This week’s new feature is a new look at the immortal Sherlock Homes through Elizabeth Crowens’ Silent Meridian. Welcome Elizabeth and thanks for sharing how you uncovered the alternate histories of Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Houdini, Jung, and other luminaries in the secret diaries of a new kind of Doctor Watson, John Patrick Scott, in an X Files for the 19th century.
What’s your background and how did that influence your work?
I have a Hollywood background from development through distribution with production sandwiched in between. Also a background in journalism, which also includes a strong emphasis in photojournalism. The film knowledge helps with my sense of editing, pacing, attention to fact-checking details, and spotting any inconsistencies. When dealing with a plot as intricate as mine, that skill is vital, especially since there will be close to seven books in the series when its done.
How much research do you do and where do you get your information?
Since Silent Meridian is an alternate history novel based on real people who did exist, I do an enormous amount of research. Over the course of time, I’ve amassed a huge collection of antiquarian books. I’ve also spent many hours in places like the British Library and have had to take multiple trips abroad. Often it’s overwhelming and hard to distinguish where to draw the line. After all, I’m writing fiction. I do have some wiggle room. However, I have to admit that the travel and the research is the most fun part of my involvement with the Time Traveler Professor series. I never had the opportunity to travel as much as I had wanted to when I worked in film and television, but now I have the excuse.
What did you enjoy most about your story? What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been two-fold. One is that I’ve had to go into libraries or bookstores where the material I seek is written in another language such as German, French, or Dutch. The second challenge is that some of the facts about certain people or events have been lost, and it’s up to me to take whatever I can find and fill in the gaps. Sometimes facts or lack of them clash with elements of great story telling. That also includes knowing when you have enough material to move forward.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? How does that impact your work?
With Silent Meridian, I was a bit too much of a pantser, which wasted a lot of valuable time. Currently I’m working on the sequel, A Pocketful of Lodestones, and I feel I have no choice but to be more of a plotter and outline the story. First of all, since it is a series, I have to keep in mind that I created an inviolate canon in the first book. Arthur Conan Doyle slipped up in that respect in his Sherlock Holmes stories. When Doctor Watson first met Sherlock, he complained of an injury in his leg. Throughout the Sherlock series, this injury switched locations and how it occurred. I want to make sure nothing of that sort happens in my books.
Secondly, I wasted a lot of time with the pantser approach. Once I put my mind to it, Silent Meridian took five years to write. If I wish to be competitive in today’s publishing marketplace, my sequel should be completed within one year to a year and a half. The only positive thing I can say was that my pantser approach helped me intuitively write a lot of chapters for future books, but it also wasted valuable time. I’m writing a novel in another genre right now that’s more plotted than pantsed, but I’m also finding that I revise my plot as I go along and am not married to it.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
The two that are most influential would be Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K. Rowling, but in a certain sense, I have to clarify that Doyle was probably more influential biographically. He wrote a lot of other stuff outside of the Sherlock Holmes stories including a lot of non-fiction material on war and psychic phenomena, and it was his latter obsession that I found completely mind-blowing. Who would’ve thought that the logical mastermind behind the greatest literary detective was actually an original Victorian “Ghostbuster”?
Recently I moderated a panel at Philcon on some of Doyle’s other works besides Sherlock. He wrote quite a few ghost stories. There are two I’m familiar with about avenging mummies that are hilarious. Doyle was more interested in psychic discoveries and proof of life after death that he tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes, so he’d have time to develop these interests.
An after-the-fact influence of mine would be Tim Powers, one of the Godfathers of Steampunk. I had already published Silent Meridian before I had read any of Tim’s books, but when it was compared to The Anubis Gates, I had to check him out. Now I love his stuff. I also tend to love the Victorian contemporaries of Doyle, such as H.G. Wells and would rather read originals written during that time period as opposed to modern day adaptations.
What comes next for you as a writer? What’s your end goal?
