Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions, with Shane Peacock

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Ten Questions, with Shane Peacock

A biographer, journalist and screenwriter, Shane Peacock is the award-winning author of six novels and three plays and has been nominated for numerous awards, including several National Magazine Awards and the Arthur Ellis Award for crime fiction. He is the recipient of the 2008 Arthur Ellis Award and the IODE Violet Downey Award. His latest novel, Death in the Air (Tundra Books), is the second book in his tremendously popular series, The Boy Sherlock Holmes. Check out his website at shanepeacock.ca.

OB:

Tell us about your books, Eye of the Crow and Death in the Air.

SP:

Eye of the Crow and Death in the Air are the first two books in The Boy Sherlock Holmes series. These novels tell, for the first time anywhere in literature, the childhood adventures of the world’s greatest detective. In Eye of the Crow, readers learn of Sherlock’s dark past and find him accused of involvement in a gruesome Victorian London murder – he must help solve it to save his life. The second novel, Death in the Air, opens with a bang at the beautiful and massive Crystal Palace, a building made almost solely of glass, where a famous flying trapeze artist falls from the ceiling to the floor, landing almost at Sherlock’s feet, the victim of foul play. Eye of the Crow has been nominated for and won something like 18 awards and top tens in Canada and the U.S.

OB:

How did you research your books?

SP:

Very thoroughly! My wife said, “too thoroughly.” I do a great deal of reading and also visit settings in person. For The Boy Sherlock, I re-read the original Holmes stories (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) many times, read many non-fiction books about Victorian London and daily life there, many novels from that era to get a feel for the way people spoke, their habits, and London life (the works of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins were particularly helpful), visited museums to look at artifacts, and traveled to London, where I spent time in the neighbourhood where the Eye of the Crow murder took place, and in all the areas where my Sherlock pursued the solution, and the killer lived. I also like to look at photographs from the Victorian era while I research, block out the modern world, and try to enter those photos so as to almost be back in that amazing time.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind?

SP:

I wanted this series to be for young readers, but also challenging. I think these novels, dark and layered as they are, appeal to a slightly older group than my Dylan Maples Adventures, to readers who want to think and don’t mind edgy material. But in the end, I do not sit down and think much about who reads my work. Instead, I write the best novel I can. My Sherlock just happens to be 13 years old. This series appears to have “crossover” appeal; in other words it attracts both Young Adults and grown ups. Many of the e-mail messages to my site come from adult readers.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

SP:

I like it very quiet… but I have a wife and three school-age kids. So, I do the best I can without restricting their lives, their freedom to make noise. We live in a protected forest in southern Ontario so it is quiet here most of the time. Our house is of Victorian vintage and I like the historical atmosphere in my ground-floor office. However, I think I will eventually move upstairs – I really like a view out a window when I’m writing. That lets my imagination soar.

OB:

What was your first publication?

SP:

I have written journalism, plays, TV documentaries, books for kids and books for adults. My very first published work was an article for a British circus magazine about The Great Farini, a man who walked over Niagara Falls on a high wire in 1860 and invented the human cannonball act. My first book was also about Farini, a big non-fiction work for adults about that wild and wonderful man... my kind of guy.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

SP:

I’m always reading a number of books at once, some for fun, others for research. I’ve just begun DeNiro’s Game by Rawi Hage, an international award-winning novel for adults by a great new Canadian writer. It’s about two young people growing up in war-torn Lebanon in the Middle East. Next on my list is Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road. I’m also reading a biography of Robert Louis Stevenson for research for the next Boy Sherlock book. The last YA book I read was Arthur Slade’s “Meggido’s Shadow,” a sad, intriguing tale set in Saskatchewan and the Middle East during World War I, which I loved.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a welcome to Canada gift, what would those books be?

SP:

Robertson Davies, a great Canadian novelist with a serious imagination, was my professor at the University of Toronto. I’d suggest his Fifth Business, my friend Brian McFarlane’s 75 Years of Hockey and Donald Creighton’s great biography of Sir John A. Macdonald. Roch Carrier’s kids’ book The Hockey Sweater would be a good one for the younger set.

OB:

What's the best advice you've ever received as a writer?

SP:

A teacher once told me that the time to work on your future is right now, and by that he didn’t mean tomorrow or five minutes from now, but this instant. That was a great piece of advice that superseded anything about writing and yet applied to it too. Robertson Davies taught me to be myself as a writer, so I always write about what I am passionate about, not what I think others want to read.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you've received from a reader.

SP:

A critic for the Ottawa Citizen said that Eye of the Crow was so good that it made her feel like I was “channeling the spirit of Sherlock Holmes.” That was pretty good. But perhaps the most memorable came from a young boy at the Red Maple Awards one year who had never had the least interest in reading until he read The Mystery of Ireland’s Eye. In fact, he had had trouble reading; then he couldn’t put books down. Such a reaction can change a life. I also remember kids at an impoverished school in a secluded part of Labrador being lit up by a presentation I gave. I will never forget that.

OB:

What is your next project?

SP:

Usually I have a play or a documentary going as well as a book, but these days it is all books, and many of them. I’ve just finished the last full draft of The Vanishing Girl, the third book in the Boy Sherlock series, and have commenced work on the fourth. I’m also developing a novel for adults and a new idea for a YA novel… a strange one.


Selected as a Booklist "Top Ten in Young Mysteries"
Winner, Arthur Ellis Award for Juvenile Crime Fiction
Gold Medal Winner, Foreward Magazine's Book of the Year Awards
Winner, IODE's Violet Downey Book Award

"...both fascinating and complex...plenty of readers will...find themselves irresistibly drawn into his thrilling adventures." — Booklist, starred review

Read more about Eye of the Crow at the Tundra Books website.

"Peacock continues his literary derring-do in the second Sherlock Holmes novel, Death in the Air, as suspenseful and riveting as the first book....The crafty turns and twists of this mystery adventure only intensify from the sensational opening, so that you can’t turn the pages fast enough....Peacock’s writing, smart, lithe, and assured, is perfectly attuned to readers in its accessibility and appeal...." —The Ottawa Citizen

Read more about Death in the Air at the Tundra Books website.

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