Recently I got a chance to do an email interview Angela Misri, author of A Portia Adams Adventure: Jewel of the Thames and A Portia Adams Adventure: Thrice Burned.
CKC: 1. How did the world of Portia Adams come to be?
AM: I’m pretty sure she has been in my brain since I was a kid when I would take out Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie books every Friday and return them on Monday having read them all weekend. I love figuring out clues and guessing the right answer to a mystery before it is ‘revealed’ to the audience. I think being a huge fan of reading mysteries is the first step to writing them.
CKC: 2. When did you first think of the idea of Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s successor?
AM: I actually came up with the idea of Portia working out of Baker Street when I read a short-story called ‘The Doctor’s Case’ by Stephen King. It was in an anthology of Sherlock pastiche (stories based on a pre-existing character) and it was so respectful of that relationship between Holmes and Watson that for the first time I considered writing a pastiche of my own.
CKC: 3. Is there any particular reason Portia Adams is Canadian instead of being British like her famous heritage?
AM: Oh yes, lots of good reasons. First of all, I have an atrocious British accent, so when I read aloud from my books in a Canadian accent, trust me, you’re all benefitting! More seriously, I read a lot of Sherlock fan fiction and pastiche and felt that a young Canadian female voice was missing, and could contribute!
CKC: 4. Was Portia Adams always a Girl?
AM: Yes, always. And she was always Canadian. Her age varied – initially I had her a little older, but she was always a girl.
CKC: 5. Why did you choose to write about a new Sherlock Holmes as opposed to just a girl detective like Nancy Drew?
AM: Like many others I am fascinated by the Baker Street mystique and I wanted Portia to have that kind of starting point. It gives her a ‘leg up’ on people who might doubt her abilities and makes her more confident as well.
CKC: 6. I really like Portia’s neighbours the Dawes. Are the Dawes based off of real people or are they kind of what you think to be your typical neighbour?
AM: I really like the Dawes as well! They are based off adults I grew up with in Calgary who were close to my parents.
CKC: 7. Will Portia Adams and Brian Dawes’ relationship grow from being a friendship and partnership to something more? Because the duo in Sherlock Holmes was Sherlock Holmes and John Watson they weren’t really going to fall in love. With the new Sherlock Holmes being a girl it opens up a whole world of possibilities. What are you going to do?
AM: That’s a question I always get and the best I can do is promise that yes, it will develop into something more. Whether they will live happily ever after I cannot answer, because at this moment I do not know. It’s funny, but initially, I intended to make a female duo. The Watson to Portia’s Holmes was going to be Annie Coleson, whom I introduce in Thrice Burned. Brian was initially just intended to be a Lestrade-type character (from the original Sherlock Holmes) – a constable lives downstairs at 221 Baker St. who represents Scotland Yard. But I found the more I wrote about the two of them – Portia and Brian – the closer they got, and the more they came to rely on each other. I realized that Brian and Annie together will form Portia’s version of John Watson. It came about quite organically and I’m happy with it!
CKC: 8. Why is Bruiser Jenkins in the novel? He is undoubtedly my favourite character, him and Brian Dawes, but why was he put in? He could have easily not been there at all!
AM: That is so funny – most people don’t even notice Bruiser Jenkins in the book, so I am thrilled he made an impression on you! Portia straddles a middle-ground in terms of crime-fighting that I needed to weigh equally. So you’ve got Constable Dawes and Holmes on one side and you’ve got Irene Adler and Jenkins on the other. Both sides contribute to Portia’s growth as a detective and both sides distrust the other. Portia benefits from both and I thought that was important for her. She’s not a black and white character like Watson was. Watson was all about the rule of law while Portia sees the grey areas of breaking the law through the eyes of Adler and Jenkins, an important feature I wanted her to have.
CKC: 9. How do you choose which mysteries to put in your books? How do you think up a casebook’s main mystery?
AM: This is going to sound weird, but I always start with the crime. Jewel of the Thames came to me when I had a dream about jewellery sinking to the bottom of a river. I started to think about why that would happen, and could it be used as a way to get rid of evidence? Who could benefit from that? And how could you retrieve your booty from the bottom of a river after you had been absolved of a crime? That is generally how my mysteries start – with a crime – I work out from there. For more on how I write mysteries, you can check out my YouTube channel One Fictitious Moment: http://youtu.be/Cm93_Cjmylc
CKC: 10. I had a teacher tell me once that an author never puts anything in their book for no reason. They always put something in the book that will effect the story. Are there any ideas that you wanted to put in Jewel of the Thames but couldn’t find a place to put them? Can we expect to see them in future books?
AM: Smart teacher! Yes there are often scenes or lines of dialogue that for some reason don’t actually push the story along – which as your teacher said – is the question you have to ask yourself for every single circumstance. How does this advance the story? If it doesn’t, do you need it? I have a word doc of these bits and bobs that yes, I try to pull into other books. Especially dialogue that I really like, I will try and reuse that for sure. Sometimes I write a casebook and it ends way too soon, and if I can’t massage it into a longer story, then I save it as a short-story. I just released my first of these short-stories on Wattpad.
Thank you so much Angela Misri for answering all of my questions! Thank you also for letting me participate in your blog tour.
My review of Thrice Burned will be coming out March 24th so stay tuned!