"Boys in Our Books"…

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GUEST POST – The Caldwell Ghost: KJ Charles’ Inspiration & a Free Read

Like all authors, I am occasionally asked where I get my ideas. Well, mostly, I don’t get them at all. They just grow, like shower mould, until I am forced to do something about them.

However, the first two stories in what has become the Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal do actually have identifiable roots, and this is where they come from.

Simon Feximal was created when my son, who is four, spelled out the word ‘feximal’ on the fridge in brightly coloured alphabet magnets and asked me what it meant. Well, I didn’t know what it meant. It annoyed the daylights out of me that I didn’t know what it meant. It looked like it meant something. And by the time my son replaced ‘feximal’ with a different random jumble of letters, I’d decided what. It was the name of a Victorian ghost hunter, and I had a main character, looking for a partner.

While I was thinking about that, I started considering how a lot of Victorian pulp stories use a framing narrative. Every Holmes has his Watson, the first-person narrator who tells his stories. There’s something very weird about this to a modern sensibility. This guy, the ‘I’, the sidekick in his own stories, devotes his life to telling the stories of the other man. And I wondered, what if you were as close as many people like to believe Holmes and Watson were? What if, in telling your lover’s stories, you were forced to write yourself out of your own?

And that gave me my concept. Simon Feximal’s lover/sidekick/narrator Robert has spent twenty years presenting a false, or at least incomplete, version of reality to the world, one in which he’s just the narrator rather than the equal partner. Now, at last, he’s going to tell the whole truth, the real stories. Call it a blow for all the Watsons out there, the invisible partners, keeping quiet.

My third bit of inspiration, for the second story, Butterflies, says everything about what’s wrong with writers. It was a sunny afternoon and I was having a long, rambling, deeply enjoyable phone conversation with an author friend. I happened to mention butterflies, and she asked me if I’d heard the story of King Arthur and the butterflies. I had not. So she told me this charming little obscure folk tale she’d found, which would be a perfect story for five-year-olds…

And all I could think was: That’s the next Feximal! I sat there, agreeing that it was indeed an utterly delightful piece of whimsy, how very sweet, while frantically Googling how to make butterflies kill people. By the time I got off the phone, I knew exactly what appalling supernatural horror Simon and Robert would face next. This is why I can’t have nice things.

But hey, I’d rather have inspiration.

The first Simon Feximal short story, The Caldwell Ghost, is out from Torquere Press

The second, Butterflies, is available from today as a free download from Smashwords.

I hope you enjoy them!

magpieKJ Charles is the author of The Magpie Lord  For more about the author, check out Ami’s interview with her!

Say hello at kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com or @kj_charles.

7 comments on “GUEST POST – The Caldwell Ghost: KJ Charles’ Inspiration & a Free Read

  1. syleegurl
    October 28, 2013

    I just finished “Butterflies” and I loved it! I want more of these two. I want to know more about Simon!!!


  2. ilhem3606
    October 28, 2013

    I didn’t read any story by you yet, but I loved reading how you got inspiration!


  3. KJ Charles
    October 29, 2013

    Thanks! There will be more Robert and Simon, for sure… dark deeds are afoot!


  4. Alexis Hall
    October 29, 2013

    Loved your comment about the oddness of the character who chooses to make themself a sidekick – and I think you’re definitely right about it not translating very well to a modern sensibility. I was re-reading Holmes recently and Watson comes across as this godawful arselicker, which in turn just makes Holmes look bad because you’re left thinking, um, do you really just want this guy following you around telling you how great you are?

    I know this is heresy but the Holmes adaption I actually like best is the outrageous steampunk movie version which I know are supposedly nothing like Holmes except … they’re stupid in just the same sort of way Holmes is stupid, so they work for me. Also they’ve done a really good job of making Watson the best friend you can ever hope to have, so it feels more balanced than the usual admired / admirer dynamic.

    And, again, this is one of the things I admire about the Secret Case Books – although Robert *is* in the follower / admirer role, he’s clearly an asset to Simon in, ahem, various ways ;)

    Sidekick with benefits, I think we might say.


    • syleegurl
      October 29, 2013

      I very much love Robert as well…even though Simon is the mystery, Robert is also very appealing. I don’t see him as the sidekick. But, I do like “sidekick with benefits”! :)


    • KJ Charles
      October 29, 2013

      Sidekick with benefits. Yessss.

      I love the RDJ Holmes films as well. Jeremy Brett already did the pitch-perfect literal version of Holmes, we don’t need another. I love Martin Freeman’s Watson too. Moral strength, pragmatic sensiblity that grounds Holmes, and a good shot. A balance of skills makes a much more satisfying partnership.

      And then you have the Raffles stories, where Raffles has everything – looks, brains, skills, pragmatism, social status, talent, good cricketer – and his narrator Bunny is a talentless bankrupt cretin who actively messes up about a third of Raffles’ plans…


  5. julio
    October 30, 2013

    i love this story. i think i’d read it on your blog at some point, and glad it’s up here too. great job, K.J. :-)


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This entry was posted on October 28, 2013 by in Interviews, PNR / UF / SF / DYS and tagged , , .

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