comes to descriptions and sense of mood, I believe Daniel D. Victor rises to the top. If I need a Holmes who is outside of the box, I like the few pastiches written by Neil Gaiman.
I’d like to add in here how much I appreciate all writers of pastiches because they are keeping the memory of Holmes alive, and because of their work, more and more people are turning to the canon to read Doyle’s original sixty tales of the great detective. Yes, I have read pastiches I haven’t liked, some I’d go so far as to say I hated, but after finishing each one, I want to applaud the author for doing their bit to keep Sherlock Holmes alive well into the 21st Century and beyond.
Other than Holmes, who is your favourite detective?
I keep cheating on your questions. I can’t give you just one. I love the American Hard Boiled detective stories. Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe are two of my favorites in both their literary incarnations and also the wonderful noir versions as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart. I also really enjoy the pulp detectives like the Shadow and even Batman when he is in the hands of a great writer such as Alan Moore with The Killing Joke. For Young Adult, I love the Amanda Lester series by Paula Berinstein, and even though it isn’t officially a mystery series, the Harry Potter books always have wonderful mysteries as part of the stories. Oh, and even though he’s never named, the journalist doing the investigating in Citizen Kane has to be noted for trying to solve the most difficult mystery of life. Who is Charles Foster Kane, or, who is anyone, really?
Who are your heroes (real life or literary)?
People who stand up to injustice are my heroes. People who show kindness in their day to day actions are my heroes. People who make the world a better place are my heroes.
Your favourite quote, Sherlockian or otherwise?
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi.
Derrick Belanger is an author and educator most noted for his books and lectures on Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Both volumes of his two volume anthology A Study in Terror: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Revolutionary Stories of Fear and the Supernatural were #1 best sellers on the Amazon.com UK Sherlock Holmes book list, and his MacDougall Twins with Sherlock Holmes chapter book, Attack of the Violet Vampire! was also a #1 best selling new release in the UK. Mr. Belanger’s academic work has been published in The Colorado Reading Journal and Gifted Child Today.
If you’re interested in reading some of Derrick’s wonderful books–and you really should–you can find them on his Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/author/derrickbelanger