An Interview with Guy Adams

Guy Adams is a prolific writer of fantasy, sci-fi and media tie-ins. Adams’ latest novel, Sherlock Holmes: The army of Dr. Moreau has just been released from Titan Books. Katharine Stubbs had the opportunity to ask Guy about his writing, his fandoms, and what is was like to step into the role of Sherlock Holmes on stage. Guy also reveals for the first time information on his upcoming release, The Clown Service.

guy adams

Katharine Stubbs: Hello, Guy, could you tell us a little about yourself first?

Guy Adams: Certainly. I’m a onetime actor, comedy writer and newsagent. It was in that last role that I really hit my stride. Nobody could sell newspapers, cigarettes and chocolate with such unbridled enthusiasm.

I fell into writing for a living having secured a contract with a workload that meant I had to concentrate on it full time or not do it all. At the same time I emigrated to Spain with my family and found that I had better keep writing books as there wasn’t anything else that was going to keep us all fed.

Six years and twenty-odd books later I’m still here and somehow still working. It’s not a career path I would recommend but we all survived it. Just.

sh_Army MoreauKS: Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr Moreau includes characters from other classic works in addition to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, can you tell us what sparked this idea, and what it was like weaving them all together?

GA: It was terribly good fun. The directive actually came from the publisher when I first talked to them about creating original Holmes stories. They didn’t mind who, but they wanted Holmes and Watson to meet other famous names from history or fiction. I was determined to try and avoid the well-trodden path and then proceeded to get carried away. The Breath of God features a feast of characters from supernatural literature (as well as the all too real Aleister Crowley) and The Army of Dr Moreau repeated the same trick with the scientific romance. I also threw one of my own characters in there (Roger Carruthers from The World House novels) to prove that I didn’t only steal from the best.

KS: Is there a third Sherlock Holmes book on the horizon?

GA: I hope so. It all comes down to sales and scheduling. Titan seem positive about the idea and there are certainly other stories I’d like to tell but it has to fit in with their publishing plans and the decision is still a little way off.

KS: As well as writing Sherlock Holmes, you’ve also played the character twice, could you tell us about that?

GA: The first time I played him was in a comedy sketch I’d written. I toured a comedy show for about eighteen months with my good friend Phil Jarrett (The Breath of God is dedicated to him, “my Watson”). It was a three part story that was spread throughout the show. Holmes was a crazed junkie and frequently suffered from hallucinations. It was very silly and I used to nearly break myself performing it as the central sketch involved him fighting with a corpse, blood and organs spraying everywhere. Conan Doyle would have loved it.

The second time was in a proposed revival of Jeremy Paul’s play The Secret of Sherlock Holmes. That nearly broke me too but only because I was so determined to do the character well and acquit myself in the role. I failed in that I think but it was a valuable experience. I could probably do it a lot better now!

KS: Would you like to get back into acting someday?

GA: Absolutely. I miss it terribly and the older you get the more you become aware of your weaknesses and have an idea of how to fix them. The opportunity has never come along but I’d jump at it if it did.

KS: You’ve also written books set in the Torchwood and Life on Mars ‘verses, how did that come about and are you hoping to write more?

GA: Life On Mars was my break really. The two ‘making of’ books I wrote for Simon and Schuster with my good friend Lee Thompson as designer (a relationship that was so fruitful we shared a cover credit because I felt it only fair). We went on to do a whole bunch of books together including the three humour titles for Bantam Press with my channeling DCI Gene Hunt.

They were fun but by the third book it was getting especially hard. Everyone felt that we’d done all that could be done with the idea of a false police manual so book three was just quotes, The Wit and Wisdom of Gene Hunt. People assumed half the book could be filled with quotes from the show but in the end there was barely enough to cover three or four pages. Not that the scriptwriters hadn’t written wonderful stuff, it was just that so little of it worked independent of context. So I had to write a hundred-odd pages of one-liners in character. I began to feel like a seventies stand-up comedian and it was much harder than I could have imagined. That book cured me of Gene Hunt!

Both Torchwood books were wonderful though. Several people (including the lovely Mark Morris) had put my name forward as a good fit for the range and, as a lifelong Doctor Who fan I jumped at the chance. BBC Books are a dream to work with, especially my editor there, Steve Tribe who I now carry around with me so he can edit my conversation into proper English. This means my pockets now stink of Marlboro cigarettes and whisky but at least I sound erudite.

KS: If you could pick any fandom to write a novel in, which would you pick?

GA: Doctor Who, without hesitation. I love it beyond words and it’s pretty much the only childhood obsession I haven’t had a chance to work in.

KS: You have two books in your own series The World House. Could you tell us about them?

GA: I’m very proud of The World House books, they had their share of mishap (and the second, Restoration is much better written than the first I think) but they were my first original novels so I love them for that!

People are stolen out of time and dumped in this impossible building where there’s an ocean in the bathroom and a mountain in the study. The taxidermy comes to life and every room is filled with surreal dangers. The whole thing builds into a slightly more complex story but it’s a big, fun romp.

Sadly, the sale of the Angry Robot imprint meant that the sequel came out twelve months later than planned, that and the fact that some readers weren’t aware that you couldn’t hope to read Restoration without having read The World House first caused a few problems and certainly lost us sales. Angry Robot are wonderful though, a great imprint that gave me a chance to do something of my own. Their faith in me still means a great deal.

KS: Do you have any other books planned?

You wait years for more original novels and then seven come along at once! I have three different series coming out from three different publishers at various points over the next few years.

The first will be The Heaven’s Gate Chronicles coming from Solaris. A pair of weird spaghetti westerns. Imagine what Brigadoon would have been like had Sergio Leone directed it. There is a mythical town that appears once every hundred years or so and it contains an entrance to the afterlife. You can enter without the tiresome pre-requisite of having to die first.

The town has appeared all over the world but in the late nineteenth century it’s due to appear in the ‘wild west’ and there are a disparate bunch of adventurers hoping to be the first to reach it. The first book is called The Good, The Bad and the Infernal and will be out early in 2013.

Next is a series of fantastical crime books from Titan. Deadbeat is a series I originally wrote in novella form about seven years ago and I’ve rewritten them as full length novels. They’re fun, character-led books. A pair of amateur detectives, ex-theatrical barflies, that keep biting off more than they can chew. I have a habit in my writing of using a lot of humour and then suddenly taking a sharp turn towards something altogether darker and that sums these books up to a tee I think.

Finally (and this is the first time I’ve actually announced this so it’s good to finally be able to talk about it!) Ebury’s new UK Del Rey imprint are publishing The Clown Service. These are horror/espionage thrillers about an impoverished department of MI6 that deals with supernatural terrorism. The books will have a foot in both the classic, Cold War, John Le Carre, world of spying and the present day and I’m incredibly excited about them.

All of which should keep me out of trouble for a while.

KS: Thanks for answering our questions! Is there anything you would like to say to both your readers, and those reading this interview?

GA: Anything I’d like to say to my readers? Dear God… I’d kiss each and every one of them with passion if the opportunity presented itself.

Anybody who’s read this interview without having read one of my books then, well, you deserve the same treatment, you wonderful, patient thing.

Katharine Stubbs

Katharine likes to think she’s a Sky Pirate and that takes up most of her time. When she isn’t treasure hunting, she’s writing or playing video games and wishing Doctor Who and Farscape were real.She started writing at age 12 and has written almost every day on paper and most certainly in her mind otherwise. She tends to like the idea of fantasy, but her ideas themselves always seem to gravitate towards science fiction.Katharine is a judge in the Aurealis Awards, and would really like a pet chocobo.