I’m working on the sequel, A Pocketful of Lodestones. To say it’s a challenge is an understatement because I’m dealing with a lot of history and research circa WWI. Regarding the pantsing versus plotting, currently I’m in the process of revising my original outline. I’m juggling that book along with a suspense novel that is not part of the series. In a sense that’s good, because if I get stuck on one, I can jump to the other and come back refreshed when I look at it again. My end goal? Wider distribution and brand awareness of the Time Traveler Professor series and a film deal since I wrote the series with that in mind. I’d also like to be bringing in enough revenue from my writing that I can afford an assistant and a full-time publicist to get the ball rolling. It’s impossible to do everything myself and still continue to write.
About Silent Meridian
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is obsessed with a legendary red book. Its peculiar stories have come to life, and rumors claim that it has rewritten its own endings. Convinced that possessing this book will help him write his ever-popular Sherlock Holmes stories, he takes on an unlikely partner, John Patrick Scott, known to most as a concert musician and paranormal investigator. Although in his humble opinion, Scott considers himself more of an ethereal archaeologist and a time traveler professor.
Together they explore lost worlds and excavate realms beyond the knowledge of historians when they go back in time to find it. But everything backfires, and their friendship is tested to the limits. Both discover that karmic ties and unconscionable crimes have followed them like ghosts from the past, wreaking havoc on the present and possibly the future.
Stay tuned for A Pocketful of Lodestones, book two in the Time Traveler Professor series by Elizabeth Crowens.
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Reviews for Silent Meridian
“Silent Meridian is a delightful genre-twisting romp through time and possibilities. It takes all sorts of unexpected turns and arrives exactly where it needs to be. Highly recommended!” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author of Kill Switch and Rot & Ruin
“How to describe Silent Meridian by Elizabeth Crowens? It’s time travel, magic, and high-pressure Steampunk excitement. It’s literary giants meeting fabulous fictional characters for historical adventure and mad bursts of futuristic drama. It’s a fantastic and fantastical entertainment. So, like our intrepid hero, John Patrick Scott, sit yourself down in your ‘thinking chair’ and let him crank up the time machine. He had to invent his. All you have to do is open this terrific book.” – William Martin, New York Times Bestselling Author of Back Bay and The Lincoln Letter
“Elizabeth Crowens takes aim at what we’ve found familiar and adds a twist of surreal adventure that is fun, entertaining and delightfully different from what is expected. SILENT MERIDIAN is a rollercoaster ride with a side of the sublime. Highly recommended!” – James A. Moore, best selling author of the Seven Forges Series, Aliens: Sea of Sorrows and the Serenity Falls Trilogy.
“This is one of the most unusual and offbeat novels that I’ve read in years. It bridges several genres in a seamless and cohesive fashion. Devotees of Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Freud, Jung, Harry Potter, Ninjas and Samurai, and the Edwardian Era will all find something of great interest here. The book constantly turns in unexpected directions and holds the interest from start to finish. Be prepared for a rollicking journey down a complicated and fascinating route, beginning with the surprising, ending with the unexpected and leaving all wanting a sequel.” – Robert S Katz, MD, BSI Sherlockian and Co-Editor of Nerve and Knowledge: Doctors, Medicine and the Sherlockian Canon
About the Author
Elizabeth Crowens is the pen name author of SILENT MERIDIAN, book one in the Time Traveler Professor series, an alternate history/ “spooky steampunk” novel published by MX Publishing in London. Recently she received an Honourable Mention in Glimmer Train’s fiction short story contest for Emerging Writers and is on the short list of finalists for Chanticleer’s 2016 Cygnus Awards for Speculative Fiction and their Goethe Award for post-1750’s Historical Fiction. She has also published a variety of non-fiction articles and will be doing a column called The Poison Apple in the World Fantasy Award-winning publication, Black Gate Magazine. Current work-in-progress is a thriller titled, Memoirs of an American Butterfly. Her literary agent is Paula Munier at the Talcott-Notch Agency.
A 15-year veteran of the film industry in Hollywood, she’s also an alumnus of Algonkian workshops and the Gotham Writer’s Workshop and a member of the Horror Writers Association. An active Sherlockian, she’s lectured on Arthur Conan Doyle, belongs to several Sherlockian groups, and is an independent scholar on Eastern and Western mysticism and Jungian psychology. A blackbelt in martial arts, she’s lived in Japan. Currently, she lives in New York City.