Friday, February 12, 2021

Charles Veley & Anna Elliott Interview - Watson on the Orient Express

Photo Content from Charles and Anna

Charles Veley has loved Sherlock Holmes since boyhood. As a father, he read the entire canon to his then-ten-year-old daughter at evening story time. Now this very same daughter, grown up to become acclaimed historical novelist Anna Elliott, has worked with him to develop new adventures in the Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery Series!

Charles is also a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, and wrote The Pirates of Finance, a new musical in the G&S tradition that won an award at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2013. Other than the Sherlock & Lucy series, all of the books on his Amazon Author Page were written when he was a full-time author during the late Seventies and early Eighties.

He currently consults for United Technologies Corporation, where his main focus is on creating sustainability and value for the company’s large real estate development projects.


What inspired you to pen the first Sherlock Holmes & Lucy James novel?
They say you ought to write what you love, because writing is hard work and you’ll be spending a lot of your time with your characters and situations. Well, both Anna and I love Sherlock Holmes stories. Also, we wanted to contribute to that wonderful tradition. And Holmes is so familiar to us both that it’s a joy imagining what he’d do when faced with a particular problem. We began The Last Moriarty after Holmes had returned from Reichenbach, but wasn’t yet known to have returned, other than by a very few highly-placed people. Our “differentiator” – what would set these stories apart from the many Holmes re-creations – was that Holmes would discover a hitherto-unknown daughter, and that this would happen simultaneously with his having to vanquish a successor to Moriarty, his most famous and powerful adversary. At first we wondered how readers would respond to our bringing a daughter into Holmes’s life, but the overwhelming majority of reviews are enthusiastic supporters of the idea.

Tell us your latest news.
After releasing Watson on the Orient Express and developing a companion homeschool guide for it in April 2020, we completed five short stories -- “Kidnapped at the Tower,” “Five Pink Ladies,” “The Solitary Witness,” “The Body in the Bookseller’s” and “The Curse of Cleopatra’s Needle” – and have just released a new full-length novel, The Coded Blue Envelope. Our very, very latest, a full-length sequel titled Christmas on the Nile, is now available on pre-order for December 24. It’s the ‘season finale’ for this year. As we continue with the series, Anna and I are exploring the roots of Holmes’s passions for justice and crime-solving—a very compelling tale indeed.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Conan Doyle, of course, as the origin of Holmes, must be given all credit as the Great Influencer. While our writing styles – both of Watson and Lucy – may be a bit more suited for the modern reader than the Victorian, we’re passionately devoted to the spirit and values found in the Holmes Canon. We will always sustain the series as a fresh, faithful reimagining of the great detective and his brave, brilliant daughter, Lucy James.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since releasing the Sherlock Holmes & Lucy James series.
We’re especially happy to have fans write us and ask for “more stories, please, as soon as possible!”

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing Watson on the Orient Express?
There’s a lot of history around the Orient Express and the political situation of the time, and the temptation is always to go further down the research rabbit hole, particularly with such a famous setting. But the story really is about the characters and what they do, so at some point we put down the historical sources and the characters take over.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your books?
When they’re reading, we hope they’ll just be carried along by the adventure, maybe wondering who the real villain is, and how the heck will the good guys get themselves out of the danger they’re in? Afterwards, however, we hope they’ll experience an echo of the larger themes: loyalty, justice, good & evil, and human relationships.

Your new book; The Coded Blue Envelope: can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
A secret code. A ruthless gang of thugs. And an old adversary with a deadly new vendetta . . .

Milan,1899—A desperate musical colleague smuggles an envelope to Zoe, Lucy's mother, begging her to deliver it to Sherlock Holmes. When her colleague is killed, Zoe must act quickly to avoid the same fate. She flees to London, only to find she’s been followed by Black Hand thugs determined to retrieve the envelope’s contents—a code which Holmes must decipher.

With Lucy's help, two of the thugs are arrested, but set free with the help of a prominent barrister and patron of the London Orchestra. When Zoe, Holmes, and the Baker Street team dig deeper to find who is behind the barrister’s shady dealings, an old foe resurfaces—with a score to settle.

Refusing to live in fear, Zoe determines to face the enemy. Against Holmes’s objections, she poses as an orchestral candidate, hoping to gain information on the barrister and his felonious benefactor. Meanwhile, Sherlock attempts to break the code and thwart his foe’s plan—a feat made all the more difficult with the thugs hot on his heels and anticipating his every move.

The enemy is preparing a fatal strike against Holmes, and he’s headed straight for a showdown with the Black Hand thugs. Will the Baker Street team be sharp enough to beat back the thugs, bring a dastardly evildoer to justice, and keep Zoe safe? Or will all their efforts fall flat?

The story arc concludes in Christmas on the Nile, with Sherlock and Lucy traveling to Egypt to rescue Zoe and prevent an international disaster.

