Please welcome Steve Hockensmith to The Qwillery.
Hi. I’m Steve. I’m a writer. Not a particularly prolific one, but I do O.K. Over the last decade, I’ve written seven novels and a couple dozen short stories. That’s nothing when compared to someone like, say, Isaac Asimov, who wrote a Foundation novel every morning before breakfast and could crank out a non-fiction book about astrophysics while waiting in line at the DMV. Still, I’ve pulled more than half a million words out of thin air and shaped them into stories, and that’s something I’m extremely proud of.
But recently a journalist rained on my little “Hooray for Me!” parade. He didn’t mean to. He was simply asking a question.
“When do you think you’ll write something original?”
Quoth Scooby-Doo: “Ruh?”
The guy wasn’t trying to be insulting. At least, I don’t think he was. He sounded nice enough over the phone, but maybe on the other end of the line he was grinning maniacally and stabbing knitting needles into a voodoo doll with my face. He may as well have been, actually, because ouch. That hurt.
A little context: He and I were discussing Dreadfully Ever After
, my sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
. We’d also spent some time talking about the prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls
, as well as my Holmes on the Range
mystery series, which follows a pair of cowboy brothers who set out to become detectives using the methods of their hero, Sherlock Holmes. All my novels, we noted, are spinoffs from previously existing works. Which is why I was asked when I’d get off my literary duff and create something of my own.
The question took me off guard, so my reply went more or less like this: “Well, gee, hmm, gosh, I’ve written lots of short stories that were, like, you know, totally original.”
This was not the right response, but you know how it goes. The perfect come-back always pops into your head five minutes after some jerk tells you your haircut makes you look like _________. (I don’t know what your hair’s like, so I’ll let you insert your own appropriately insulting reference. In my case, it would be “Beaker
Here’s what I should have said: “Everything I’ve done is original.”
And that’s not just b.s. or ego or a hack’s rationalization. Ask my therapist if you don’t believe me. I really mean it!
Yes, my Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
books take place in a world initially created and populated by other writers. Yes, my Holmes on the Range
stories were inspired by a beloved character who’d been around more than a century before my heroes happened along. But here’s the thing: My books and stories are my books and stories. I’ve never tried to imitate anyone else’s style. And even though I’ve borrowed characters and concepts, I’ve always looked at them through my own eyes.
That’s why you’ll find a lot more attention paid to servants and soldiers and ninjas and the not-so-glamorous members of the Bennet family in my PPZ
books, for instance. I find such folks interesting, so I gave them a shot at the spotlight they might never have had with other writers. You’ll see something similar in my mysteries. They’re not about Sherlock Holmes. They’re about two young, down-on-their-luck Americans and their reaction to the idea of Sherlock Holmes. Big difference.
To me, both approaches are a lot more “original” than...oh, let’s not go there. Suffice it to say, there are books on the bestseller lists that are about as original as what you get out of a Xerox machine.
So the next time anyone says “When do you think you’ll write something original?” (and I hope it isn’t soon) I’ll have a retort ready, for once. Two retorts, in fact. I could say, “Why don’t you ask [INSERT MEGA-SELLING BRAND-NAME AUTHOR] that question?” Or I could say, “qwillery.blogspot.com, May 20, 2011. Look it up, buttercup.” About Steve's BooksHolmes on the Range Mysteries SeriesHolmes on the Range
Holmes on the Range 1
(Minotaur Books, February 2007, TP)
1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes.
When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin’” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery.On the Wrong Track
Holmes on the Range 2
(Minotaur Books, January 2008, TP)
It might be 1893 and the modern world may in full-swing, but cowboy Gustav "Old Red" Amlingmeyer is an old-fashioned kind of guy: he prefers a long trail ride even when a train could get him where he’s going in one-tenth the time. His brother Otto (“Big Red”), on the other hand, wouldn't mind climbing down from his horse and onto a train once in a while if it'll give his saddle-sore rear end a rest. So when it's Old Red who insists they sign on to protect the luxurious Pacific Express, despite a generations-old Amlingmeyer family distrust of the farm-stealin', cattle-killin', money-grubbin' railroads, Big Red is flummoxed. But Old Red, tired of the cowpoke life, wants to take a stab at professional ‘detectifying’ just like his hero, Sherlock Holmes and guard jobs for the railroad are the only ones on offer.
So it is that Big Red and Old Red find themselves trapped on a thousand tons of steam-driven steel, summiting the Sierras en route to San Francisco with a crafty gang of outlaws somewhere around the next bend, a baggage car jam-packed with deadly secrets, and a vicious killer hidden somewhere amongst the colorful passengers.
On the Wrong Track, Old Red and Big Red’s much anticipated return, is filled with all of the wit, flavor, humor, and suspense that made Hockensmith’s debut, Holmes on the Range, so beloved by critics and fans alike. The Black Dove
Holmes on the Range 3
(Minotaur Books, May 2009, TP)
In the summer of 1893, Gustav “Old Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Otto (a.k.a. “Big Red”) find themselves down and out in San Francisco. Though cowpokes by training, the brothers are devotees of the late, great Sherlock Holmes and his trademark method of “deducifying.” But when they set out to land jobs as professional detectives, they land themselves in hot water, instead.
