Friday, 27 February 2015

Adam Christopher on How I researched Elementary

Today’s guest blog post is by the award-winning author Adam Christopher. Adam Christopher is a novelist, comic writer and editor. His novel Empire State was awarded SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012. In 2013, he was nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best New Talent, with Empire State shortlisted for Best Novel. He is also the author of Burning Dark, Hang Wire, The Age Atomic and the forthcoming The LA Trilogy. He brings his passion for Sherlock Holmes and Elementary to The Ghost Line and gives fans of the series a chance to immerse themselves even deeper into Sherlock's world. Elementary: Ghost Line follows Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson as they're summoned to the scene of a brutal murder only to be confronted with the body of a subway driver, riddled with bullets. In the Hell's Kitchen apartment they also discover a stash of money but who would want to kill a subway driver?

Writing Elementary: The Ghost Line was fun. In fact, it was the most fun I’ve had writing, I think. Tie-in fiction is a strange beast—the story is yours, but you have to fit it into a pre-existing universe, which isn’t. You can create your own supporting characters, but the stars of the story are ready-made, supplied fully formed and ready to roll.

As you can imagine, this is a double-edged sword. As a fan of the show, I’d like to think I know the characters (and the universe they inhabit) inside out and back-to-front. Creating a story to fit the world, and placing the show’s characters within it, was the proverbial kid in a candy store moment.

But here’s the thing with a tie-in: you have to get it right. Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes is so distinctive, his portrayal of the character so nuanced and complex that it had to be absolutely, 100% right in prose. Likewise Lucy Liu’s Watson, a character so perfectly balanced against Holmes, that balances guiding the characters together through the story. While the show’s scriptwriters have Miller and Liu to drive the characters with their performances, for The Ghost Line, I was on my own. And if I made a mistake, then it wouldn’t ring true to the show. Fans reading the book want to experience Elementary as they know and love it. So I had to get it right.

No pressure, then.

My primary resource for this book was therefore the obvious one: the TV show itself. Which I watched, and re-watched, and re-watched. Every day of writing began with an episode to immerse myself back in the world and the characters. Every lunch break meant another episode. During the writing itself I would pause, check an episode, freeze-frame through a scene until I found the exact reference I was looking for—it could have been a line of dialogue, it could have been a reference to a previous unseen adventure (or, sometimes, to the Holmes canon itself). It could even have been a facial expression or what someone was wearing.

While The Ghost Line is an entirely original adventure, it can be slotted between TV episodes seamlessly. So these details had to be checked, and checked, and checked again. But like I said, I’m a fan, first and foremost. Elementary is my favourite show, and writing the book was a dream. Getting it right was my prime directive.

The other challenge was writing a crime/mystery set in New York City. Now, NYC is my favourite place in the world. I’ve been there several times, and each time I’ve discovered more and more about this amazing city.

But while I like to think I know about the place, I don’t live there. In Elementary, Holmes and Watson live in a brownstone in Brooklyn. New York City is as much a character of the show as the two leads are themselves.

You can follow Adam Christopher on Twitter @ghostfinder and you can find him on Facebook as well.

Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christoper (£7.99, Titan Books)

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