Why Write a Pastiche

As you probably know, my book The House at Baker Street, is what’s known as a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. That is, it’s set in the world of Sherlock Holmes, but not told by Arthur Conan Doyle.

So why tell a pastiche? For some people, they enjoy the original stories, they want more, and write new stories in the old style. For some, they want to take those characters and place them in different situations, so you get a gothic Holmes, Holmes hunting vampires, Holmes coming to life and meeting his writer, modern Holmes, time travelling Holmes and so on. Some people want to explore the characters that play a part in the Holmes stories, such as Watson and Lestrade and Irene Adler.

My stories give Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson (along with a few other Holmes characters) stories of their own. I did this because, reading the books, I felt these two were interesting characters that deserved to have their own tales told.

I know, this feels like fanfic. But I have read some truly excellent pastiches, not just of Holmes, but of other fictional worlds too. (And I’ve also read excellent fanfic in my time too)

People are starting to tell the stories of the background characters in Jane Austen and Bronte books (I’m considering one myself), and all kinds of books. People use these stories to explore new tales, such as the place of servants in Regency times, or the treatment of madness, whilst also staying true to the spirit of the original.

If you want to write a pastiche yourself, make sure the original story is out of copyright – no Hunger Games, or Agatha Christie. The Holmes rights are handled by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. Then make sure you really know the source material, and see if there is a new story somewhere in there.

People were writing new Holmes works whilst Conan Doyle was alive. William Gillette, the stage actor ( and first person to play Holmes – he did it over 1000 times, and his pageboy Billy was played by Charlie Chaplin) adapted Sherlock Holmes as a play. He sent a telegram to Conan Doyle asking ‘can I marry Holmes?’ (Meaning marry him off). Conan Doyle replied ‘marry him, kill him, do what you like to him!’ I do feel that in that telegram, Conan Doyle gave all us pastiche writers his blessing. At least, that’s my excuse.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

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