Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Sherlock's Watson and Wanton Wager

What inspires you?

I'm often asked what gave me the idea for a given story, and I love reading about what inspires other writers. Ideas can come from anywhere, but most stories have a nugget—something the author read, saw, experienced, or overheard. That nugget and the kernel of a story it inspired might linger in a writer's head for years before they get the story out. We all need a little inspiration on Mondays, so on some Mondays at Romancing the Victorians, we'll find out what inspired writers to tell the stories they do, and I'll share my inspiration for my published stories and works in progress.

My hero, William Selsby, in Wanton Wager is training to be a doctor when he enters the British Army and goes to fight in the Second Afghan War, from 1878 to 1880. Injured in that conflict, he returns to England to find his fiance has abandoned him for a much better catch and falls into years of painful recovery, haunting memories of battle, and a bit of self pity. It's only when he meets the heroine, Ada Hamilton, that his true "man of action" nature is revived. 

Brilliant illustrator Sidney Paget's Watson and Holmes.
When I wrote the character of William Selsby in Wanton Wager, I had another literary character in mind. He too was a veteran of the Afghan War and a medical man, and he was one half of one of the most famous crime-detecting duos in literature. In his own way, Dr. John Watson has become as beloved as his friend, Sherlock Holmes. After all, as the recorder and narrator of Sherlock's deeds, we're reliant as readers on his observations in order to follow along as Holmes untangles one mystery after another. 

The Battle of Maiwand - Second Anglo-Afghan War
Watson's war veteran back story has always fascinated me, as it gives insight into the history of the period. Great Britain was involved in several conflicts during the Victorian era. In fact, from the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign in 1837 until its end in 1901, British troops were engaged in almost constant combat, whether in Africa, Asia, or the Arabian peninsula (Farwell, 1). Most Britons viewed such military actions as the price of maintaining a vast empire and the success of Britain's military was a source of national pride. However, it also created a generation of war veterans, some of whom—like ficitional Dr. Watson and my hero, Will Selsby—returned from these foreign conflicts with physical and emotional scars. The question of how their experiences might have affected the rest of their lives, particularly against the backdrop of the complex and changing world of Victorian London, intrigues me.'

Martin Freeman as John Watson in Sherlock.
My favorite recent performances of Dr. Watson, by Martin Freeman in the BBC Sherlock series and Jude Law in the two Sherlock Holmes films of the last few years, capture the "man of action" aspect of Watson. At times, Watson may seem more interested in women or food than Sherlock, but he is at heart a man of action and is ready to defend and assist those he loves. Fiercely loyal, he is also dependable, honorable, and more patient and sympathetic to the faults of others than the brutally insightful Holmes.

Jude Law as Dr. John Watson.
I wanted my hero, William Selsby, to reflect the best aspects of a character such as Watson, a solider with a heart of gold. He's no bad boy with dark secrets, but he is man who will do the honorable thing if given half the chance. And though he's been hiding away from life and emotion for years, he is willing to embrace both when the opportunity presents itself, despite whatever challenges he may encounter along the way.

Wanton Wager is a sensual novella and is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo for 99 cents.

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