I was so incredibly excited to be a part of this tour. This is my first interview with an author, so it was a really neat experience, and I really enjoyed reading this book and Brittany Cavallaro’s answers! My review will be up later this week…just in case you were dying for it. So, let’s start, shall we?
Questions and Answers with Brittany Cavallaro
Question: This is the most basic of questions for authors, but what was your inspiration for A Study in Charlotte?
Answer: I wanted to know what it would be like to take Sherlock Holmes, flaws and all, and reimagine him as a teenage girl. I love reading about girl geniuses, and the thought of creating a character who both was and wasn’t Holmes, who had his prickly nature as well as his brilliance, really appealed to me.
Question: Was there a reason behind your choice to work in Jamie’s perspective rather than Charlotte’s?
Answer: Doyle’s stories and novels (with the exception of “The Lion’s Mane” and “His Last Bow”) are all written from Watson’s point of view, and I wanted to follow in that tradition. Charlotte has a lot of secrets of her own, too, and it was important to me that we learned those along with Jamie. I also think it’s more difficult to be in the genius’s brain, because they tend to solve the mystery a lot sooner than a Watson (or those of us playing along at home!).
Q: What was your process to writing Charlotte’s deductions? They’re so intricate and detailed and way more than I could ever figure out, so how was it to piece all of the things she notices together into her overall observation?
A: Oh gosh. This is a tough one (and a great question), and I’ll probably reveal too much when I tell you that I always started with the conclusion and worked backward from there. So if Charlotte needed to deduce someone had been in the military but hadn’t seen combat, for example, I would think about what physical telltale signs of being in the army Charlotte could ‘read’ that precluded being in action. The deductions took some time to plan out, but they were always a lot of fun to write.
Q: Who do you relate to more: Jamie Watson or Charlotte Holmes?
A: It’s pretty split down the middle! I gave them some of my less attractive qualities, actually. I have something of a temper, though it’s much more under control than Jamie’s. I’m also someone who tends to romanticize things, who falls in love with an idea and then can be surprised by the reality. As for Charlotte, the two of us are both reclusive, and we both wear a lot of black. Unfortunately, I’m not a deductive genius (how I wish that were the case).
Q: This isn’t an easy book; there are hard topics, like drugs or rape, that you might not see in every young adult novel. What do you think is the importance in including scenes and characters and memories that include these harder topics into YA lit?
A: Great question! I think it’s really important to hold up a mirror to all kinds of teenage experience, not just the positive ones. There are a lot of books that tackle sexual assault and drug use in really compelling ways–I love Courtney Summers’s books in particular for dealing with hard subjects. With A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE, I wanted to write a book where the main character had things happen to her that weren’t her fault (the sexual assault, of course), had made mistakes, would maybe make mistakes again–but whose story wouldn’t be tied up in a neat bow. We don’t get resolution just yet as to Charlotte‘s demons.
Q: What made you want to write this Sherlock Holmes re-imagining as a Young Adult novel, as opposed to adult?
A: I knew I wanted a teenage girl Holmes. And I knew I wanted to set the book at a boarding school like the one I’d went to (though mine was a lot friendlier of a place than Sherringford), and so I knew I wanted to write a story with teenage characters. I liked the limitations that a boarding school setting imposed on the characters–they have rules, curfew, things to work around that make solving a mystery harder. Restrictions make things more interesting!
Q: What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes story?
A: “The Musgrave Ritual.” I’m almost at the point where I can recite the ritual from the story by memory. Check back with me in a few weeks…
Q: What ignited your love for Sherlock Holmes?
A: I loved the stories when I was a girl, and rediscovered them in my early twenties when I was studying nineteenth century literature in grad school. A chance encounter with the Granada television Holmes adaptations (Jeremy Brett!) had me hopelessly in love with him again.
Q: Do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes adaptation?
A: I’m a big fan of Mitch Cullin’s A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND, the novel that inspired the movie Mr. Holmes. It’s sad and warm and so lovely, imagining a retired Holmes on his own in Sussex.
Q: You’ve published other poetry anthologies, but this is your first published novel. What are the main differences or similarities in the writing/publishing processes between the two?
A: I can definitely speak to the difference between writing poems and writing novels. Poems tend to sort of…happen to me. I spend a lot of time working on one when it announces itself, but that moment of wanting to write it tends to come on fairly fast and hard (and then disappear if I don’t get to it in time). Writing a novel is more like tending a garden. I make a decision every morning to get up, weed, water the flowers, get my hands in the dirt. It definitely feels more decisive and scheduled, and there’s comfort in that!
Thank you so much Brittany for giving such wonderful answers. It was fun picking your brain and reading the book that you’ve spent so much time on. Now, here’s for some more fun stuff: book and author information and then (*drum roll please*) a giveaway! Go forth and enter!
ABOUT A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE:
The last thing sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson–writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson–wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s enigmatic, fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who’s inherited not just his genius but also his vices, volatile temperament, and expertly hidden vulnerability. Charlotte has been the object of his fascination for as long as he can remember–but from the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else.
Then a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Holmes stories, and Jamie and Charlotte become the prime suspects. Convinced they’re being framed, they must race against the police to conduct their own investigation. As danger mounts, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe and the only people they can trust are each other.
Equal parts tender, thrilling, and hilarious, A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy brimming with wit and edge-of-the-seat suspense.
About Brittany Cavallaro:
Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she teaches creative writing, detective fiction, and lots of other things. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps. Find her at her website, brittanycavallaro.com, or on Twitter @skippingstones.
3 Finished Copies of A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE (US Only)