Name: David Charlton
Where are you from: West Haven, Connecticut, but currently living in Southwest Florida
A little about your self `ie your education Family life ect:
I graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa, though I spent a year abroad at Christ Church College, Oxford, on a Fulbright Scholarship studying Medieval History. My undergraduate degrees are in Classical Languages and Ancient History, so I therefore went into banking. I’m married with no kids.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
David: Shortly after I was invited to contribute a story to Janet and Chris Morris’ newest Heroes in Hell anthology, I sold my first short story to Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, a blood and guts yarn in the fashion of Robert E. Howard, with just a smidge of humor.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
David: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember… I have “juvenilia” going back to my elementary school years. As for the why, I think it was because my imagination had been set on fire by writers like J. R. R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert, and I wanted to tell my own stories. I started to write because I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and because I enjoyed it.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
David: When I was in middle school, I discovered an anthology series of books called Thieves’ World, set in a shared universe, where writers could reference and use the characters created by their colleagues. The stories were (for the most part) great fantasy, and it seemed like the writers were having a lot of fun. I used to love seeing Writer A’s hero show up in Writer B’s story, if even for a cameo. I loved that continuity. It made that world come alive for me. From there I moved on to what I consider the pinnacle of the shared universe genre, the Heroes in Hell series— actually, I just followed my favorite Thieves’ World writers, and indulged my love of history and fantasy at the same time. Reading about Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar rubbing elbows with Che Guevara and Gilgamesh made my fingers itch to try it myself! So a friend and I started a monthly SF/Fantasy magazine in our hometown, in which I could exorcise my teenage literary daydreams. It was all handwritten or typed— not a professional publication by any means, but mainly for our own enjoyment. We did six or seven issues, and I wrote maybe 10 to 15 short stories for it… I still have most of the material, and it’s pretty awful, but you gotta start somewhere! From that point onward, I have always thought of myself as a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
David: I mainly write in short fiction, but I did write a novel a few years back, about the cursed and immortal Cain (he who is not his brother’s keeper). I had just finished reading the seminal Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and was interested in writing an historical/romantic/occult thriller. It was downright florid! Miltonian, almost. I can’t read it now without a little bit of a twinge. Then again, these day, I could always market it to the Twilight crowd…
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
David: Not consciously. I try to be spare most of the time, though not Hemingway-spare. Not a big fan of melodrama, so I excise it from my work if and when I see it creep in.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
David: Shakespeare for love of language. Tolkien for wonder and adventure. H. P. Lovecraft for that visceral thrill.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
David: I think the writers I’ve learned the most from, the ones I’d like to evoke in my own writing, would have to be Stephen R. Donaldson and Michael Moorcock. Donaldson’s plotting is just so smart and ironclad, and while his prose is not easy reading, per se, it is among the most satisfying; few writers today force me to run to a dictionary like SRD. Moorcock, on the other hand, just lets it rip and has fun with it all the way down, taking characters, plots and multiverses with him!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
David: The Hangman’s Daughter, a murder mystery set in 17th century Germany.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
David: Just discovered Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote Rivers of London (published in the US as Midnight Riot); while he’s just now making a splash, I think he’s been around for years. This is a great twist on the Urban Fantasy genre. Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books are just fantastic. His new one, Devil Said Bang is just out and I can’t wait to read it.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
David: I’m writing a story for the Heroes in Hell series, featuring the composer Richard Wagner and Groucho Marx. An unlikely pair, but oddly compelling to write. Even in hell, Groucho doesn’t take anything seriously, and this makes Wagner furious. Everything goes south, though, when Wagner tries to steal away Al Capone’s favorite soprano for his newest opera, an infernal masterpiece for the glory of His Satanic Majesty.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
David: The internet! For many years, I participated in a DC Comics fan fiction website, wherein I really learned the craft of writing. I matured as a writer there, and learned from some other great talents. as well.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
David: I always imagined so. Hard to do with a full time job and a mortgage, but I am undeterred!
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
David: The Hell piece is not yet ready for previewing, but here is a snippet of a Sherlock Holmes/Lovecraft pastiche I’m working on:
THE MYSTERY OF THE MAD MONSIGNOR
My great friend Sherlock Holmes rarely enjoyed the leisure of a rainy day, his agile mind requiring more stimulation than a quiet afternoon reading the papers or smoking his pipe. I quite despaired for him on days such as this, for on these occasions he might take refuge in the seven per-cent solution of his damnable syringe, or frighten our landlady Mrs. Hudson by discharging his revolver into the walls of our rooms at 221B Baker Street. Whatever the weather outside our window, he was always thus between cases, his prodigious faculties straining for employment.
