Today, I am thrilled to welcome Author Laurie R. King as she stops by my blog on her 15 Weeks of Bees blog tour with a guest post.
I’ll admit I’d never heard of her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books until I was approached about doing the tour, and though I’ve only ever read bits and pieces of Sherlock Holmes' stories, I found the premise that Holmes would take a 15 year old girl on as an apprentice something far too delicious to pass up. I just finished reading book 1, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and I am incredibly impressed and eager to read more of the series.
King has fashioned a very appealing teen protagonist in Mary. She’s extremely intelligent, witty and resourceful, and yet still quite down to earth and approachable. The first 50 pages of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice deal with the early years of her acquaintance with Holmes and are almost contemplative in tone, but once they start collaborating on cases, the pace picks up and the novel is almost impossible to put down. In this installment, they collaborate on two minor cases, both very clever and fun, and two major cases which are more dangerous and exciting. What I really liked though was how the cases and the mystery never overshadowed the focus on the characters - the nuanced relationship been the unlikely pair and their obvious deep regard for each other.
I’m glad I have 8 more books to look forward to including the newest, The Language of Bees, which comes out on April 28th.
I asked King if she would talk a bit about the book’s appeal to teen readers, and here’s what she had to say:
I was a kid who read a lot. A lot. Books were often more real, and certainly more important, than people—no doubt because my family moved so often, I just couldn’t be bothered. Why go to the work of building a new set of friendships when you’d be moving away during the summer, anyway?
Instead, I lived in libraries and made friends in the pages of books.
This worked fine until I had boyfriends who did not read fiction (And eventually married a man who never read fiction. Oh well.) and the continuous burial of my nose in a book set the noses of others out of joint. It became a habit, slightly shameful, that I did not indulge around others. Until I became a writer. Writers have to be readers, don’t they? Would you trust the author of a book who said in an interview that she doesn’t like to read? Of course not. I have to read, now.
Much of what I write is aimed at that girl who hung out in front of the shelves of libraries, hoping for That Book.
When I started writing about Mary Russell, I wanted her to be fifteen years old. These days, we would find her a rather young and innocent fifteen—after all, her time is the early twentieth century, which was an age of relative innocence compared to a hundred years later. More than that, however, she comes from a protected, well-to-do background, with parents who loved and respected her.
Until the autumn of her fourteenth year, when her family died, she was injured, the relative she was sent to resented her, and worst of all, she knows that it was all her fault.
Intellectually, Russell is more mature than the majority of adults, in her world or ours. The machine that is her mind is a powerful one. She can certainly out-think her author. (One of the advantages of writing is that one has a chance to dig around for, reshape, and then polish clever dialogue and biting remarks in a way one can never, ever do in real live.) She is on her way to becoming a cold and rather bitter adult…until she encounters a distinctly cold and bitter adult and becomes his apprentice.
I wanted to introduce Mary Russell to Sherlock Holmes at a time when she had an adult’s ability to shape ideas, yet when she was still malleable. As she says in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, had he been a cat-burglar or forger when they met, she might well have grown up learning to walk parapets and brew inks. Instead, she has the great good fortune to meet a man of high moral and ethical stature, and her mind and abilities are turned for the good.
However, I didn’t want the teaching to be one-sided. I wanted to permit the man Holmes to grow as a person, to show how her unexpected presence in his life re-shaped him, from a person who has turned his back on his fellow man into someone capable of acknowledging, and embracing, his own humanity.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is a “coming of age” novel in two senses: Russell grows into her adult form, and Holmes moves into the modern era that has been forming around him.
That they both have a great deal of fun doing so is an extra bonus, certainly for their writer.
Laurie R. King is the bestselling, award-winning author of nineteen novels published around the world, which include The Beekeeper's Apprentice, A Grave Talent, and the upcoming The Language of Bees. She is a third generation Californian with a background in theology, house construction, and child-rearing, and keeps a blog, runs a virtual book club, and helps Mary Russell do Myspace and Twitter, all of them through her web site at http://www.laurierking.com/