Your name: Bonnie MacBird
Tell us about yourself: Born in San Francisco at a time when women wore gloves and hats to the city, and the world was giddily optimistic with peacetime and television and space travel. I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes at age ten and read the entire canon. In fourth grade, we were asked to write a short story and something in mine alarmed the principal. She summoned my mother, an artist with a sense of humour, to her office. The next day, I brought in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and showed my teacher that “ejaculate” did not mean what she’d thought. To this day I love Sherlock Holmes, mysteries, and a good laugh. I have degrees in music and film from Stanford and I’ve spent years in Hollywood as a story editor, screenwriter (TRON among others), playwright, producer (three Emmys for documentary work) and classical theatre actor. I live in Los Angeles where I write, direct plays, run a Sherlock Holmes Meetup, and teach screenwriting at UCLA Extension. But I spend as many months of the year as I can in London, the city of my heart.
Tell us about your latest book: ART IN THE BLOOD A Sherlock Holmes Adventure is a Conan Doyle-style Victorian adventure set in 1888 when Holmes and Watson were young, in their thirties. A beautiful French singer’s son has disappeared and her own life threatened. At the same time, a priceless Nike statue has disappeared in a violent, bloody theft. All the clues point to a single, untouchable man. Sherlock Holmes must deal with his addictions as well as a rival detective, as he and Watson travel from London to Paris to the snowy wilds of Lancashire in a case which tests Holmes’ artistic nature and his friendship with Watson to the limits.
When did you start writing? I wrote stories and plays since childhood, then after university, my first career job was story editor at Universal Studios for feature films. Sold my first script which became the movie Tron, and in doing so was the first writer to ever compose a script on a computer (the Alto at Xerox Parc!) then sold several other screenplays, then wrote two musicals and seven plays. I started writing ART IN THE BLOOD after recovering from a life threatening illness. I said to myself, hey, you dodged a bullet! What do you really want to do? The answer came: Write a novel and spend some time in the company of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. I sat down and did a first draft in 30 days by doing a private NaNoWriMo. Then rewrote, researched, rewrote some more and ART IN THE BLOOD is the result.
Where do you write? At home, in restaurants, at hotels, and at libraries. I can write anywhere. I rewrote my final draft of ART IN THE BLOOD in a hotel room overlooking Baker Street in London. My favourite place to write is The British Library – in the atrium, with the tower of the King’s Library ten feet away, and a good pastry in hand. I feel like I am at the centre of the civilized world– with chocolate.
Which other authors do you admire? Arthur Conan Doyle above all other mystery/adventure writers, but also Robert Parker, Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Wilkie Collins, P.D. James, Michael Connolly, Lisa Scottoline, Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, Ian Rankin, M.C. Beaton, Sue Grafton, Thomas Harris, Len Deighton, Gyles Brandreth, Lisa Scottoline, Agatha Christie, and in other realms Dickens, George Eliot, Jules Verne, J.R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Robert Heinlein, Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Dorothy Parker, P.G. Wodehouse, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, William Goldman, Shakespeare, Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, Jessica Swale, Alan Bennett, Terence Rattigan, Julian Barnes, Richard Feynman, Michael Dirda, Betty Edwards, Steven Pinker, and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi…and this is the tip of the iceberg.
Book you wished you’d written? The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The Princess Bride, I can’t just say one. Even three was hard.
Greatest fictional criminal: Hannibal Lecter, hands down. I love smart characters. And…“When a doctor does go wrong, he is the first of criminals. He has nerve, and he has knowledge,” said Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
Greatest crime or criminal from the real world: Eugène Vidocq intrigues me. He was a conflicted genius, and waffled between being on the side of the angels (he founded the Sûreté and instituted some of the forensic techniques that are still used today) but he was also a thief, forger and murderer. A very complicated genius with a steak of violence, ambiguous morals, and more than a touch of the con artist in him.
What scares you? The things that scare Sherlock Holmes, which is one of many reasons I love him. Those things are more on the mental, rather than the physical plane. In my real life, I have jumped onto a moving train, met a gorilla close up, punched a peeping Tom… and do public speaking regularly. But I greatly fear boredom, of not being challenged, of not having a way to practice my art, of being locked up, constrained, or limited.
Are you ever disturbed by your own imagination? No. My imagination is my biggest gift and I am never unaware of the division between the real and the imagined. We all have a dark side. I like putting mine into my art and then having my inner detective bring this clever fiend to justice. It’s very satisfying. Bwa ha ha.
3 crime books you would recommend to EVERYONE:
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
- Can I have more? Any of Robert Parker’s early Spenser books.
Do you listen to music when you write? No, it distracts me. But I listen to movie soundtracks while I run first thing in the morning to get pumped for writing. I sometimes unwind with Baroque instrumental music, and dance embarrassingly to classic rock and roll when I need a boost. What I do use when I write is a timer. I write for short, intense sessions broken up by timed, short rest breaks. That’s apparently the way the British army managed to cover miles and miles without fatigue.
Are you on social media? Yes, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked In, and I blog as The Professional Enthusiast.