Today I am interviewing G.S. Denning, author of the new fantasy novel, The Sign of the Nine, fourth book in the Warlock Holmes series.
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DJ: Hi G.S.! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
G.S. Denning: Hmmm… well… I’m American. Male. My real name’s Gabe, but that’s not snooty enough so I went with my initials. I’m first-wave geek culture, meaning Star Wars came out when I was 2 and one of my earliest memories in life is the Death Star exploding. I learned to play D&D on the red-box basic set and saved my paper route money to get an original NES.
DJ: What is The Sign of the Nine and then the Warlock Holmes series about?
G.S.: The Sign of Nine is the dark middle chapter of the Warlock Holmes saga. For readers who have been following along, this is where we finally learn about Moriarty and Irene Adler. It’s where we learn the shape of the growing threat that’s going to bring humanity down and usher in the age of demons. It’s where a magical addiction drives a wedge between Watson and Holmes. And it’s funny!
The series as a whole is a direct parody of the original 60 Holmes stories. Basically, it’s Watson writing his memoirs right before the final onslaught of earth begins. He’s trying to explain to anyone who survives how he and his roommate accidentally got tricked into ending the world. Each short story is complete, but they fit together to form a much longer narrative.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Warlock Holmes series?
G.S.: Er… Well… There’s those Sherlock stories, of course. And I’m used to genre-bending stories. I spent 15 years doing improv comedy (take your first date and do it as a Mexican Soap-Opera, or your last birthday as Shakespear would have written it). Add in a lifelong love of British comedy and there you go: Warlock Holmes.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
G.S.: Watson is really my main character. He’s the stand-in for the reader because he is… well… sane. And he’s smart. He’s very propper and likes things done the English way, but he’s a good man at heart. Not as good as Warlock, who is kind to a fault. But he’s also a bit dumb. Oh, and riddled with thousands of demons. He’s powerful enough to instantly overcome any challenge he’s faced with, but he sells the demons another piece of the world every time he uses his powers. As such, Watson usually gets a chance to try and reason it out first. Then there’s Inspector Lestrade–a mopey vampire. Inspector Grogsson–basically a flesh-colored hulk in a suit and Mrs. Hudson–the bane of their existence.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role for in story? Why?
G.S.: Side characters tend to be my favorites. Let’s see… There’s Violet Hunter, who I did my best to set up as an adventure-hook for anyone who wants to wright Warlock fan-fic. Then there’s Silver Blaze, the murder-horse. Book 4 includes Jonathan Small, just the worst human ever. I’m also quite partial to the possessed goose from the Christmas episode. It’s hard to keep a reader’s interest if the main characters are too, too silly. But side characters? Now, that’s where the flavor comes in!
DJ: What is the world and setting of the the Warlock Holmes series like?
G.S.: This has been one of the really fun parts: zero world building. If you’ve ever read Dickens or watched Downton Abbey, you’ll know the world I’m writing in. Actual, real-life, Victorian England. Only here’s the thing: I can change it. What happens in the stories begins to slowly change the world. The first major example is that Holmes’s overuse of magic in Silver Blaze causes the spectral phantom of the same horse to win every horse-race held in Britain after that point. It’s not an important change, but it’s one that forces the entire population to recognize that magic is real and their world is unwell.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first three books of the Warlock Holmes series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
G.S.: You know, it’s been oddly good. I thought the die-hard Sherlockians were going to eat me for lunch. But you know something, they’ve been amongst my most stalwart fans. Spoiler alert: the first mystery in the series hinges on a donut. The killer is hunting down and hate-murdering the people who took his donut one decade earlier. Before that book hit the shelves, I swear to God, every day I thought the phone was going to ring and some publishing executive was going to scream, “Are you kidding? A donut?” and cancel the whole series. But people like it! They seem to have accepted the whole, ridiculous feel of this world.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Sign of the Nine?