First their friend Dr. Chan mysteriously takes a potshot at them, fatally wounding Big Red’s new hat. Then a secretive young woman from their past pops up and convinces them that Chan’s in trouble -- and they’re just the men to get him out of it. Unfortunately, they’re too late: By the time they track Chan down again, he’s dead. The police call it a suicide. Old Red calls that a lie. When he and his brother set out to prove it, they put themselves on a collision course with shady S.F.P.D. cops, brutal Barbary Coast hoodlums and the deadly Chinatown tongs.
Before long, all sides are in a race to uncover the secret that could rock the city. And their only clue to what’s actually going on is the enigmatic, exotic and extremely difficult to find “Black Dove.” The Crack in the Lens
Holmes on the Range 4
(Minotaur Books, January 2011, TP)
It's 1893 and things finally seem to be going right for the Amlingmeyer brothers, Otto "Big Red," and Gustav "Old Red." After years of hard knocks, they finally have a bit of money and spare time to do something other than scramble. Soon the Amlingmeyers find themselves in a situation that they never expected, and this time, it's personal. Years before, Old Red lost his fiancé and one true love to a brutal killer, and the case was swept under the rug by the local authorities. Now, Old Red is determined to find out what really happened and to finally find a measure of justice for his beloved. Yet how can he and Big Red even start the search when everyone in town wants the secrets of the past buried forever...and the brothers buried with them? It's enough to confound even that most unconfoundable of men, their mutual inspiration: Sherlock Holmes. World's Greatest Sleuth
Holmes on the Range 5
(Minotaur Books, January 2011, HC)
In 1893, the Amlingmeyer boys venture forth from the west in response to a summons from Otto’s (“Big Red”) publisher— they are to come to Chicago immediately, to the World’s Columbian Exposition, and compete with some of the most famous detectives in the world. Set to coincide with the closing days of the first World’s Fair and the publication of the story revealing the death of Sherlock Holmes, Gustav (“Old Red”) will be competing for the title of World’s Greatest Sleuth! Hating train travel and cities, the real draw is the chance to meet up again with the intriguing and elusive Diana Corvus. But the competition has barely begun before there is a murder in “the White City”—the organizer of the contest is discovered face down in the Mammoth Cheese from Canada—and from there, the game is really afoot.
Dear Mr. Holmes:
Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries
(April 2011, eBook)
Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer have starred in five "Holmes on the Range" novels, rustling up award nominations and fans aplenty as they cracked mysteries using the methods of their hero, Sherlock Holmes. How did these Old West drifters first discover Holmes, though? What were they doing before their novel adventures began? And how did their early, awkward stabs at "deducifying" turn out? These seven short stories provide the answers.
In "Dear Mr. Holmes," Old Red first gets the itch to turn detective -- and just in time, too, because a killer's stalking him and his brother along a Kansas cattle trail. In "Gustav Amlingmeyer, Holmes of the Range," Old Red's attempt to settle down and open his own "cafay" goes haywire when one of the customers gets a side order of arsenic with his steak and potatoes. In "Wolves in Winter," Big Red and Old Red go up against deadly predators of both the two- and four-legged variety. And the adventure continues in four more stories (most of them originally published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine).
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
(Quirk Books, March 2010, TP)
Witness the birth of a heroine in Dawn of the Dreadfuls — a thrilling prequel set four years before the horrific events of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. As our story opens, the Bennet sisters are enjoying a peaceful life in the English countryside. They idle away the days reading, gardening, and daydreaming about future husbands — until a funeral at the local parish goes strangely and horribly awry.
Suddenly corpses are springing from the soft earth — and only one family can stop them. As the bodies pile up, we watch Elizabeth Bennet evolve from a naive young teenager into a savage slayer of the undead. Along the way, two men vie for her affections: Master Hawksworth is the powerful warrior who trains her to kill, while thoughtful Dr. Keckilpenny seeks to conquer the walking dead using science instead of strength. Will either man win the prize of Elizabeth’s heart? Or will their hearts be feasted upon by hordes of marauding zombies? Complete with romance, action, comedy, and an army of shambling corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls will have Jane Austen rolling in her grave — and just might inspire her to crawl out of it!Pride and Prejudice and Zombie: Dreadfully Ever After
(Quirk Books, March 2011, TP)
When we last saw Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy—at the end of the New York Times best seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies—they were preparing for a lifetime of wedded bliss. Yet the honeymoon has barely begun when poor Mr. Darcy is nipped by a rampaging dreadful. Elizabeth knows the only acceptable course of action is to promptly behead her husband (and then burn the corpse, just to be safe). But when she learns of a miracle antidote being developed in London, she realizes there may be one last chance to save her true love—and for everyone to live happily ever after.
Complete with romance, heartbreak, martial arts, cannibalism, and an army of shambling corpses, Dreadfully Ever After brings the story of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to a thrilling conclusion. About Steve
Steve Hockensmith is a widely published journalist and author of the critically acclaimed, award-nominated novels featuring Old Red and Big Red, including Holmes on the Range.
For the longer, more interesting, version of Steve's Bio head to his website to read Steve's Steve
Steve's Links Website Twitter Facebook
: One commenter will win a copy of World's Greatest Sleuth
(Holmes on the Range 5) generously provided by Steve and a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
provided by The Qwillery.How
: Leave a comment answering the following question:
Zombie Slayers or Famous Detectives?
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