That afternoon we enjoyed a companionable silence in our drawing room, I writing at my desk, he standing by the bow window, staring out the rain-washed panes at the crowded and muddy thoroughfare below. We had lately concluded an adventure on the Sussex Downs, and I wanted to record the details while they were still fresh in my mind.
“Holmes, tell me again how you knew Major Hopkirk would be set upon by the swarm.” I looked at my friend, my pen hovering over the page.
If Holmes heard me, he gave no indication of it at first. He was in partial profile, his aquiline features reflected in the glass, intent on the street outside our door. I cleared my throat, and when this didn’t secure his attention, I asked my question again.
He jerked his head toward me. “They were merely defending the hive, Watson,” said he, a flicker of annoyance not passing unnoticed across his face. “When faced with a threat to the queen, the swarm acts in concert against any invader. This is blindingly obvious to anyone familiar with the work of George Demaree,”
“Which you are, naturally,”
He ignored this and went on. “All that was left for the fiendish nephew to do was ensure that his uncle was in the vicinity when he agitated the hive. The multiple stings of the swarm were more than enough to finish the job and make the death seem like an accident.”
“A clever murder,” I shook my head, remembering with satisfaction the look of surprise on the nephew’s face when Holmes exposed him before the entire family.
“Not in the slightest, my good man,” my friend snorted derisively. “I had him when he revealed at dinner how his mother had told him of her brother’s misadventures as a boy in South Africa. Only two people knew the sting of a bee would cause the Major such extreme distress. From there, it was a simple process of elimination.”
“But then how did you eliminate Mrs. Barrington?”
“The small red mark on Ned Barrington’s hand,” Holmes lips defined a tight smile. “Surely you noticed it when he accompanied his mother to see us the day after the murder? It had all but disappeared by our last day on the Downs. It was a bee sting.”
I did indeed recall then how at that first meeting young Ned Barrington scratched absently at a spot above his knuckles; Holmes, of course, had never forgotten it at all, but had filed it away in case it proved relevant.
I bent my head back to my writing, but it was I who had prodded the beehive, now.
“Another story for Beeton’s? No, the Strand this time,” his sharp eyes darted from the magazine I had left on the breakfast table then back to me as I looked up again. “You’ll soon have all of London reading our exploits and on the lookout for me. I’ll have to take my practice to the country to escape the attention. What did you think of Sussex? I rather liked it. And the keeping of bees has proved fascinating…”
Before I could determine if my friend was having a joke at my expense, the bell rang downstairs.
“That would be the young man from America.” Holmes declared, much to my surprise.
“I wasn’t aware you were expecting a visitor,” I said, putting away my pen and notes as Holmes went about the room gathering loose items and relocating them; his ministrations seemed only to add to the general disarray of the room.
“I assure you, dear fellow, I was not, though I should be very glad for the diversion of a new case.”
“But Holmes, if you were not expecting anyone, then how do you know we have—.”
I was interrupted by one imperious finger, raised for silence. “He has been standing on the street outside our doorway for many minutes now, as if debating with himself if he should make assay. I surmise he needs help but was unsure of involving me. He has apparently resolved himself, and thus we have a case. As for his nationality, I observed him paying his cab with the tell-tale greenback currency of the United States.”
I stood as the knock came upon the door. Mrs. Hudson entered while an anxious-looking young man lingered in the archway behind her.
“A Mr. Julian Eldridge to see you, Mr. Holmes,” she announced, unable to help herself from glancing backwards at the rain dripping off the new arrival to pool on the floorboards. “From the United States.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Hudson,” Holmes said, crisply.
The landlady stood aside to allow the young man to enter, and pulled the door closed behind her.
“You are Sherlock Holmes?” asked the young man in a soft and tentative voice. His hands were clasped in front on him, on the handle of his umbrella, working nervously on the polished wood. “The famous consulting detective?”
“I make every claim to be a consulting detective,” Holmes inclined his head. “However if my fame has spread to America, for that you must thank my friend and colleague, Dr. Watson.”
I stepped forward to shake the young man’s hand. He had a weak and clammy grip, and I saw that his frame was slight, his features plain and unremarkable. Watery eyes peered at me from behind thick spectacles, and when I offered him a brandy to shake off the chill, he averred, running a pale hand through his thin brown hair.
“I had— have, I mean — a friend who used to send me issues of English magazines, in which, among many other items of interest, your adventures were serialized.”
