There’s been a LOT of excitement about my new writing project, which I feel I must thank you all for. I’m really loving writing this book and can’t wait until you can all read it, which will hopefully be later this year if all goes well.
I’ve read and re-read Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books dozens of times since I was a very little girl but it would never have occurred to me to add anything to the vast amounts of speculative fiction about him until I had a conversation with my friend Del a while ago about whether his mother was likely to have been a ‘badass’ or a meek Victorian Miss. We both concluded that Mrs Holmes must have been at least a bit of a badass to have produced Mycroft and Sherlock.
It was at this point that I started thinking about writing about her and as I’ve also always wanted to write some sort of whodunnit, I naturally decided to combine the two. I also fancied trying my hand at steampunk but I’m not so sure about that now although I’ve been having fun researching early nineteenth century weaponry.
It’s not all been plain sailing though – I am sticking closely to Conan Doyle’s canon and it’s possible to work out birth years for both Sherlock and his elder brother, Mycroft (and there may even have been other Holmes siblings, which I am currently undecided about) from the later books, which means that I have a rough time scale to work within as well, thus the 1840s setting when actually I would have preferred to set the books later on in the 1870s.
I also had to think of a name for my heroine. I’m well aware of Baring-Gould’s speculative fiction from the 1960s when he decided that Mrs Holmes was called Violet Sherrinford but decided not to adopt this name for my own take on Sherlock Holmes’ mother for three reasons. Firstly, although I am working to Conan Doyle’s canon, I didn’t feel comfortable basing a character on more recent fiction; secondly, I don’t like the name Violet Sherrinford and thirdly, as Conan Doyle himself didn’t mention the name of Sherlock Holmes’ mother then I wanted to use that as a relatively blank slate and put my own spin on her.
At the moment, the heroine of my book is called Corisande ‘Cora’ Sherlock. I opted for Corisande as Conan Doyle DOES reveal that Sherlock’s mother was at least half French and the niece of the artist Horace Vernet and so a French name, shortened to a typically English diminutive suited that very well. I don’t actually like the surname ‘Sherlock’ very much but it was very common in Victorian England for younger sons to be given their mother’s maiden name as a first name (my own sons have half of my maiden surname as middle names as that is traditional in Scotland where I was born) and I also wanted to link her with her son even if he never actually makes an appearance, even as an infant, in the books.
Ignoring the fact that this is actually a portrait of an unfortunate Russian Grand Duchess and those donkey riding unfriendly skirts, this is how I imagine my heroine to look.
In the meantime, however, I’m going to crack on and write the bloody thing! I’m having fun right now juggling 1840s ladies fashion and the riding of donkeys. Luckily, however, this isn’t as unsurmountable as the problem Philippa Gregory faced (and notably ignored) when she had her legless anti-hero in Wideacre swinging on and off his very big horse, apparently without assistance.