A Study in Chocolate

Amber Royer, author of A Study in Chocolate, a Bean to Bar mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about the Holmes Influence.

Welcome, Amber. I’ll turn the floor over to you

Sherlock Holmes laid the groundwork for a whole genre of fictional detectives.  But this character wasn’t created out of thin air.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was building on the work Edgar Allen Poe put into the first ever fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin.  In A Study in Scarlet, the first novel featuring Holmes, Holmes even mentions Dupin, commenting on Poe’s detective’s methods of observation.  These references to Dupin are repeated in several other stories, all by Holmes, comparing himself and his methods to Dupin’s.  (Though he seems to believe Dupin to be showier and shallower than himself.)

Holmes is probably the character who in turn has been most adapted, riffed on and referenced in the genre.  From the Young Sherlock Holmes to Enola Holmes, people are always eager for new takes on the character.  I am always intrigued when I see something new involving Sherlock Holmes.

Imagine how those two characters – Holmes and Dupin – founded an entire genre.  Genre has always been a conversation, with readers coming to a specific genre for certain tropes and with specific expectations, and writers and publishers looking at what readers have enjoyed and factoring that into their work – or flipping tropes and expectations, commenting on what has been said before, or referencing earlier literature in a way that allows readers to feel like they are part of an in-joke or an in-group. 

Current writers are always going to filter what they’ve enjoyed reading into elements that show up in their own work.  Often, it’s the joy of reading, and the way certain books stick with us over time, that gets us writing in the first place.  I’m not talking about actual copying – which is never okay.  But the use of a certain plot twist, character type, or setting is often influenced by books we ourselves have loved.  I’ve been a writing instructor since 2008, and as I’m getting to know a student’s goals and work, I will often ask what the student’s four favorite books are.  Almost invariably, I can see something about the tone, genre, voice, or other elements that makes it make sense that this student, as this particular type of reader, would turn around and write their particular book.  After all, art in its barest sense is one human being trying to interpret and entire world, and it’s hard to do that from scratch.

Like Doyle, I tend to acknowledge my influences openly, in the pages of my books.  Often, this is filtered through my characters and how they find their lives similar to art.  Or I will have them talking about books or films they enjoyed.  My current release is no different.  The very title A Study in Chocolate is an homage to A Study in Scarlet.  I play on the word Study in the title in two ways – both by having the murder take place in a literal study (in an over-the-top historic house) and having an artist introduce my protagonist Felicity to the art of painting on chocolate.  This makes sense because Felicity is a craft chocolate maker, and I have used each of the Bean to Bar Mysteries to highlight a different aspect of chocolate, from making it to sculpting with it.

I wanted there to be more to the homage than just a cute title, though, so I tried to add in fun in-references, like having a horse-drawn carriage (something I have always seen in the historic areas of Galveston) play a part in the mystery – though obviously not the same way Doyle used it in his story.

There is a quote from Doyle’s work, where Holmes says, “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”  In a riff/homage on this, I have Felicity’s friend who owns a yarn shop as a suspect in A Study in Chocolate.  (Felicity, of course, doesn’t believe her friend could be a killer, which further invests her in solving the crime.) 

But even more directly, I introduce a killer who is a Sherlock Holmes fan.  This person sends Felicity a copy of A Study in Scarlet, and tries to draw her into solving this case of revenge before more bad things happen – despite Felicity protesting that she’s not actually a detective, that she’s always just helped figure out the puzzle because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hope you have as much fun reading all the little references to Holmes – and my other favorite literary detectives – as I did writing them.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Amber, and good luck with A Study in Chocolate, a Bean to Bar mystery.

Readers can learn more about Amber by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, YouTube and Instagram pages. Readers can also follow her on Twitter.

The book is available online at the following retailers:

Amazon – B&N – Kobo 

About Amber Royer: Amber writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing techniques and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.  Chocolate cupcakes, of course.


About Dianne Ascroft

I'm a Canadian writer and author, living in Britain. My first novel, 'Hitler and Mars Bars' was released in March 2008. More information abo
This entry was posted in Archives, January 2023 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Study in Chocolate

  1. dandylyon85 says:

    Thanks for letting me share about some of my influences, and the meta elements in the book. It’s always fun to chat about the writing process.

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