Interview with Ann Lewis

Meet Ann Lewis — President of the Catholic Writers Guild and author of the new Sherlock Holmes book Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.

First of all Ann, congratulations on your new book, Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. what attracted you so much to the Sherlock Holmes characters and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the first place?

I started reading mysteries in high school to keep myself distracted from the drama of high school life (ugh). I read through all my mother’s Agatha Christie’s. Then my mother suggested I read The Hound of the Baskervilles… and the character of Holmes was so engaging that I could not put the book down.

What fascinated me about him was how different he was–his ability to observe little things and make conclusions from them, his obvious flaws and off-beat personality. I hadn’t seen anything like him – and practically ever other detective character was a modified version of him, including those I’d already read. He was so unique and Doyle’s ability to create vivid pictures of his settings and situations, I was hooked.

And what specifically inspired you to integrate a catholic setting and catholic story with non-catholic characters?

My stories were inspired by references made in the original Holmes canon of tales. It was Doyle who referenced Holmes’ service to the pope in two instances, and yet he never told us what happened. Being Catholic, I was curious what Holmes would think of the pope of his time, Leo XIII, and I wanted to tell that tale. I thought it would be great to challenge the modern (erroneous) idea that the Church is opposed to science, and that faith and reason cannot co-exist (they can and must!). Of course, I had to find a natural way to demonstrate this, and I think in that regard the stories succeeded.

We also understand you’re collaborating on a book entitled Roman which, as your website describes it, “tells the true story of an 1840s priest in southern Indiana accused of assaulting a woman in a confessional.”  How did you come across this story, and what compelled you to become involved with it?

It’s a complicated situation, really, and one I can’t get into in much detail because contracts have not been signed, etc. But I can say that Deacon John McMullen from Evansville, Indiana wrote the book first and self-published it, sending a copy to a Catholic publisher to see if they might want to pick it up. Their submissions editor felt the story was compelling, but thought it needed a more “blockbuster” treatment. Deacon John agreed to let another author have a try at reworking it with his input. I was the author the editor asked to try it out …and so I’m doing my best to give her what she is looking for.

You’ve stated that earlier in your career you wrote short comics and stories for DC comics. We’re such big fans of your other works–where can we get a hold of these?

I’m afraid most are out of print (it was the mid-90s), but I do have most of the stories available in PDF. I can send them to anyone who asks via email. Just drop me a line! (I’m afraid to publicly post copyrighted material…I worked at DC and their legal office can be a bit tenacious…)

You’re also the president of the Catholic Writers Guild, a group dedicated to fostering a vibrant and high-quality Catholic literary culture.  Mycatholicblog thinks it’s such a great idea that one does not need to be published to join–Catholic writers on any level can be a part of the organization!  Why was this an important stipulation for you to include?

We want to be an organization that nurtures our fellow Catholics to not be afraid  to use their faith in their writing. We hope to encourage and educate new writers to get published and be successful. In a way, we patterned ourselves on how Romance Writers of America (RWA) operates – they allow unpublished writers to join as well, and spend a majority of their efforts in educating writers, giving them opportunities to meet with real professionals, editors, agents, who can increase their opportunities to sell their work. RWA also has  contests (we do too, now!). The romance genre is the largest selling genre, partly because of their efforts.

Learning from them and other organizations like them, we realized the more we cultivate the talents of faithful Catholics, the more our kind of literature will be made available in the public square. We want to really compete in the world of ideas. It is time the voice of faithful Catholics are heard.

On a slight deviation from your career’s work, mycatholicblog understands you to be an avid art history fan.  Is there a particular style of art or artist that you favor?

I love the art of the Renaissance – Michelangelo especially. I studied in Florence when I was in college. I was fascinated how art developed through that period. My favorite art form, though, is impressionism – with the exception of Van Gogh. I’m not a big fan of his work (though I can admire what he was trying to do). My favorite painter, I think, is Renoir.
And finally, what can we expect next from Ann Margaret Lewis?

I have one more finished book centered in the Holmes universe – it’s about Watson really. We’ll see if that can sell (let us pray!). It is a little different in that it is a collection of stories that are more drama than mystery, though mysteries do occur throughout. I also want to create my own mystery series – so hopefully we’ll see if that can materialize as well.

Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed on your blog. Its great fun.

Thank you, Ann!