Sample Sunday – Ann Lewis and Murder in the Vatican

Today, I’m giving you a break and posting a sample from someone else.

I met Ann Lewis last year at Magna cum Murder mystery convention. She was beautiful and kind, and I’m pleased as punch to host her on my blog. Here is her bio:

Born and raised in Waterford, Michigan, Ann Margaret Lewis attended Michigan State University, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She began her writing career writing tie-in children’s books and short stories for DC Comics. Before Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, she published a second edition of her book, Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, for Random House.

Ann is a classically trained soprano, and has performed around the New York City area. She has many interests from music to art history, to theology and all forms of literature. She is the President of the Catholic Writers Guild, an international organization for Catholic Writers and the coordinator of the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE. After living in New York City for fifteen years, Ann moved to Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband Joseph Lewis and their son, Raymond. Together they enjoy their life in the heartland.

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1) Can you say how it first occurred to you to write about Holmes and the Vatican and how your characters evolved from that first spark to full characters?

I have loved Holmes since high school, and when I was in college I wanted to write a Holmes story. I didn’t know which one until I saw Watson make an offhand reference about “the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca”— a case Holmes had solved for the pope of the time. Watson didn’t tell that story, though. It is one of the “untold tales”—one of those tantalizing little references Watson makes to cases that Holmes solved when not “on screen.” That being the case, the idea really resonated and I wanted to write it at the time. I had no idea what would happen in the story, I just knew I wanted to write it. I even managed to travel to Italy in college, looking for ideas I could use—spending some time at the Vatican. But I didn’t have the ability to write like Doyle—no “chops” as they say. What I wrote was positively dreadful. So I put the idea aside…for about twenty years. When my husband and I were moving from New York, I found my old notes and thought—“I can do this now!” Just goes to show, never throw away your ideas. You never know when you may want them.

Of course, Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson were created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so they didn’t spring from my head initially. And Pope Leo XIII was a real person. Regardless, I had to make them mine in some way. I did a lot of research for both, and came away with my understanding of the characters. With Holmes—I reread the stories again many times, getting a grip on who he and Watson are and getting used to the music of Watson’s voice. With Pope Leo, I read biographies about him and dug for primary source material to get an idea of his personality. I stayed as true to them as I could, though Pope Leo is a bit more energetic and active than he probably was in real life. I got to know them as well as I know my own family—in fact, they became family to me. I fell in love with them.

2) Did you choose your subject, or did your subject choose you?

I’d say it chose me. Stumbling upon that one idea opened the possibilities in my head and they germinated over twenty years. Re-discovering those old college notes put a fire under a recipe already cooking. And the more I read about Pope Leo, the more I was compelled to write a story about his beautiful personality.

3) How do you work?

Slowly, I’m afraid. Unless I’m really inspired, at which point I go crazy trying to get the story out. My writing comes in spurts. I write a whole bunch, then nothing for a month or two, then another whole bunch. It’s maddening—especially when I’m on deadline.

4) Are you involved with email lists and/or social media? Why or why not?

I am on some writers lists, and on facebook and LinkedIn. I’m curious about Twitter. I might take that on in a bit, but I need to figure it out. However, any and all of these are time-suckers. I spend too much time there and get no writing done.

5) If you could have an evening with one fictional character, your own or someone else’s, who would it be and why?

I know most would think I’d say Sherlock Holmes, and that’s half-correct. To tell the truth, I’d like to spend some quiet time with Watson. I like Watson more as a person. He is the model of perfect charity and a good friend. I think I’d just like to take him to a pub and buy him a beer. Holmes can come along if he wants. If he’s nice, I might buy him a round, too. 🙂

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Excerpt from MURDER IN THE VATICAN, “The Death of Cardinal Tosca”:

“You’ve forgotten one detail, Padre,” said Holmes, in reference to the pope’s new attire.

“Che?”

“L’anello.” Holmes held up his right hand and pointed to his fourth finger.

“Ah.” Leo pulled the fisherman’s ring from his finger and dropped it into the left pocket of the black cassock. The young priest then handed him a tall black umbrella, and Leo set its end to the floor with authoritative thud.

It is amazing how clothes can change the appearance of a man. Where once stood the proverbial Vicar of Christ on Earth, now stood a simple, venerable Italian priest. Strangely, he resembled the aged Italian cleric persona Holmes once adopted to avoid the notice of Professor Moriarty.

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The illustrations, which were done for the book but look like period pieces, are fabulous. Take a gander at this book trailer and see for yourself:

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Visit the web site and, if it suits your fancy, buy the book from the publisher or from Amazon.

WRITING PROMPT: Just for fun, write a scene with Sherlock Holmes in your Work In Progress. Go on–you know you want to!

MA

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About

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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