BB: First, thank you so very much for agreeing to my interviewing you! It’s the 20th anniversary of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the novel that introduced the world to the delightful and whip-smart Mary Russell. Congratulations! I’d like to know how this makes you feel.
LK: Twenty years is forever—and yet, but the snap of a finger. Twenty years ago I had two books published (together, they brought in enough to install central heating in the house!) and a tentative idea that I might be able to talk my publisher into a few more. So to not only have survived as a writer for two decades, but to have a thriving community of readers eager for more, is a thrill.
BB: After 20 years and 12 novels, are you at all tired of her?
LK: No, she amuses me no end, and I never seem to run out of ways for her to insult and get the better of Sherlock Holmes. Although whenever I end up writing about her for more than a year or two in a row, I end up doing terrible things to her, so perhaps alternating worlds is better for us all…
…I end up doing terrible things to her…
BB: As a Russell fan, I know from the painful interim between installments that you often break up your writing from series to series and with stand-alone novels interspersed. Do you find this helps you from tiring of certain characters? Or does it cause any confusion with your story lines?
LK: As a reader, this is always a problem, isn’t it? You want to love all a writer’s children equally, but you can’t help having favorites. But the truth of it is, as a writer there are some stories you just can’t tell inside certain fictional worlds, some kinds of energies that can’t be contained within an established series.
…some kinds of energies that can’t be contained within an established series.
As a writer, as a person, I need to push myself—I have to stretch the bounds of comfort. If I wrote nothing but Russells, the characters (those that survived!) would go stale, and people would stop buying the books.
The trick is, to convince people that The Other Books are good too. Because the publishing world doesn’t really like it if every other book languishes on the shelves when readers pass it by because it’s Not A Russell.
If I wrote nothing but Russells, the characters (those that survived!) would go stale, and people would stop buying the books.
I do love the other new series, Harris Stuyvesant and Bennett Grey. Writing them lets me use muscles I can’t use in the Russells. I suppose it’s just a matter of building an audience for them, too.
BB: Speaking of your multiple series, do you have a favorite?
LK: Not really. I’d love to be able to write four books a year, so I could produce a Russell, a Stuyvesant & Grey, a Martinelli, and another in the Folly/Keeping Watch cycle. Oh, and maybe the occasional standalone…
BB: Along those same lines, do you enjoy writing the modern Kate Martinelli’s or your historical fiction more?
LK: I do seem drawn to the past, don’t I? Even many of the contemporary novels have sections set elsewhen. Which may be the reason that the Martinelli idea I’m playing with rests on events from a previous era.
Do you get to indulge in travel “research”?
BB: When it comes to your historical novels, they are often set in far-flung and exotic locales. Do you get to indulge in travel “research”? What other research goes into them?
LK: Absolutely, I always go where I’m writing—the next Russell, for example, is set in Japan, and I couldn’t write it until I’d been there. Of course, I do a lot of book-research too, since it’s rare you can go to a place and see anything but the faintest trace of the Twenties. But for stories set in other places, I need to breathe the air and listen to the sounds.
I do a lot of book-research too, since it’s rare you can go to a place and see anything but the faintest trace of the Twenties.
BB: I’m curious, does it affect your approach having the Mary Russell series presented as her memoirs? Does this change from your approach when you’re writing plainly fictitious characters like in The Bones of Paris?
LK: Oh yes, particularly as the series gets longer and there’s more detail to keep track of. In fact, we’ve (“we” being Team LRK) just published The Mary Russell Companion, an ebook, which is quite solemn about treating the books as Russell’s Memoirs rather than King’s novels. As to why King has her name on them, well, you’ll have to read the Companion to find out.
I’m free to murder off whomever I wish.
With a series like Stuyvesant & Grey, with Touchstone and now Bones of Paris, there is a lot less baggage to carry around, and I’m free to murder off whomever I wish. Unlike Russell, who really is fairly essential to the series. (Although that Holmes fellow, well, it wouldn’t be the first time an author murdered him.)
BB: Mary Russell works side by side with the famous Sherlock Holmes, who is rather big right now, and you clearly know and love the Conan Doyle canon. Harris Stuyvesant in Touchstone & The Bones of Paris is plaininly reminiscent of some of Dashiell Hammett’s line of brusque, American detectives. As a clear mystery lover yourself, who is your favorite classic detective writer? Do you read and love any modern mystery authors?
LK: Oh sure, I read widely, from cozy to thriller. SJ Rozan and Lyndsay Faye do detectives Hammett would feel right at home with—as, indeed, he would with Harris Stuyvesant.
BB: Can you give us a clue as to what’s next for Russell and Holmes?
LK: In addition to The Mary Russell Companion (out now as an ebook), which is bursting with Things To Know about Mary Russell (some of which might be categorized as fiction…) and the new, 20th anniversary edition of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, next February comes Dreaming Spies, which is set partly in Japan and partly in Oxford.
And as for Holmes without Russell, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (with Les Klinger) is a fabulous collection of stories “inspired by Holmes” in December.
I hope people enjoy all of them.
We certainly do!