G.S.: Getting the chance to flesh my world out a bit. So… being careful of spoilers… we finally get to see why Moriarty is who he is. Why Adler is who she is. We get a peek behind the scenes at nine other powerful enemies, growing from the shadows of another continent, who have been hinted at but never directly seen. I was glad to get a chance to expand the entire setting in this volume. Also, there’s a little demon running around with a stuffed dog tied over it.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
G.S.: Ha! Mary Morstan! Absolutely no question at all. Mary Morstan.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing the Warlock Holmes series? The series is not yet complete, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
G.S.: There definitely is a meaning I’m approaching, but it will come at the end of the series and I do not wish to reveal it yet. But there are lots of themes I love playing with. For example, the driving theme of book one is about being an insider to a society or being an outsider. Watson is a doctor–a well-educated, highly-paid, respected position in society. Yet he finds himself thrown in with the cast-offs and the monsters. But they give him something the mainstream society does not: they need and value him. He finds he loves them. And when the time comes to pick a side, he decides to be one of them. To any geek who has ever felt like they are misunderstood and lessened by the people around them, I hope the message will be clear: weird is beautiful and we deserve love, too.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Sign of the Nine that you can share with us?
G.S.: From this book, a simple one is my favorite. It’s “Any man would have done the same!” It’s shouted by Jonathan Small time and time again, regarding an increasingly unreasonable set of murders. Let’s all hope he’s wrong, or the world’s population is going to suffer a dramatic decrease.
But if you wanted something a bit more self-complete, here’s Watson describing book 4’s first suspect: “Our man was probably American, and definitely in possession of a rugged jawline. But really, aren’t they all? I’ve often wondered who the saddest person in the world is: the only Eskimo girl who loves fancy shoes, or the only man in Montana with a normal, human jaw.”
DJ: Now that The Sign of the Nine is released, what is next for you?
G.S.: Are you kidding? I’m already neck-deep in book 5. The world has been fleshed out, the damage to Holmes and Watson’s partnership has been done, the threat to humanity has been made. Now I just gotta get into the bloody, nitty-gritty death-spiral of humanity. That’s all.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Twitter: G.S. Denning
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Sign of the Nine and the Warlock Holmes series that we haven’t talked about yet?
G.S.: Oh, just that anybody who has discovered them deserves hardcore geek-cred, superior to all their friends’. Boom! *Mic-drop*
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
G.S.: No, this has been great! Thanks for taking an interest, DJ.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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***The Sign of the Nine is published by Titan Books and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
“If you ever wondered how much better Sherlock would be if people could hurl hellfire at each other, well this one is for you.” Starburst Magazine on A Study in Brimstone
Warlock Holmes may have demons in his head, but now Dr. John Watson has a mummy in his bloodstream. Specifically that of the sorcerer Xantharaxes, who when shredded and dissolved in an 8% solution, results in some extremely odd but useful prophetic dreams. There’s also the small matter of Watson falling for yet another damsel-du-jour, and Warlock deciding that his companion needs some domestic bliss…
About the Author:
G.S. Denning is an author, improv comic, and speaker.
Before publishing Warlock Holmes, G.S. performed improv comedy for 20 years with Seattle Theatersports and Jet City Improv in Seattle, and SAC Comedy in Florida. He was a writer/performer for live shows at Disney’s Epcot Center, wrote comedic reviews for Wizards of the Coast, and worked as a translation editor for Nintendo, ensuring that humor/context translated appropriately from Japanese to English video game scripts.
G.S. is extremely knowledgeable about history and all things pertaining to the geekiverse. He now gives engaging and educational talks to schools, inspiring students to turn their love of comic books and video games into a creative career or enriching hobby. He speaks at conventions, teaching writers improv comedy techiques that will improve their storytelling. He loves chatting on podcasts and is a terribly friendly geek. He has The Best Wife and The Most Beautiful Children and lives in Las Vegas.