Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vasudev Murthy Talks about his Cover for ‘SHERLOCK HOLMES, The Missing Years: Timbuktu’

Vasudev Murthy lives in Bangalore, India and writes on music, humor, management and crime. He has been published by Poisoned Pen Press, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins and Sage. His work has been translated into Portuguese, Korean, Japanese and Kannada. He is otherwise a Management Consultant and violinist with a passion for animal welfare.


Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
In the Sherlock Holmes Canon,  there is a period between 1891 and 1894 that’s called the Missing Years.  This is a period where Arthur Conan Doyle stopped writing after killing off Holmes at Reichenbach Falls. He resurfaced in 1894 in the story – The Empty House. There is considerable conjecture about where he might have been in the interim.

My first book about this was Sherlock Holmes, the Missing Years: Japan, where I claimed that he was in Japan. In this book, encouraged by my excellent editor, Barbara Peters, I placed him in a mystery in Timbuktu, or more correctly in Africa, with the center point being Timbuktu.

Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
Harper Collins sold the US rights of my Japan book to Poisoned Pen Press. My Timbuktu book was a direct contract with PPP.  I enjoy working with them.

How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing the story, or did it come later?
My editor and I debated about what would be an interesting locale. We looked at a few choices and zeroed in on Timbuktu. There is considerable history and mystery about the place and it does conjure interest.  I had to do a tremendous amount of research about many places during different historical periods. Slowly the story started making sense and I began to write.

Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
Yes, I did. The desert was necessary and so was something about the Tuaregs, the people of the Sahara. Their language and culture are unique. An Indigo blue was necessary. Sherlock with his pipe was necessary. This is a complex tale. I believe there were only two iterations, if I recall.

Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
This was handled by Poisoned Pen Press and  I had no hand in selecting and interacting with them.

How was your experience working with the designer?
Smooth and effortless.

What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
It certainly gets more than one glance. People like it.

What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
I wouldn’t give any tips per se. I don’t think we (authors) should presume to additionally be experts in aesthetics. We should state our ideas but defer to the publisher whose interest it is to sell the book and has a better idea of the relevant parameters.

Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
The book is serious with a few doses of irreverence thrown in. It has an unusual motif and an even stranger premise. I’m hoping the reader will enjoy imagining Holmes in Morocco, the Sahara, Timbuktu and the lower Nile. I truly loved writing the book.

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