A fun and fast-paced take on a classic Sherlock who-done-it, complete with thrilling twists, hairpin turns, and an ending that will keep readers guessing to the very last page. The Coded Blue Envelope and Christmas on the Nile are a two-part ‘season two finale’ that stays faithful to the spirit of the original series, but offers new characters and a fresh take on the beloved classics.

What part of Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and/or Lucy James do you enjoy writing the most?
We especially enjoy showing how these three major characters relate to each other.

Watson is the steadying force, the rock, the friend and companion for both Holmes and Lucy. Watson chronicles the parts of the story he sees, as he did in the original tales. He also pitches in with the investigative duties where needed, and even when he hasn’t been asked. Of course, he’s always been a good man to have at your side when faced with danger--this holds true in our stories as well. Our Watson, however, shows his human side just a bit more than the canonical figure. He’s challenged when his relationship with Holmes is rocked by the entrance of Lucy into Holmes’s life, and since his wife Mary passed away, he’s feeling the need for relationships even more. Still, he has the satisfaction of always being a key player in the battles Sherlock and Lucy are waging with the evildoers.

Lucy understands that Holmes and Watson each needs his own space – just as she needs hers. Each of them has their own life to lead. Lucy has strong emotional relationships to people – her husband, to name but one person – and in some ways she feels regret that Holmes won’t have many of the satisfactions that come with the life of the heart. But she respects his long-ago choice to pursue his profession with such intensity. She has a unique understanding of Holmes based on what she’s learned about him from her mother.

Sherlock has a deep and abiding respect for Lucy, and vice versa. Of course, she’s admired him ever since she read Watson’s accounts of his adventures when she was an American schoolgirl. In our stories, the two are not competing and the conflict is never the sort you would find in a ‘buddy’ movie. Our Sherlock and Lucy each go to different places and investigate different parts of the central problem. Then they exchange thoughts and draw their own conclusions. Generally, Holmes takes the role of cautious parent when advising Lucy -- but he doesn’t always get his way. And they save each other’s life again and again. Towards the end of the first book there’s this exchange of dialogue, after Lucy saves Holmes in a gunfight and learns whose daughter she really is:

Holmes said quietly, “Lucy, I owe you my life.”

“Well, now I know I owe you my life,” said Lucy, her eyes shining. “So I guess we’re even.”

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Flynn, one of Holmes’s Irregulars, has a bit of an attitude. I would love to introduce him to Shakespeare’s Falstaff and P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster so that the three could have adventures together (with Bertie footing the bill, of course).

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
Kaiser Wilhelm, who figures in a number of our stories, had a long-standing and deeply antagonistic relationship with the Prince of Wales. Even at the Prince's wedding, the four-year-old Wilhelm refused to be quiet during the ceremony, biting one of his British relations on the leg and throwing his toy dagger into the cathedral aisle.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I wouldn’t go anywhere. I’ve read Stephen King’s November 22, 1963, a trip back in time that didn’t end well. So I would stay put and be happy where I am!

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say?
Mine would say, “Oh, golly, oh, gee. Where has the day gone? Guess there’s no time for a journal entry today. Maybe tomorrow.”

What event in your life would make a good movie?
I did go to the original Woodstock. But they already made a movie out of that, and I expect I wouldn’t be happy if my image were to be identified in one of the crowd scenes!

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
My best memories as a writer keep coming – they’re those moments when I look at my emails and see that Anna’s sent a new installment. It’s like Christmas morning.

A pernicious assassination plot. A devious decoy. And a transcontinental race against time to catch a killer . . .

London, 1898. Held captive by a diabolical criminal mastermind and his gang of thugs, Watson overhears an assassination plot that not only endangers the life of Sherlock Holmes, but threatens to ignite a war. If he has any hope of foiling his kidnappers’ nefarious plans, he must escape, and quickly.

Eluding the familiar foe proves challenging, however. Watson is soon caught and awakens in jail, the prime suspect for two murders, dressed in the clothes of a missing man, one Lord Harwell. To save himself and prevent the assassination, Watson embarks on a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that leads him on a harrowing journey to Constantinople aboard the famed Orient Express.

Meanwhile, Sherlock and Lucy have been called upon to discern the whereabouts of the missing Lord Harwell. The stakes become much higher when Holmes discovers the missing man has ties to an important diplomatic negotiation in Constantinople. Just as he is pulled deeper into the investigation, Holmes receives a distressing telegram from Watson himself. He and Lucy quickly board the next outgoing Orient Express in hopes of rescuing Watson and preventing a gruesome act that could very well lead the nation to war.

Success seems uncertain as the enemy looks to thwart their heroic efforts at every turn, and Watson, Holmes and Lucy become targets in an ever-more-sinister plan. Will three intrepid detectives stop the assassination and put its mastermind away for good? Or will it all be too little, too late?

You can purchase Watson on the Orient Express at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CHARLES AND ANNA for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Watson on the Orient Express by Charles Veley & Anna Elliott.


  1. "First train ride?" Probably some scenic tourist train ride on a trip out west when I was little.

  2. We only have skytrains, not express ones, so can't really say.