A history professor at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Tracy Revels has been a Sherlock Holmes fan since 5th grade. She teaches a class on Sherlock Holmes called “The Game’s Afoot!” along with more conventional courses in Civil War and women’s history. Shadowfall is her first novel and already a bestseller amongst Holmes fans since its launch last month.
What was the main inspiration for the book?
I’ve loved the Sherlock Holmes canon since I was a child. I also enjoy dark, spooky, supernatural fiction. As a historian, I naturally read a lot of history too. This work was my attempt to combine all my interests into one. It was also inspired by a lot of the “alternative” pastiches that I’ve read over the years, which really stretch the character of Holmes and show how, as an ideal, he can travel through time and space.
Which is your favorite character/aspect of the book?
I thoroughly enjoyed playing in a new Sherlockian sandbox, putting Holmes into a world that was sinister and creepy, and giving Holmes a dark side as well. I also enjoyed doing the research for the various characters. I tried to base as many of my characters as possible on either historical people or obscure legends. I found connecting Holmes to actual people and mythologies to be a pretty wild ride.
Of all the Holmes stories which is your favorite and why?
“The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” for two reasons. It was the first story I ever read (when I was about 10 years old) and I love watching students react to it. One of my students came in, slammed her book down, and yelled “I hate you! You made me read that snake story and now I can’t sleep!”
If you could meet Arthur Conan Doyle on his forthcoming birthday, what would you ask him?
What was the real reason Holmes asked for Irene Adler’s picture at the end of “A Scandal in Bohemia”?
What’s the best aspect of being a Holmes author?
It’s just so much fun to write about Holmes. The added benefit is that writing about Holmes always leads to interactions with Sherlockians. The Survivors of the Gloria Scott are some of the finest people on the planet—and I’ve been privileged to be a member of this Greenville, South Carolina scion for a decade. Recently I attended the Gathering of Southern Sherlockians in Chattanooga, which gave me the chance to meet fellow enthusiasts from Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. I’d say the combination of these interactions—with Holmes on the page and friends of Holmes in person—is definitely the best part of being a Holmes author.
How do you view the new adaptations of Holmes – the BBC’s Sherlock and the Guy Richie directed movies?
I teach a college class that focuses on the Sherlock Holmes stories, so when the movie came out my Facebook page lit up as all my former students asked “What did you think of the movie?” For about a month, that was the sole subject of conversation because everyone at Wofford College knows that I love Holmes. I found the movie to be entertaining and visually amazing. I’m looking forward to the sequel. BUT—he’s not MY Holmes. I couldn’t really see him as the Holmes that I have in my head. As my students would say, Robert Downey Jr. played Holmes as a “hot mess” and that’s not my concept of the character. But that’s what’s so great about Sherlock Holmes; everyone sees him in a different light, and every generation re-interprets him. So I can appreciate an interpretation (in this case, Guy Ritchie’s) without having to commit to it as my own.
On the other hand, I loved the BBC series SHERLOCK. What a fantastic update and a great way to bring Holmes to young people. I plan to use the first episode in my class. I had a few quibbles (especially with the second episode, which I thought was needlessly melodramatic) but overall I was so excited by it. I can’t wait for the next season.
Which other modern day Holmes writer do you most enjoy?
Nicholas Meyer (The Seven Percent Solution, The West End Horror) is my all-time favorite. And I thoroughly enjoy pastiche collections, because they give me a chance to see many different authors at work. The collection Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space greatly influenced me. I’m working my way through the a history and pastiche collection and I’m very impressed by The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes (for fiction) and the works of Alistair Duncan, Paul R. Spiring, and Brian W. Pugh for history.
When you’re not writing Sherlock Holmes, what are you doing?
Probably teaching class. I also work on projects that deal with Florida history and have published a book on Florida’s women during the Civil War and one on the history of Florida tourism. I enjoy movies and music plus I’m a huge Doctor Who fan.
Any plans for a follow-up to Shadowfall?
Have you ever met an author who wasn’t writing a sequel? I have a title, some ideas, and a notebook. I’m ready to go to work……..