I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Vaughn Entwistle about his books and writing.
I am a huge Conan Doyle fan! Growing up I watched every television and movie version of Sherlock Holmes. As a young reader I blasted through the Baker Street stories and went on to mine the other rich veins of Conan Doyle’s creative genus.
I’ve always thought it a shame that his expansive talent has been overshadowed by the fame of the fictional detective he created. It’s true that Sherlock Holmes has come to define the modern mystery genre, but beyond his fictional consulting detective, Conan Doyle was an innovator whose works spanned a broad spectrum. He helped create a number of genres and sub-genres familiar to modern readers, including: time-slip, dystopian, utopian, gothic horror, techno-fiction and some truly genre-defying works that can only be gathered together under an umbrella term such as “weird fiction,” or “strange tales.”
Were you concerned about including such famous real life people (Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde) in a fictitious story line?
Yes and no. Both are famous public figures now part of the historical record. As such, they are fair game for writers who wish to use them as characters in their own works of fiction. I was reasonably confident I could pull off Conan Doyle: I was already familiar with his canon, so my character research entailed re-reading the stories, poring through biographies, and then reading his collected letters. (I have read the collected letters of both Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. They are invaluable sources since they allow you to hear the author speak his own thoughts in his own voice). I did, however, have major reservations when it came to Oscar Wilde. Could I convincingly capture the essence of one of the world’s greatest wits? Well, all I can say that—based upon many book reviews—my readers seem to think I pulled it off.
How did you come up with the story line of The Revenant of Thraxton Hall?
I had decided to write a mystery novel set in Victorian England. Having just completed a ton of historical research from my Victorian suspense novel, The Angel of Highgate, I was well grounded in the era. As he is a personal hero of mine, I decided to use Arthur Conan Doyle as my sleuth. With his interest in detecting and enthusiasm for spiritualism and the occult, he was the perfect detective for a mystery story with a paranormal twist.
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is your first novel- how long was the process between the first idea and finally seeing it published?
Much, much, much longer than you would think. At any rate, much longer than I thought. I came up with the concept mid-way through 2011. The novel took around six months (working full-time) to write. When I finished it, I really felt like I had something quite special. I did not have an agent at the time and, perhaps somewhat arrogantly, I began by querying some of the biggest agents in the United States. From my initial raft of ten queries, I had multiple requests for the full manuscript, and finally signed with Kimberley Cameron of Kimberley Cameron and Associates. Amazingly, Kimberley sold the novel in just six months. At the end there was a kind of mini-bidding war between three interested publishers. I signed with the very prestigious St. Martin’s Press, with the book being published by their mystery imprint, Minotaur.
How did it feel when you heard your book was going to be published?
I was ecstatic. My brain was floating on a cloud of endorphin's for days. But things didn't get real until the postman thumped a heavy cardboard box on the doorstep. Inside were my author’s copies of the book, hot off the press. Holding my first published book in my hands, complete with my mug shot on the dust jacket, is a once in lifetime experience.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I have been writing stories in my head since early childhood (my parents wouldn't pay for therapy). I graduated from university with a Master’s Degree in English and have been earning a crust as a writer/editor since college. (And when I say crust, I mean crust). However, like many English majors who dream of becoming a famous novelist, the reality is that you wind up earning a living writing technical manuals, marketing collateral, press releases and what not. Now, I’m finally able to turn my inability to face reality into a career.
Do you have any tips for any budding writers?
Before you set out on the road decide if you have a high pain threshold. For writers, rejection is constant and never ending—even when you are published. Expect to lose friends and neglect relationships because writing requires a huge investment of hours. Even after you've put in the time required to write a novel (it takes most people three years), it is extremely challenging to land an agent and, as my story shows, the publishing process literally takes years.
Edinburgh plays a big part in the life of Arthur Conan Doyle, any plans to set one of your novels in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh did make a short guest appearance in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall (or should that be short “ghost” appearance?). While I have no definite plans as yet, Edinburgh does seem inevitable, doesn't it? A medieval city warrened with alleyways, Gothic and shadowy, with a morbidly rich history of hauntings and body snatchers. I would also need to work in that most famous of Edinburgh delicacies, a deep-fried Mars Bar.
'The Angel of Highgate' is out in March 2015. The novel is set earlier then The Revenant of Thraxton Hall and features Lord Geoffrey Thraxton. Click here to read to the book blurb.
For more information about Vaughn Entwistle and his work, visit www.vaughnentwistle.com
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