A Letter to 1976 by Stuart Douglas, author of The Counterfeit Detective


If, like me, you’ve read all the Sherlock Holmes stories and loved the television series with Benedict Cumberbatch, you might just be needing the latest novel from Stuart Douglas – The Counterfeit Detective. The Counterfeit Detective was published by Titan on 18th October 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback from all good booksellers, including here.

Today, Stuart looks back to his younger self and writes a letter encouraging himself to be a writer. There’s great advice for all aspiring authors in his words as NaNoWriMo starts today.

The Counterfeit Detective


An anonymous letter brings strange news to Baker Street; there is an impostor Sherlock Holmes at work in New York City, solving cases and taking society by storm. The real Sherlock Holmes wastes no time in crossing the Atlantic to confront the charlatan. But he and Watson find more than they bargained for: the counterfeit Sherlock is missing, his landlady has been horribly murdered, and his clients are refusing to reveal their secrets…

A Letter to 1976

A Guest Post by Stuart Douglas

Dear Stuart,

The bad news first. Everyone who said that drawing maps of imaginary kingdoms and then writing their fictitious histories was never going to earn you a living was right.  You will never get a publishing deal for ‘Captain Douglas in the Land of the Six Headed Xenomorphs‘.

That said, they were wrong when they said that mattered. It doesn’t. Even now, forty years later, I can still remember the joy you – I – felt in completing a story of my own.  Scribbled in the back of last year’s school exercise books, with full colour crayon illustrations (and, usually, a guest appearance by Doctor Who!), those first faltering attempts to create something of your own are something I – you – treasure even now. Publication is one form of validation, but there’s something to be said for just writing what you want, purely for yourself.

But assuming you want more people than just your mum to read your stories, those few pages would still be valuable work.

Because, cliche though it is, the trick to writing is to write. All the time. About anything and everything. Be brash and full of confidence, because no fiction you write can ever be wrong.  Sure, write about wizards and spaceships, because I know you love that stuff (and still will by the time the next millennium comes around), but also write about romances and battles and members of your family, and talking animals and haunted woods and secret alliances. Write about the city and the country, the real and the unreal, the fantastic and the plain ordinary.

And read too. Mustn’t forget that. Read all these things as well, and find writers whose words you love. Because if you don’t love words and the ways other people use them, how can you hope to convince readers to love yours?

Most of all, make writing a pleasure. If it becomes a chore, stop writing and go and do something else instead. That’s maybe the most important thing to remember.

See you in forty years’ time,


PS By 2016 we have this thing called the internet which, in terms you’ll understand, is a sort of giant Teletext encyclopaedia which you can access with the press of a single button – only one where most of the content is either wrong or creepy. You’ll definitely want to be switching that off whenever you’re writing. It can be a little bit distracting.

About Stuart Douglas

Stuart Douglas is the author of numerous short stories and novellas, and has edited several anthologies. He set up Obverse Books in 2009, a small press imprint. He contributed a story to Titan’s Encounters of Sherlock Holmes in 2013, and is the Features Editor of the British Fantasy Society journal. He lives in Edinburgh.

You can follow Stuart on Twitter.

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