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Sherry Thomas: On Cooking Up a Mystery

USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas discusses the process of writing the sixth installment in her Lady Sherlock mystery series, Miss Moriarty, I Presume?

USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed historical romance authors writing today and a two-time RITA Award winner.

Sherry Thomas: On Cooking Up a Mystery

Sherry Thomas

In this post, Sherry discusses writing the sixth installment in her Lady Sherlock mystery series, Miss Moriarty, I Presume?, how the process is like being on a cooking show, and more!

Name: Sherry Thomas
Literary agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency
Book title: Miss Moriarty, I Presume?, Lady Sherlock book 6
Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Release date: November 2, 2021
Genre/category: Historical Mystery
Previous titles: The first five Lady Sherlock books: A Study in Scarlet Women, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, The Hollow of Fear, The Art of Theft, and Murder on Cold Street.
Elevator pitch for the book: Moriarty at last makes his grand appearance, and he wants Charlotte Holmes to find his daughter, who has disappeared from her remote occult community.

Sherry Thomas: On Cooking Up a Mystery

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What prompted you to write this book?

I greatly admired the BBC “Sherlock” but always thought that it killed off Moriarty much too soon. In writing my own Sherlock Holmes pastiche, one of the first decisions I made was that Moriarty should stick around a lot longer. So it is only in Miss Moriarty, I Presume?, the sixth book of the series, that Moriarty emerges from the shadows to become an on-screen character for the first time.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

A Lady Sherlock book typically comes out in fall and I usually settle on an idea for a book somewhere during the first half of the previous year, and then start writing in fall. So about a year and a half from idea to publication.

The story premise usually doesn’t change—for this book I wanted Lady Sherlock to investigate a case in a remote occult community and in its final form that is still the premise—but where the story led was rather surprising.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

For the page proofs, my publisher had editable PDFs for the first time. I was happy to see those.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

The Lady Sherlock books have been published yearly and it takes me most of a year to draft, revise, revise, and revise. So by the time I’m done with one book, it’s more or less time to start writing the next, without too much time to sit and think.

There are reality cooking shows that give contestants a bunch of random ingredients and an hour for them to come up with something delicious. When I write, sometimes I feel that’s how I’m concocting my stories too, from whatever pitiful handful of ideas rolling around in my mental drawer.

Sherry Thomas: On Cooking Up a Mystery

For Miss Moriarty, I Presume?, these are the main ingredients: 1) the feeling that Moriarty should make an appearance by the point, 2) the need for a seemingly legitimate inquiry from Moriarty for Lady Sherlock to look into, 3) it’s the age of the occult and somehow I haven’t dealt with the occult in these books, and 4) my love for the South West Coast of England.

Even when Charlotte has arrived on the Cornish coast to dig around, I as the writer had no idea what happened to Miss Moriarty, or why she was even there in a remote occult community to start with. This is where cooking up a story can be both fun and harrowing. You hope your subconscious would give you good surprises in terms of story direction and plot revelations—for me it came through again this time—but I also remember thinking, hmm, I’m 30,000, 40,000 words into this story now, and I still don’t know what I’m supposed to uncover!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

A good time, some interesting thoughts, and a feeling of comfort and community

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Write the best books you can and hang in there!

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