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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Alistair Duncan Interview

Alistair Duncan recently published his latest book 'The Norwood Author'. I welcomed him to my blog to talk about his writing.

Tell us about your latest book ‘The Norwood Author’.

It is an examination of the years 1891 – 1894 when Arthur Conan Doyle lived and worked in the Norwood area of present-day south-east London. It attempts to illustrate how local events impacted on his life and how his adventures on the world stage impacted his day-to-day life in Norwood.

The years 1891-1894 have of course been covered in other biographical works but usually only in terms of Conan Doyle’s literary output and some family events. This book aims to fill in the uncovered gaps which is often impossible for other biographical works that are looking at his entire life.

This is your third book about Holmes and Doyle. How did your interest in this subject start?

It began in 1982 when I was eight and saw my first Holmes film with Basil Rathbone. Although Rathbone’s films are hardly faithful, they were enough to engage my attention. I watched them all and then moved onto other screen adaptations and the books themselves. From that age until my mid-twenties my interest did not really progress. This was mostly down to the demands of my education and early career in I.T. which didn’t leave me with much free time. Later my interest expanded into collecting with the acquisition of rare copies of Conan Doyle’s books and other memorabilia.

It was 2006 when I began to seriously think about writing on the subject and the beginning of 2007 when I finally put pen to paper (or, in this case, finger to key).

How long did it take you to research and write each book?

Each of the books took about a year from conception to completion.

How easy was it to find a publisher for this specialised material?

It wasn’t too hard which was surprising. MX Publishing focuses mainly on NLP / self-help titles but they desired to explore other areas. My first book was their first leap into the area of Victorian literature. It has worked well for them and now they publish a range in this field by authors besides myself.

You’ve just started writing a novel. Why did you make the decision to move into fiction?

I am totally fascinated by crime literature and especially that set within the Victorian period. To contribute to that genre would be the fulfilment of a dream. Also, in many respects, it feels like another mountain that I need to climb. I want to do it ‘because it’s there.’

At the risk of sounding conceited I would also like to, in my own small way, emulate Conan Doyle himself who was an author successful in both fiction and non-fiction.

How does writing fiction compare with writing non-fiction?

It is so much harder for me. The beauty of non-fiction is that the characters and the events are already there. All you have to do as an author is collect and correlate the material before presenting it in a readable way. It takes much more imagination to write fiction as you have to create all these things from scratch.

What gives you most pleasure out of all the things you’ve achieved so far in your writing career?

That’s hard to answer. Aside from the process of writing itself, a lot of the pleasure is to be derived from the opinion of others in the same field. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London has been very supportive of my work and has given each of my books much positive praise. In my opinion, they are the world’s leading body on all things Sherlockian so to have their endorsement gives me much pleasure. If I win any awards in the future you may need to ask me the question again.

What are your writing plans for the future?

I fully intend to continue writing non-fiction but I expect it to take the form of articles rather than books. If a really good idea for a non-fiction book presented itself I wouldn’t rule it out but I hope to concentrate on fiction for the foreseeable future.

Thanks very much to Alistair for some great answers.

'The Norwood Author' and other books by Alistair Duncan are available here and you can read Alistair’s blog here.

You can read my review of 'The Norwood Author' here.


Talli Roland said...

Great interview, Helen, and congratulations to Alistair!

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Wonderful interview.

I love Basil Rathbone Holmes's films and definately like the sound of Alistairs books.

Kath McGurl said...

Oh that sounds like a great book (just read your review too, Helen!) Since researching my family tree I've been fascinated by Victorian social history. Add to that I love the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I think you have found someone who really needs to buy Alistair's book.

Thanks for the interview, and for increasing the height of my TBR pile!

Chris Stovell said...

Oooh, interesting. Great interview.

HelenMWalters said...

Talli - thanks. Glad you found it interesting.

Debs - you should probably read the one where Alistair discusses the films!

Womag - yes, I think you'll find it interesting from a social history perspective.

Chris - thanks very much.

DJ Kirkby said...

I found Alistair's answer about writing fiction vs non-fiction very interesting as I would ahve thought it would be harder to write non-ficiton. I find it MUCH harder to write academic work than fiction that's for sure.

Rachael Moore said...

What a great interview, Helen. It's always interesting to hear how people write.

Alistair Duncan said...

Thanks to all for your nice comments.

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Terrific interview and sounds like a great book

HelenMWalters said...

DJ - that's very interesting. I think fiction and non-fiction are difficult in different ways.

Rachael - yes, it is fascinating isn't it?

Alistair - thanks for popping by, and thanks for the interview.

Suzanne - thanks, yes it is a great book.