I’ve been lucky, most reviews of my novel have been favourable and really understood what I was trying to achieve. But I did come across one the other day which really made me smile. The reviewer suggested that I was ‘indulging my own fantasies’ by writing about my protagonist and her liaison with Sherlock Holmes. The person clearly doesn’t know me very well because, no offense to Mr Holmes, but he’s really not for me. Complex, moody, difficult, egotistical and thin – oh dear, hardly a ringing endorsement. A fascinating character to read and write about but if I actually met the great man, I’d be terrified. Snog, marry, avoid? Definitely avoid I’m afraid. I can understand why my central character developed an infatuation with this mysterious, eccentric older man and it was great fun to write, but she and I are very different people and I would run a mile from a man like that.
Clearly out there in the Fandom universe there are many who would disagree with me (both men and women I might add). So what is the sexual appeal of Sherlock Holmes? Is it that we are drawn to someone we think we can fix? Or is it the challenge of being good enough to secure the heart of someone who has never given it before? Basically, is it the challenge? Like Carrie and Mr Big in Sex and the City? The idea of wanting someone we can’t have? Or is it because Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch are so ascetically pleasing? Whatever the reason, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ended up creating a bit of a sex symbol – whether he intended to or not.
For me, the opposite of ego is attractive – a man who is really good looking but doesn’t realise it. More like Doctor Watson perhaps? He might be less of a challenge but, well, in snog, marry, avoid I’d say he was a keeper! That stoic, reliable, somewhat humble, self-deprecating nature is certainly attractive – but possibly a bit too conventional for me. Not that I’m fussy or anything . . .
I also like unusual pairings, that’s why in Barefoot it’s the person you’d least expect who gets the girl in the end. This also happens in my short story, Charlie Milverton, which was published as part of Sherlock’s Home, The Empty House – an anthology of short stories created in support of The Undershaw Preservation Trust. Expect the unexpected when it comes to my writing and romantic couplings.
So why write about love at all in Barefoot? Well, firstly because I think love is the foundation of our lives and you can’t really write a story charting someone’s life without it. Secondly, I think a reader gets to experience more of the real person when they read about them interacting with someone they love – being vulnerable, open and not quite in control. This is very relevant with a character like Holmes.
When writing your first novel it’s so hard to get sentimental/romantic/sexual scenes right. Especially when your publisher doesn’t have an in-house editor to guide you through the process. It takes so much skill and I’ve put a lot of work into re-writing these scenes (and leaving some out) in the second edition. I do think that reviewers should cut you a little slack when it comes to writing scenes of this nature in your first novel. Especially when they involve a character who everyone has pre-conceived ideas about and who you personally don’t go weak at the knees for. This took lots of bravery and imagination – the only fantasy I indulged in was becoming a published author. Thank goodness it came true.
* I’m sure you’ll want to disagree with me – so please give me your thoughts by using the comment facility below.
My novel Barefoot on Baker Street has been published. Here are some of the ways you can purchase it.