It all started one chilly morning while keeping Sarah Lotz company outside the Metropole Hotel in Brighton, while she sucked some nicotine into her lungs, during the World Fantasy Convention in 2013.
I was just an innocent bystander, watching others smoking and trying to pretend that I wasn’t freezing my arse off. I hadn’t seen Sarah in ages and wanted to catch up – she’s always a good laugh and probably one of my favourite writerly types, so she’s worth enduring a little cold weather for and at least I didn’t get frostbite. Bear in mind that I’m South African so anything under 20°C is considered cold and the weather that weekend in Brighton was well below that.
Somewhere along the line David Thomas Moore, the bearded, crazy, genius, joined the conversation. Sarah said something about my writing being twisted and that I was sick in the head. In any other circles that would probably be considered an insult, but not in the horror writing world. Someone saying that about you in the horror world is probably the greatest compliment a writer can get. I duly blushed. David had a strange evil glint in his eyes as he turned to me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a story for his Sherlock Holmes anthology. I thought he’d lost his mind or had a few too many pints at the bar. Who in their right mind would ask me to write a story about Holmes?
I think I may have had a few too many glasses of wine at the bar and said yes. Because, hey, I love Sherlock! I did, however, add a disclaimer and warned him that, as Sarah had pointed out, it was likely to be bit twisted. He seemed pleased by that idea, which left me wondering just how twisted was I allowed to be … I had a feeling he wouldn’t have a problem with my writing something as twisted as I could possibly get.
By the end of the convention I’d convinced myself that there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell that I would ever hear from Mr Moore again, but a few months later there was an email in my inbox from David asking if I was still interested. I almost shat myself. I was now actually going to have to produce something that was worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. I knew there was no point in trying to reproduce the original stories and plus that wasn’t what David wanted. I also realised that an editor wouldn’t ask a horror writer for a story unless he wanted a horror story, so that’s what I set out to do. I also wanted to have a bit of fun with it.
Pretoria is my home town and Mamalodi, the township, informal settlement, ghetto, or whatever you want to call it is only about a ten minute drive from my front door. It’s the type of setting that most people living in first world countries would find alien, but is common place anywhere in Africa and other developing countries. I wanted to put Sherlock and Watson outside of the readers comfort zone and away from the normal settings. Pretoria and Mamalodi are also not the typical settings you find in most South African novels. Most South African authors seem to set their books in Johannesburg or Cape Town or in more exotic locations, but I prefer to set my stories in places that I know well.
Mamalodi may not be as dangerous as some of the other informal settlements that they have in Johannesburg, but it has a character all of its own and makes for an interesting backdrop for Holmes and Watson and a muti murder.
I’m incredibly grateful for having had the chance to spend some time with Holmes and Watson and for working with David. It’s been one hell of a fun rollercoaster ride. I can’t wait to see what else David and the Abaddon team do next.
Joan De La Haye (joandelahaye.com) writes horror and some very twisted thrillers. She invariably wakes up in the middle of the night, because she’s figured out yet another freaky way to mess with her already screwed up characters.
Joan is interested in some seriously weird stuff. That’s probably also one of the reasons she writes horror.
Her novels, Shadows and Requiem in E Sharp, as well as her novella, Oasis, are published by Fox Spirit (foxspirit.co.uk).
You can find Joan on her website and follow her on Twitter @JoanDeLaHaye.
She is the author of The Rich Man's Hand in the new Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets anthology, out now from Abaddon Books!