On this month's Special Page:

An interview with the New York Times best-selling author Laurie R. King


Joe Mynhardt
Luca Paris
John Skipp
Tim Waggoner
JG Faherty


Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 30 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was chosen as one of the “20th Century’s Best Crime Novels” by the IMBA.) She has won the Agatha, Anthony, Creasey, Edgar, Lambda, Macavity, Wolfe, and Romantic Times Career Achievement awards, has an honorary doctorate in theology, and is a Baker Street Irregular. In 2022, she was named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America. She co-edited (with Lee Child) the new handbook from Mystery Writers of America, How to Write a Mystery, and has a new contemporary series with SFPD Inspector Raquel Laing, beginning with Back to the Garden.


An interview with the New York Times best-selling author Laurie R. King

by Trish Wilson


TRISH WILSON: How did you come up with the idea for your Mary Russell series? How did Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and Jeremy Brett's portrayal of the character inspire your own series?

LAURIE R. KING: Mary Russell was sparked by the Jeremy Brett series and my vague irritation that this clever man had his own built-in cheering section in his flat-mate Watson. I never got an admiring, "How do you DO it?" when I figured out which of my kids had stolen all the cookies. But jesting aside, Russell is what Holmes would be if he'd had the good fortune to be born as a 20th century, female, feminist person. I guess not even Holmes can be perfect.

TRISH WILSON: Tell me about Mary Russell. Is the character based on a real person or persons?

LAURIE R. KING: My daughter always swore Russell's cleverness was hers, but I'm not consciously aware of stealing from any true-life person to create Russell—or indeed, any of my characters. What my subconscious has got up to I couldn't say.

TRISH WILSON: Tell me about Kate Martinelli. How did you come up with the idea for that character?

LAURIE R. KING: I'd written two Russell & Holmes novels and not sold either, and I thought, Maybe I should write a story closer to home, in both place and time. And maybe a touch less whimsical.  Since I lived in a town too small to have a dedicated Homicide division, I moved north to San Francisco, and much of the rest came from that decision. 

TRISH WILSON: You have degrees in comparative religion and Old Testament theology. How did you go from those topics to writing mysteries?

LAURIE R. KING: Religion is expressed through stories, whether they're about the Native American trickster figure Coyote or the Patriarchs of the Hebrew Bible. And often, especially in Old Testament tales, slight details or changes in words holds a great deal of the story's deeper meaning. Good training for a mystery writer….

TRISH WILSON: Did you have mentors early in your career who helped you? If you did, who were they? What kind of help did they give you? I've noticed some writers have had mentors and they've maintained professional relationships and even friendships with them.

LAURIE R. KING: An interesting thing about the mystery world is how we all mentor each other. Listen in on a conversation in the bar at a conference, and you'll hear two writers sharing tips. Join Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime, and you'll have a vast resource for problems ranging from craft to cover art.  A lot of my friends are writers—although even before covid, we never saw each other as much as friends who have met at the office or through the kids' school.

TRISH WILSON: How has using social media turned out for you? Does Mary Russell really have a Twitter page? That's a great marketing tool – give your characters social media profiles.

LAURIE R. KING: Russell does indeed Tweet—although how she gets her 122 year-old fingers to manipulate the keys I cannot begin to understand. She does have an "assistant," one of my long-time readers and friends who volunteered to get involved and has ended up shaping the considerable Russell community (including running a Russell fanfic site.)  Our latest venture, through the Facebook group "The Beekeeper's Apprentices," is to hold actual, in-person meetups that I attend via screen from the comfort of my study. It's amazing how community-oriented the mystery world is, particularly considering how we all murder people for entertainment.

TRISH WILSON: What happened with the copyright case involving your Russell/Holmes stories and the Conan Doyle estate?

LAURIE R. KING: We won.  The Estate appealed the decision; we won again.  They appealed to the Supreme Court; we won that, too. More recently, an attempt was made to convince Netflix that they had to pay the Estate in order to broadcast the "Enola Holmes" stories; they lost.  The details and a beautifully written 2014 Seventh Court judgment are all on a web site, Free-Sherlock.com.  Now, except for characters and situations found only in the few stories still under copyright, Sherlock Holmes and his world are in the public domain.

TRISH WILSON: How did you come up with the idea for Back To The Garden? Will Inspector Raquel Laing appear in any upcoming books?

LAURIE R. KING: Oh I do hope so! Back to the Garden began as a response to the covid lockdowns, since my usual travel-as-research routines were clearly not an option. But in fact, I've always preferred to alternate the Russell & Holmes stories with others, since I get very tired of living with the same characters year in and year out.  I'd been playing with the idea for some time, a cold case with two timelines, one now and one from a past that I remembered. (Which, despite my near-white hair, can't possibly be considered "historical," right?)

TRISH WILSON: What kind of research did you do to create The Highwayman? Is he based on known serial killers, and if so, which ones?

LAURIE R. KING: When it came to the 1970s, there were all too many exemplars to choose from. Interestingly, as I wrote, many details were coming out about the long history of Joseph DeAngelo, an ex-cop who committed attacks up and down California. But this was also the time that my home town became known as the "Murder Capital of the World," due to Edmund Kemper, John Linley Frazier, and Herbert Mullin.

TRISH WILSON: Inspector Raquel Laing is a fascinating, flawed character. She's brilliant but socially clumsy. What inspired you to create that character? Is she based on real people?

LAURIE R. KING: Her skills are based on those used by actual investigators, including the somewhat controversial "science" of facial micro-expressions. But when I'd finished the first draft and started going through it, I began to realize how familiar she felt: brilliant, misanthropic, driven, detail-oriented, impatient…. (Though she neither plays a violin nor smokes a pipe.)

TRISH WILSON: You've captured the essence of the 1960s perfectly. What kind of research did you do into the era? Is any of your depiction of that era based on personal experience?

LAURIE R. KING: Personal remembrance, sure—plus that, I live in a part of Northern California that's never really left the 60s.  However, it's also amazing how bad the memory is when it comes to specific details of everyday life. From slang to clothing to the names of supermarkets, I had to go searching through actual vintage photos, newspapers, and memoirs to remind me.

TRISH WILSON: Please leave your website and social media links. Also, any more upcoming projects readers may look forward to?

LAURIE R. KING: After my September tour for Back to the Garden, I expect to get seriously immersed in the next Russell & Holmes novel, scheduled for early 2024. I've also agreed to write two new short stories with the duo, for a collection. Somewhere in those, we'll explore a whole lot more about Sherlock Holmes' past and his family.
As for social media, I'm all over the place:

Web site (and newsletter signup): https://laurierking.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurieRKing/
The Beekeeper's Apprentices (FB): https://www.facebook.com/groups/839184423141650/
Twitter (Mary Russell): @Mary_Russell
Twitter (Laurie R King: @LaurieRKing
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurierking/
Mutterings (a blog):  https://laurierking.com/blog/

2 33


Back to the Garden A Grave Talent Castle Shade