Holmes grunted in amusement. “Items of much greater interest, no doubt, to find their way across the ocean to Massachusetts. The Miskatonic River Valley region, to be more precise.”
“Why, yes,” the young man was taken aback by my friend’s observation, which had, as always, hit the mark. “But how could you know that?”
Holmes only smiled and went to the mantle, pulling a pack of tobacco from a slipper he kept for just such a purpose.
“Your accent,” I explained, leading our guest to the settee, where he sat as Holmes patted down his smoking jacket for his pipe. “A few years ago, Holmes had occasion to make a study of various dialects of the northeastern United States. He has a keen ear.”
“I see,” said the young man, perched on the edge of his seat, his umbrella held tightly in his lap. “That is to say, I have read of your deductive prowess, though I never dreamed to see a demonstration for myself.”
Peering at our guest through the haze of smoke that enveloped his head, Holmes went on, not finished with his observation. “More specifically, you come from the town of Arkham. You come from a good family, not a wealthy one, but you are college-educated. You are a librarian, perhaps, or a clerk. Whatever brings you to England, it is not business. You are concerned for a friend. A young lady.”
Julian Eldridge could not keep the bewilderment from his face.
I, of course, had seen Holmes do this a thousand times, but to the uninitiated, it seemed miraculous. Indeed, most times I was altogether amazed myself at my friend’s deductive powers.
“Your clothes are clean and neat, though not elegant and patched in places because you cannot afford to throw them away, which is a hallmark of a good upbringing. The umbrella you carry is of a fine and expensive design, however, an unlikely item upon which to splurge, so it must be an heirloom. You are well-spoken, with excellent diction and pronunciation and curious enough to read magazines from another country. It is reasonable to assume that means you have been to college. The foremost institution in that area is Miskatonic University, which is in Arkham, and as your situation makes it unlikely you have the means to matriculate elsewhere, you must be local. You wear no cologne, however I detect from you the not unpleasant odor of paper, of old books and ink which I have most often associated with librarians or clerks. As for you being in England, well that is the most obvious deduction of all. What do you say, Watson?”
The stunned Mr. Eldridge followed Holmes gaze to me. I blinked, cleared my throat and said, “Yes, quite. A man of modest means like our Mr. Eldridge could perhaps have no pressing business dealings across the Atlantic, so it must be a matter of a more personal nature. And what else would bring a young man halfway across the globe but a woman? The friend who sent you the magazines, I daresay.”
“Just so, Watson.” Holmes bit down on the stem of his pipe and turned back to our astonished guest, waiting.
Julian Eldridge collected himself, looking from me back to Holmes. “I am a shopkeeper,” he told us after a moment’s hesitation.
Holmes frowned, taking the pipe from his mouth. “What sort of shop?”
“A book shop, actually. And some antiques. It’s been in my family for years.”
“Ha!” Holmes exclaimed.
“Everything else is as you said.” The young man finished in a voice so quiet I had to cock my head to hear him. “I can see I’ve come to the right place. I hope you will pardon this unlooked-for intrusion, but I fear I’ve run out of places to turn.”
“Not at all, young man,” Holmes waved away the suggestion of imposition and took a seat in his overstuffed armchair. “Watson and I were only a few minutes ago lamenting our idle hours. Be so kind as to tell me of the dire straits of your young lady.”
As Julian Eldridge began to talk, his hands still twisting the wood handle of his umbrella, Holmes leaned back in his chair, his eyes almost closing. To the untutored eye, he almost looked asleep, but I knew he was turning all the prodigious powers of his attention on young Mr. Eldridge.
“Her name is Miss Desdemona Moncrief, of Morwick. She is the sister of the 13th Baronet Evenham. Though we have only met twice, many years apart, she is my oldest friends and very dear to me. Something terrible has befallen her, and I hardly know how to explain it to you.”
“Then start at the beginning, sir,” I encouraged him and took my seat in the basket chair, settling in for his story.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
David: Mainly, finding the time to do it! Whoever coined the term “banker’s hours” never worked in banking, I can assure you. After a sixty hour work week, the weekend is mostly for catch-up, social engagements, family time, etc. I have to steal the odd hour here and there to write.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
David: I have many favorites, but one that I could come back to time and again is Tolkien. Perhaps it’s a nostalgia thing, but the prose is so vivid, and there is always something new to find with each re-reading.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
David: The only advice that ever worked for me was: read a lot, write a lot. And don’t write for publication, write for the fun. Love what you do, and others will, too.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
David: Well, I don’t have any yet (outside my wife)— but hypothetical readers: Thank you!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
David: Jedi Knight.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?
David: No blog or website.