Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lawrence C. Connolly Visits The Gaslight Gallery on Day Nine of "A Fortnight on Baker Street"

The Gaslight Gallery welcomes Gaslight Arcanum author Lawrence C. Connolly.

GG: Welcome to the Gaslight Gallery.  Where are you from?
Lawrence C. Connolly: Southwestern Pennsylvania

GG: What is the name of your story in Gaslight Arcanum?

Lawrence C. Connolly: “The Executioner”

GG:  Without providing a spoiler, could you please give us a summary of your story?

Lawrence C. Connolly: Holmes wakes to find himself in a gigantic mansion filled with oversized furniture and works of art. The mystery centers on where he is, how he got there, and a terrible bit of unfinished business that waits for him in a secret chamber on the first floor.

GG: What do you like the most about this collection?

Lawrence C. Connolly: Sharing the book with eleven of my favorite writers.

GG: What is the most "uncanny" thing that has happened to you personally?  Please take the opportunity to tell the strangest tale you want.

Lawrence C. Connolly:  Great question, especially since I’ve just finished writing about a number of such events, retelling them in a series of vignettes to be included in my forthcoming collection Voices (due out from Fantasist Enterprises later this month).

One of those vignettes recounts an experience from the winter of 1990, when I was in the Soviet Union taking part in a cultural exchange with a school in Leningrad. It happened on my first night there, after a multi-stop flight from Pittsburgh left my internal clocks totally wacked. Around midnight, unable to sleep, I decided to leave my hotel room and head down to a nightclub on the first floor.

I never made it.

The hotel was a high-rise with block-long corridors that zigzagged through a series of dogleg bends, and I was rounding one of these when I found my way blocked by two men. They were smoking, leaning against a wall. One had Cyrillic letters tattooed on his fingers. He was big—wrestler big—big enough to make me consider turning around and going back the way I had come. But I kept walking, avoiding eye contact until he swung in front of me like a refrigerator door, blocking my path.

The other guy came up behind him, holding a briefcase across one arm as if delivering a pizza. 

The latches snapped. The lid opened. Inside was a black cube: four-inches square, beautifully made, smooth as ice. It was a lacquer box.

The big guy took it out, pressed it into my hand. It had no perceptible weight. Holding it was like holding a piece of solid nothing. It could be mine, he told me, for ten American dollars.

Agreeing to the deal seemed like the easiest way to get past him. So I gave him the money and headed back to my room.

The next morning I couldn’t find the box. I looked everywhere, tore the room apart. The thing was gone.

Had I dreamed it? Unlikely. The details of the encounter and purchase were too vivid. And then there was my wallet, which in addition to a few hundred rubles should have contained thirty dollars – a ten and a twenty. But the ten was gone.
I never saw the box again, but I eventually put one just like it into a short story titled “Smuggling the Dead.” So in a way the box is still with me, folded into a work of fiction, stored between memory and dream.

GG: What is the best piece of writing advice that you have ever received?

Lawrence C. Connolly:
  “Ohne Hast, aber ohne Rast.”

It’s from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He didn’t give it to me directly, of course. He passed it my way through that wonderful means of cross-time communication: the printed page.
Goethe’s German can be translated a number of ways, but for me it is: “Do not hurry. Do not rest.”

Here’s the point. Writing is all about time and commitment. A good story may take a month of daily effort before it’s right. A good novel may take a year or more. A writer can work faster, but where’s the joy in haste? It’s the process of living with a story through a succession of days and moods that helps a narrative find its voice. The wisdom is not to rush but to keep working. Write every day. Enjoy the process.

GG: In a recent interview on Bitten by Books, you answered a number of questions.  Could you please repost one of your favorites, with your answer?

Lawrence C. Connolly:
When writing Sherlock Holmes stories, how important do you feel it is to attempt to capture Conan Doyle’s voice, or doesn’t that matter to you? And secondly, how closely are you attempting to capture the time and mood of the original 60 stories . . . or could your story be about any detective character, but you just happened to name him Sherlock Holmes to suit the demands of the volume you’re contributing to? [Question posed at BBB by Christopher Roden.]

GG: And your answer?

Lawrence C. Connolly: I gave a good deal of thought to trying to capture the voice and setting of the original Holmes stories. “The Death Lantern” (Gaslight Grotesque) is narrated by Watson, and in addition to trying to stay true to the doctor’s voice, I took special care to represent the interior of 221b Baker Street as accurately as possible. I’m not sure how many people notice such things, but getting those details right mattered to me.

In “The Executioner” (Gaslight Arcanum) I had fewer examples to guide me, since that story has Holmes serving as the narrator, something I believe he only did in two of Conan Doyle’s stories, starting with “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier.”

The setting of “The Executioner” – a gigantic mansion in Switzerland – is not based on anything from the original Holmes adventures. It has a different literary source, but one that I was nevertheless keen on representing accurately. I don’t want to give the title away here, since its revelation is part of the story’s mystery. But I will say that it is a work that has been so consistently misrepresented over the years that few people (even those casually familiar with the original) appreciate the nature of its central premise. I like to think that “The Executioner” gets it right.

GG: Thanks for joining us today.

The LAWRENCE C. CONNOLLY novel Veins was a finalist for the Black Quill and Hoffer awards as well as inspiring the audio CD Veins: The Soundtrack. His new supernatural thriller Vipers was released in 2010. In addition he has two short story collections available, Visions: Short Fantasy and SF and This Way to Egress.


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