There is a new kid on the Sherlock Holmes publishing block, “Improbable Press” which specializes in romantic and erotic Sherlock Holmes fiction. I got a chance to have an online chat with two of the authors, Atlin Merrick and Narrelle Harris, about the new publisher and the first books.
Q: What can readers expect to see from the new publishing company?
ATLIN: If you already read Narrelle M. Harris, Verity Burns, and Atlin Merrick…you can expect to see more of the same. Gleefully told mystery stories featuring John Watson and Sherlock Holmes — with the lovely addition that the boys are partners in all senses of the word, in bed and out. All the romance! All the erotica! And mysteries! And adventure! Also I need to cut back on the caffeine!
Q: Will the books appeal to traditional Sherlock Holmes fans as well as enthusiastic Johnlockers?
NARRELLE: That might depend on how interested they are in the idea of Holmes and Watson as a couple. If they just don’t read the characters that way, probably not, but if they, too, have viewed the Conan Doyle stories has having queer subtext, or are open to the idea, I think so. The mysteries and crime solving are still a huge part of the books we’re each writing, whether they’re set in the modern day or, like mine, in the Victorian era.
ATLIN: Do the books have to appeal to them? It’ll be great if they do — again, these are mystery tales for the most part, adventure stories — they also have romance. If folks like any of those things they should like these stories. Narrelle, Verity, and I already know that many, many traditional Holmesian enthusiasts also read romantic/erotic stories about these men!
Q: You all started out as fan fiction writers (I’ve read some of each of your Sherlock fiction BTW and enjoyed it) was it difficult to make a style switch from short stories to novels?
NARRELLE: I think it may be a bit more complicated than that. I’ve been writing stories ever since I was little, but I first wrote fanfic about 35 years ago, in Blake’s 7 and Star Trek, mainly, but then I began to work on original stories. I’ve had six books published in the interim, a number of short stories and even a play. I also make a crust doing corporate writing. Atlin comes from a background of corporate writing too. I don’t know about Verity, but I imagine we’ve all come from a really varied background of what and how we write. I came back to fanfic in 2012 because of Sherlock, in part to find fun again, because I was having a debilitating round of writer’s block on a novel I haven’t actually finished yet, though it’s now fully plotted. I have written a LOT of stuff since then though, so it seems to have worked… As for the switch from short to long form – when I first wrote novels, that was a big change from the short works I’d been doing. Then I got into that stride and my attempt to write shorter works for publication was a challenge. But by then, the internet had happened and my husband and I were running an online theatre review site called Stage Left. I learned a lot about concise writing, and that helped with short story technique a lot. Now I switch fairly easily between short and long form, because it’s all about the idea I’m exploring and how much room it needs to unfold. Just recently I submitted a new novel to my usual publisher, Clan Destine Press, but also three short stories to three different anthologies. I’ve had one acceptance so far (though they’re still working through submissions so I’m not allowed to say which one yet) and I really hope at least one of the other two makes it, as I’m really proud of the story. I’m delighted you enjoy the Sherlock fic though. It’s been a fertile ground in which other projects have been growing.
ATLIN: I’ve been writing professionally long before writing fan fiction, which is the case with many of us I think. I know quite a number of fandom writers who make a living with their writing—articles, books, business features, every sort of pen to paper. I think we all of us end up writing the fan fiction for the sheer joy of it. And if you wonder why so much of it is sexual, well there’s not yet enough sexually explicit anything geared toward women. Some of us can fix that!
Q: What came first for you, BBC Sherlock or the original Sherlock Holmes stories?
NARRELLE: Actually, Jeremy Brett’s Granada series came first for me. Until then, I was aware of Holmes – of course I was – but I thought the avuncular detective and a stupid sidekick were uninspiring. Along comes Brett and David Burke (and later Edward Hardwicke) and they were so sharp and fascinating, so textured and amazing. I went to ACD from there. I wasn’t sure I’d like a modern version, but I thought it was a great idea to try – and my husband and I both loved the first and second seasons.
ATLIN: I read the stories when I was a little girl—I appear to be the only one who doesn’t love “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”—then saw the Granada series, but was subsumed under a tidal wave of adoration for all things Sherlock when I saw the BBC’s Sherlock.
Q: What appeals to you about the Sherlock Holmes/John Watson relationship (with or without Johnlock goggles)?
NARRELLE: With or without the romantic aspect, they have a great friendship and huge respect and loyalty towards each other. You sometimes wouldn’t think that Holmes respects Watson all that much, but if you read canon you can see how much stick they give each other. Watson takes opportunities to point out Holmes’s flaws as well as his genius. I like that they can have their deep friendship without having to agree on all things or like the same things. They are two individuals, but they fit together, they complement each other with their skills and qualities. When you go back to the stories, you see how playful and humorous they are in their discussions. They tease each other a lot, and laugh together all the time. It’s right down there in print. They have an easy friendship, and whether or not it’s spoken out loud, a very obvious affection for each other. They argue of course, and Holmes can be quite rude, but Watson rarely takes it very personally – and he lets Holmes know when he’s gone too far. Holmes invariably apologises if he’s caused Watson genuine distress. People tend to think of Watson as the conventional one, and he is more conventional than Holmes, but Watson himself comments on the Bohemian life they live – he was reading La Vie de la Boheme in A Study in Scarlet, and he also often notes that they both have a love of the bizarre. They have such a strong bond, and Watson is never jealous of or offended by Holmes’s intellectual superiority, and I think that’s a great lesson for people in self esteem and confidence. You don’t have to be just like someone else to be their great friend, or to love them. All you have to do is respect each other, and your differences, and see how well you can make those differences as well as the shared things work together.
ATLIN: The canon is 600,000 words about a rare friendship. About two men who have crazy adventures together, sit by the fire, and who, though wildly different fit, fit, fit one another.
Q: Can you give us a hint about the plots of the first few books to be released?
NARRELLE: I can give you the idea of mine, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy. It’s set in 1893, and Watson is in mourning because not only his great friend has died, but Mary has just died in childbirth. He’s shocked to receive a telegram, apparently from Holmes, summoning him to Australia. It’s not a happy reunion. Watson is enraged and hurt beyond measure, but Holmes has his own unhappiness which had prompted him to leave in such a fashion. They’ll have to put their anger aside to solve the case and save lives, as they chase one of Moriarty’s surviving lieutenants through Melbourne and across Victoria. The identity of the ‘Colonial Boy’ is multifaceted, but I’ll leave that for the book.
ATLIN: The Night They Met, like The Day They Met, will be stories of other ways the boys could have met, only these tales will have romantic twists and moody midnight settings. The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes will be John Watson’s narrative rectification of likening Sherlock Holmes to a machine—which he does in canon as well as in Sherlock. John will do this by sharing the story of six very different loves in Sherlock’s life (and yes, John is at the heart of this) showing not only Sherlock’s humanity, but how love made him the man he is.
Q: Where and when will readers be able to purchase the books?
NARRELLE: Mine is due out in 2016. I’m still writing it, so the exact date isn’t available yet.
ATLIN: The Night They Met will be available September or October 2015, with The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes following a few months later and any online purveyor will sell them—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookdepository. You can also buy them from the publisher directly, or the authors directly.
Q: Will they be available in both paper and electronic versions? NARRELLE and ATLIN: Yes, they will!