INTERVIEW: BERNARD SCHAFFER

Previously Featured:

INTERVIEW: ALAN DEAN FOSTER
INTERVIEW: DONNA CARRICK
INTERVIEW: MEG GARDINER
INTERVIEW: EMMA NEWMAN
INTERVIEW: RUSSELL BROOKS

I recently interviewed Bernard Schaffer, author of Women and Other Monsters, and Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes.

Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes: http://tiny.ly/AViJ

Women and other Monsters: http://tiny.ly/B6JC

I hope you enjoy the interview, and that you feel compelled to purchase Whitechapel. It looks set to be a bestseller!

INTERVIEW: BERNARD SCHAFFER

FS: Hi Bernard, welcome to fringescientist.com and thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview.

BS: Thank you for having me.

FS: What made you want to write a Sherlock Holmes story? And not just a Holmes story, but a Jack the Ripper yarn too…

BS: I’ve always been a Sherlockian. From the time I was a very young boy I had an appreciation for Doyle’s characters and a romantic fascination with that particular era. As a police investigator (I’m going on my fifteenth year of police work, of which I’ve spent the past six as a detective) it has always struck me as odd that the Great Detective of his time failed to jump in on the single greatest criminal investigation of that era…which was occurring just down the street from him. I wanted to correct that.
As far at the Ripper goes, once I began to research not only the murders, but the social impact they had, I saw a clear connection between then and now. Jack was really the prototypical celebrity serial killer. He has had many imitators since then, and they learned well. It bothers me immensely to see him celebrated. My book is extremely graphic. I make no apologies for it. But it is graphic only because I told the truth about what the Ripper did to his victims.

FS: As far as Sherlock stories go, I think the ones that reveal more of the Great Detective’s inner workings and personality appeal to me. I think I find the character more fascinating than the mysteries. Nicholas Meyer’s ‘The Seven Percent Solution’ is a good example of somebody else tackling the psyche of Holmes. How did you decide to take the approach you did?

BS: You mean Meyer did more than direct Star Trek movies? Just kidding. Both of Meyer’s books on Holmes were influential in demonstrating to me that the character could be approached in a different way than had been previously done. And there is plenty there to be mined. Doyle gave us a very fertile field to plow.

FS: I’ve been keeping track of the good responses to ‘Whitechapel’ from your twitter feed. I have to admit that I’ve only read the sample of the book on my Kindle so far – but it is on my list to purchase eventually when I’ve finished the backlog of books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I can see why readers are having such a positive response to it, even from the sample. The novel opens strong, and kind of raw, and the mood of it all is just so on the money in terms of tone and setting. And I was a little shocked at the way we meet the Great Detective after the novel opens; I think everyone knows at least one junkie or alcoholic and I think that Holmes as a man consumed by excess resonates because of that. He really is Conan Doyle’s Holmes, and not at the same time if that makes sense.

BS: Bill Thompson edited ‘Whitechapel,’ and his first question to me was, “Why in God’s name do you want to bring down Superman?” And my answer was, and remains, by breaking down Holmes as this untouchable machine, it gives him the chance to become the hero we need him to be. Nobody is untouchable. And for Doyle to have given Holmes this kind of “selectable” drug addiction was simply wrong.
I’ve been working with drug addicts for most of my adult life and there are NO recreational addicts. I see what they go through. I arrest them when they are first getting started for possessing it. I arrest them when they are breaking into people’s cars for $2 in change because they need it so badly. I am there when their dead bodies are found from an overdose. But all of that being said, I believe in the power of the human spirit. I think, and it is my hope that my readers would agree, that this is a more powerful, more tangible version of Sherlock Holmes.

FS: Is ‘Whitechapel’ self-published, as with your recent collection of short stories ‘Women and Other Monsters’?

BS: It is. Although I come from the old school where “self-publishing” means vanity press, and it really isn’t anymore. The Kindle and Nook (etc etc) technology has really changed the face of the publishing industry. It is the equivalent of YouTube for film-makers and MySpace for musicians. It allows authors to communicate directly with the audience.

FS: I see from the rating of ‘Whitecapel’ on Amazon.com that it is selling well in Kindle form – more so than the paperback version. Do you see the digital medium as the future for publishing, with a move away from traditional paperbacks or do you see there being a balance between the two?

BS: I hope to see a balance. I love books. I love the smell and the feel and I love bending the corners of the page I’m on and I love going into used book stores hunting for rare treasures. However, I also love the immediate delivery of e-books and opportunities it offers for new and exciting work to be made available. The publishing industry is vain and crotchety and, as a whole, needs to be smacked around a little. I’m glad Amazon is here to do it.

