Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 38
Another piece of the puzzleSanta Maria author Farah Shaw releases the fourth book in her kids' mystery series 'Sherlock Academy'
BY JOE PAYNE
While fictional heroes tend to possess extraordinary powers due to radioactive spider bites, coming from another planet, or receiving an alien ring, some get by solely on the power of their brains. Local author Farah Shaw found inspiration for her series Sherlock Academy in the classic Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle due to Holmes’ unique ability.
“I really love Sherlock Holmes and wanted to introduce him to a younger audience,” she said. “I also wanted to write a mystery series where the hero, in this case a 10-year-old boy, is a hero because he uses his own mind and logic.”
Shaw self-published her first novel, Sherlock Academy, in 2010. The book focused on the main character Rollie, who’s invited to attend the academy at 221 Baker Street in London. The boy learns the art of deduction and investigation from his eccentric teachers, meets his new best friend Cecily, and it isn’t long before he uncovers a plot against the school itself.
“After I wrote the first one, I felt I could really turn this into a series,” Shaw said.
After Sherlock Academy came Sherlock Academy: Watson’s Case and Sherlock Academy: The Holmes Brigade. Each story, Shaw explained, involves a mystery to be solved that also sheds light on the overarching mystery behind the entire series.
“Rollie kind of grows and develops in each book,” she explained, “starting as a wide-eyed kid and then growing as a detective. His dream is to be a great detective like Sherlock Holmes.”
The latest addition to the series is Sherlock Academy: The Baker Street Underground. Shaw released the book recently at the Toy Zoo in Santa Maria. The Nov. 17 event featured activities for young fans and their parents, including a scavenger hunt and a decoder ring station. Shaw was on hand to talk with her readers, which included youngsters and their parents, while she signed copies of her books.
“I enjoy author events because I get to talk to kids,” she said. “I have some kids who write in after an event and say, ‘I’m working on my stories now’ and ‘you gave me great ideas.’”
Shaw is also an elementary-level educator, though she’s taken a recent hiatus from teaching to have her first child with her husband. She still delivers presentations about her books to school assemblies where she also engages the kids and their own sense of creativity.
“I have always loved working with kids and have always wanted to pursue elementary education,” she said. “Their imagination is so ripe; being able to inspire their imagination through these books is something that I love to do.”
Though she just released the fourth book in her series, Shaw is already getting started on the fifth—and final—installment of Sherlock Academy.
“I just started writing the last book of the series,” she said, “and I’m wondering what I’m going to do with myself after that.”
It usually takes Shaw about a year to write one of her books, she explained. Now, with the responsibility of full-time motherhood, she mostly gets time to write during her son’s naps.
“Motherhood has made me much more focused in my habits,” she said. “I do hope to turn out each book within a year or so.”
In finishing her series, Shaw explained, she has to be careful in connecting everything from the previous books.
“A mystery is tricky; it’s kind of like a puzzle,” she said. “You have all these pieces, and then at the end you need to have them all fit together.”
Inspired by the master of puzzle solvers, Sherlock Holmes, Shaw hopes kids are prompted by her books to use their minds and maybe write their own stories.
“I like the idea of bringing back a classic story and [reintroducing] Sherlock Holmes to a new generation and bringing back classic storytelling with lots of imagination and whimsy,” she said, “but still having the main character grounded in some kind of reality.”
Shaw’s books are available online at sherlockacademy.com. The full collection is also available to buy at the Toy Zoo in Santa Maria.
Arts Editor Joe Payne thinks writing is anything but elementary. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.