2017 debut author Amy Brashear recently interviewed 2016 debut author Brittany Cavallaro, about her debut YA novel, A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE, which was published March 1 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.
Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the YA novel A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books), the first in a trilogy, as well as the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron). She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps. Find her at her website, brittanycavallaro.com, or on Twitter @skippingstones.
The first book in a witty, suspenseful new trilogy about a brilliant new crime-solving duo: the teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. This clever page-turner will appeal to fans of Maureen Johnson and Ally Carter.
Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited Sherlock’s volatility and some of his vices—and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking for friends.
But when a student they both have a history with dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.
Amy: When did you discover and fall in love with the character of Sherlock Holmes?
Brittany: It’s been a fits and starts thing, really. When I was a kid, my grandfather gave my little brother this gorgeous leather-bound edition of the Holmes stories, and in a fit of jealousy, I stole it and read it straight through. I remember watching the 1980s Granada TV Holmes adaptations on half-days in elementary school, straining to hear the dialogue, and dreaming about giant hounds on the moor for weeks afterward. But really, it took serious hold when I went to graduate school and rediscovered a deep love of Victoriana and Arthur Conan Doyle pretty simultaneously. In my mid-twenties, I spent a really great month rewatching all those Granada episodes when they were on Netflix and furiously plotting my own adaptation!
Amy: I remember reading Sherlock Holmes stories and then seeing the black and white movies and then the Hollywood films (Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) directed by Guy Ritchie staring Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law, and then watching the BBC Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and recently Elementary on CBS with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. It seems like a new generation has found Sherlock. What do you think has caused this new interest in the last couple of years?
Brittany: Oh man. This is maybe my favorite thing to think about. The thing is, our Holmesian cultural obsession has never really gone anyway–it’s always been there, in film and TV and radio and written pastiches. Before this current crop, everyone (including me) was obsessed with House, which is such a terrifically subtle reworking of the Holmes and Watson dynamic. (And the amount of Sherlockian Easter eggs they built in, especially with Wilson’s character, is pretty staggering.) We always love the irascible genius, the person too smart for polite society, outside of it, who’s working on our behalf. An avenging angel, if not a good one. And Watson, the everyman, the one person the genius has decided to let in. Their platonic romance is so strange and touching and hilarious, when done right. It’s such a flexible dynamic, endlessly adaptable, and I love the moment it’s having right now
Amy: I loved your take on the Holmes/Watson relationship. Charlotte Holmes is such a great character. At times you want to slap her upside the head and other times you want to give her a hug. And Jamie Watson is the perfect friend/partner in crime. What influenced you in creating these two interesting teenagers with such a famous lineage?
Brittany: I love Holmes adaptations almost as much as I love the original stories and novels. But the further I dug into them, the more frustrated I became–it seemed like the story had been imagined every which way, on Mars and with lizards and in New York City, but never with a girl in the genius role. (I’ve since discovered some wonderful series, like the ENOLA HOLMES books, that do this–but I hadn’t at the time.) I badly wanted to write something to address that gap, and that played something that we Sherlockians call the Game, where we pretend that Dr. Watson did in fact write the stories (Doyle was his literary agent), and that he and Holmes were real people. What would happen, I wondered, if we jumped a century or so ahead?
Amy: Personally, I love to hear a writer’s journey to publication. What was yours like from getting your agent to selling A Study in Charlotte?
Brittany: My agent, the wonderful, brilliant Lana Popovic (who’s actually a Swanky Seventeen!), actually signed me on a different project in fall 2013, but two weeks later I came to her with the first forty pages of CHARLOTTE and said, I’m so excited about this, what do you think? She was so supportive, and with her cheerleading, I wrote the book in a six week feverish haze. We revised it and sent it out the first time in early 2014. It didn’t get picked up. We regrouped. I revised it pretty extensively, and then when we went out with it again in September 2014, it found a home at Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins!
Favorite snack while writing:
Cashews. I am super boring.
Plotter or Pantser:
I write 50 pages off the cuff and then take a break to plot the rest.
Longhand or Type:
Favorite Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story:
In terms of sheer storytelling pleasure (and my favorite butler in literature), “The Musgrave Ritual.”
Ha! I think I know why you’re asking this. I wear Chanel Coco Mademoiselle or Chloe.
Favorite Holmes—Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, or Johnny Lee Miller:
I’m going to do on a limb and say Jeremy Brett, actually!
Favorite Watson—Jude Law, Martin Freeman, or Lucy Liu:
I have a serious weak spot for Jude Law’s swagger.
Amy Brashear was born in Arkansas and grew up in Southwest Kansas. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas where she majored in English and played the clarinet in the Razorback Marching Band. She lives in Northwest Arkansas.
Amy’s debut novel, CONDEMNED, is a retelling of Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD, told from the point of view of Carly, best friend to Nancy Clutter. CONDEMNED will be published in Fall 2017 from Soho Teen.