Author interview : Hugh Ashton

My second interview is with pastiche author Hugh Ashton.

1. What got you interested in Sherlock Holmes and when?

I was given the complete Sherlock Holmes (except, I think, Study and Sign, but including the Adrian Conan Doyle pastiches) as a set of paperbacks when I was about 11. They have always stayed with me. I seem to remember the mid-60s BBC adaptations, but for some reason missed out on the Granadas, even though I left the UK for Japan in 1988, when they'd been on the air for a few years. But then I've never been a great TV or film watcher. Always loved the language of the canon - there's something very pleasing about the adverbs and the slightly archaic (even for the late 19th century) style.

2. Did you get encouragement from friends and family? Did anyone question your interest?

Not really - in fact, when my first pastiches were published, both my mother and my sister told me they'd never read any Sherlock Holmes. My wife is Japanese, and she doesn't really get on with the canon in English or Japanese (let alone my books!). So I am ploughing a lonely furrow, especially living in Japan, where the number of readers in English is relatively small. Some of my friends regard me as an established famous author, which is flattering, if not altogether accurate. I get the usual questions about "Are you allowed to write Sherlock Holmes stories?" - in my case, the answer is an unqualified "yes", because my adventures have the blessing of the Conan Doyle Estate.

3. Who is your favourite screen Holmes and why?
" has to be Brett"

For the canonical Holmes, it has to be Brett. When I write, I see Brett, but hear Cumberbatch. I like the BBC Sherlock series in its own right, and I feel the writers have been very clever in their nods to the canon - Season 3 got silly at times, though, despite some really clever writing. Things like Elementary and the RDJ movies I regard as starring detectives who have the same name as Sherlock Holmes.

4. When did you first decide to write a book in the field and why?

As the result of playing Cluedo (Clue) with a friend's children. We were joking about Sherlock Holmes' smarter older brother, but no-one had ever written about his smarter younger sister, to my knowledge. So the next day, I went out and wrote "The Odessa Business". That went up on Smashwords, and was well received. So I then wrote the story of "Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science," which I entitled the "Mystery of the Missing Matchbox". Inknbeans Press, with whom I was in negotiation regarding some non-Holmesian stories, told me that if I could write another one, it would be put together with the first two and sold as a volume. So "The Case of the Cormorant" was added, and "Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD" made its way into the world. I wrote "The Odessa Business" on January 3, and the printed volume was available on Amazon before the end of the month. We're now up to over 30 adventures and 2 novels - I want to make the 56+4 before I stop.

5. How do you find the Sherlock Holmes community, any really positive or negative experiences?

Difficult to say, being geographically isolated. The Japanese Sherlockians are very pleasant and friendly, but it's an awful strain to have to do these things in Japanese all the time. I've had visitors from Canada and other places, and I keep up a correspondence with several, as well as Facebook contacts (what would Sherlock have made of Facebook? Would Watson have been scouring Facebook for him, rather than the agony columns?). It was a special treat to be able to attend the launch party of the MX compilation in London and meet people who had previously only been names. I'm a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, and also of the Watsonian Society - it's a good way to keep in touch. But in some senses, I can hardly call myself a Sherlockian - I simply write Sherlock Holmes adventures in the style of the originals.

Written by Hugh Ashton

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