This post is part of the Candlesticks and Daggers Interview Series run by contributor Sati Benes Chock. For more about the book, please follow the link here.
Excerpt from Danielle Davis’s story “The Egregia Cum Laude Adventure: A Sherlock Holmes Beginnings Story”
It wasn’t the first time someone had contacted him about a case as he was walking to his 6:00 A.M. Political Studies class, but it was the first time someone had thrown a rock at him to do it.
“OW!” He staggered and rubbed the back of his head. When his probing fingers found a lump already forming just behind his ear—just above the thick wool scarf wound around his neck—he turned with a livid glare to find the culprit. His eyes found a tall young man jogging towards him.
Instinctively, Sherlock Holmes noted several details all at once. The man was still in his pajamas, the kind with white and blue stripes down the button-front shirt and pants. The tousled clumps of his hair stood up in several directions, and he was barefoot despite the thin layer of snow that blanketed the grass. These things Sherlock absorbed without even consciously realizing he was doing so.
You write novels and short stories. Do you do both at the same time, or do you tackle one at a time? Which do you enjoy more?
I do both at the same time, but mostly because short stories have a shorter turnaround for me than the novel does. I can get an idea for one and have a turnaround of a few days or a week, which presses my Immediate Gratification button pretty well 🙂 I think I favor short stories, though, because I short story better than I novel right now. It’s a medium that I am a lot more familiar with and have a lot more practice at, so I think when I get stressed about the novel it’s nice to be able to turn to my comfort zone medium.
Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer? Did you always know that you wanted to be one?
I did always know. I was writing stories and bad poetry and getting them published in the local newspaper in elementary school. And since my family has always been big readers, it seems like a really natural extension to start making stories of my own.
What do you read for fun?
Young adult, fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and any mix of the above. I just finished Juliet Marillier’s Den of Wolves, which was delightful; I’m currently reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; and I’m getting ready to start rereading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, because the language of it is so amazing and I missed that world.
If you could tell beginning writers one thing about the publishing process, what would it be?
Realize that two things have to happen: you have to believe in your stories, and you have to be willing to revisit the editing process for a story (even after you may think it’s done) if you get a handful of form rejections for it. Sometimes a very good story will get multiple rejections, but as long as you sat down after the first handful and revisited your story with a critical eye and STILL believe that it’s as good as you can get it, then that’s where the believing in your story part comes in. At that point you have to just keep sending it out, because statistically it’s a matter of time before it finds the right home.
Some writers have rituals that they feel helps them with the creative process. Do you employ any rituals, or do anything regularly that helps keep you on track with your writing?
I usually have to listen to music while I write and can’t have any words that I understand and it (or I will start transcribing instead of writing)–I like soundtracks, techno, and Celtic or Russian pop. I also like drinking some kind of tea; it makes me feel writerly.
In the “Egregia Cum Laude Adventure: A Sherlock Holmes Story,” you imagine Holmes as a college student with a passion for sleuthing. Do you know if this has been done before? If not, what gave you the idea?
I don’t know if it is been done before, at least not to the early age that I have Mr. Holmes doing his work. But given how popular the character is, I imagine that’s more my ignorance than the fact that it doesn’t exist. I got the idea a few years ago when I did a September stories project for some of my social media friends that wanted to play, I gave them categories (i.e., a name, and adjective, genre, and a color) and then I wrote a short story a day for the month of September based on their answers. One of the genres I was given was a mystery and I hadn’t ever written one before and was a little worried because I didn’t really read them much. So I went and got a book on How to Deduce like Sherlock Holmes, which looked at all of the Sherlock Holmes novels and broke down the deduction process he used in each and then provided similar games for the reader to test and improve their own deduction process. And as I was reading it, I found myself thinking “Man, I really wish I could come up with a detective as clever and jerk-ish as Sherlock Holmes”…then I realized I didn’t have to. 🙂
You like to play unusual instruments. Do you find that exercising your creativity in different ways helps you to be a better writer?
I don’t think it helps me be a better writer, but I think it helps keep me from being bored. And keeping a creative mind happy is just as important as being creative in your writing. The former feeds the latter, I think.
You mention Stephen King and Maggie Stiefvater, among others, as your greatest influences. What in particular do you admire most about their writing?
The way their stories surpass the genre and get to the heart of the characters in the stories. Neither of those authors is afraid of putting their characters in difficult situations and then letting the consequences of their actions take the appropriate toll. They don’t give the characters easy outs. That’s the kind of writing I aspire to, the kind that doesn’t pull its punches.
Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?
Danielle Davis is a liar, a cheater of cards, and a misrememberer of song lyrics; only two of these are true. Her work has most recently appeared in Kelly Ann Jacobson’s Candlesticks and Daggers anthology, Tailfins and Sealskins: An anthology of Water Lore, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Her horror novella, No Room for Valor, is also published in serial format on Jukepop Serials. She hails from Memphis, TN by way of Northern VA. You can find out more about her work at www.literaryellymay.com.