FS: For anyone else wanting to tackle a Sherlock Holmes tale, what would be your advice? And do you have to get permission from the Arthur Conan Doyle estate before you start?

BS: My advice would be to do something unique. There have been enough Holmes pastiches that start off with some cockamamie explanation as to how the author uncovers a mysterious “lost chapter” written by Dr. Watson. We get it. Your Great Aunt Pattie had it hidden in a trunk in the attic.
And as far as the estate goes, no. Screw ‘em. Holmes is clearly in the public domain and none of them are immediate relatives to Doyle anyway.

FS: Your website is Apiary Society, as is your twitter handle – what is the Apiary Society?

BS: Dr. Watson asks that very same question of Mycroft Holmes toward the end of Whitechapel, and I would not pretend to have a better explanation than he offered.

FS: Ok, Let’s move onto writing. How do you write? What are your habits?

BS: Write a lot. Read a lot. I’m not being coy. I write hard, and I write constant.

FS: Would you consider a publishing contract with a big name if the chance came along, or are you content in continuing to self-publish as so many are? Would you agree that the advent in e-reader technology has really opened the door in allowing people to get their work out there?

BS: I’d consider anything that offered me the financial stability to focus exclusively on writing. I’m constantly trying to improve and perfect my craft, and this nuisance of having to earn a living while doing it is getting to be a problem. But in all seriousness, there are pros and cons to any business deal and I’d have to weigh out all the options first.
The e-reader is a blessing and a curse. It has allowed serious authors to share their carefully-crafted work with an eager readership. It has also allowed greedy pretenders to swoop in and try to make a fortune with their twelve-volume Sci-Fi epic that is so poorly edited my ten year old wouldn’t read it.

FS: You’re a Father. How do you find a work-life-writing balance? I’m writing a novel myself at the moment, and one of the biggest things I find myself struggling with is fitting in an hour or two of writing time in between work and family-life. How do you cope with this?

BS: Listen, Stephen King used to write in the washroom of his trailer after his kids went to sleep. Harlan Ellison wrote in the stall of a bathroom of his barracks during boot camp. Elmore Leonard got up at 5 AM every morning to write before work.
Every time my alarm goes off at 5 AM and I don’t want to get up, or I would rather sit down after work and play a videogame, I think about those guys. Take care of your family. They need you and love you. Make time for them. Then stop screwing around and finish your damn book.

FS: Okay, Bernard. I’m going to ask you 5 questions. I do this with every interviewee.

1. Favourite Book/Series of Books?

BS: Such a tough question. I’d say ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King because it had such an impact on me. It’s my ‘Gorin No Sho.’
Let me explain. In the 1600’s a master swordsman named Miyamoto Musashi sat in a cave and wrote out several scrolls detailing his philosophy and sword-fighting techniques. It was then sent throughout Japan and had an effect that is still felt throughout this day. The Book of 5 Rings. Gorin No Sho.
King is my Musashi. He showed me the way. I’m not saying that I write like him, or even want to, but I was a lost child in the woods until I read that ‘On Writing.’

Favorite series? That’s easy. Harry Potter.

2. Who would play you in Bernard Schaffer: The Movie?

BS: A young Marlon Brando.

3. If you could stipulate a totally inappropriate song choice for your own funeral, what would it be?

BS: My Way by Sid Vicious.

4. Which website(s) would you say you visit most often?

BS: As much as I hate to admit it, it would have to be the Kindle Publisher’s site to check my book sales and rank. I have a loathsome addiction to seeing if any new copies were sold. My son asked me if all author’s got “so excited” whenever someone bought a copy of their book. I gave it some thought and said, “I really do hope so.”

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Or what do you see yourself doing?

BS: I would like to crack the Top 100 on the Amazon best-seller list with at least one of the ten books I have in print by then.

FS: Well we’re nearly at the end now. Before we go, what are you working on now?

BS: My next project is a sci-fi western titled ‘Guns of Seneca 6’ that will be ready by mid-Fall. After the rigorous factual structure of ‘Whitechapel’ I needed something where I could work free of restriction. After that, another short-story collection I’m calling my ‘Codex Leicester’ that brings back some of the favorite characters from ‘Women and Other Monsters.’

FS: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, and I’ll be staying in-touch via twitter. As soon as I’ve read the books piling up on my Kindle, I’ll give ‘Whitechapel’ a read. By the looks of things, it’s a successful novel and I wish you all the very best with it!

BS: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I greatly enjoyed it.

Bernard Schaffer can be contacted via twitter @ApiarySociety and his website, http://www.ApiarySociety.com

Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes: http://tiny.ly/AViJ

Women and other Monsters: http://tiny.ly/B6JC

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s