Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pastiche Please

By Lisa Karon Richardson

The poet once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And lately I have been seeing more and more very sincere literary flattery on bookstore shelves.


a literary, musical, or artistic piece consisting wholly or chiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources.

In the literary realm a pastiche typically means taking a beloved character and setting, and giving them new adventures. For example with Jane Austen’s recently reinvigorated popularity there has been a surge over the past couple years of new stories wherein her characters go on to get married, solve mysteries, and even upon occasion fight zombies and sea monsters.

Sherlock Holmes is another character who has had numerous pastiches created to extend his life. There are the direct ones that simply give the great detective new stories to solve, and there are the ones where Holmes is merely a bit player, like Carole Nelson Douglas’s wonderful Irene Adler series. There is even a cozy mystery series featuring Mrs. Hudson as the detective. Even I have been working on a Homes pastiche wherein the mystery is solved by Dr. Watson’s brilliant and talented second wife. And I totally call dibs on the idea!

I personally love reading new stories involving my favorite characters. But some are more successful than others. Have you read any pastiches you’d recommend? Do you like this little subgenre? Why or Why not?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in October, 2012 followed shortly thereafter by The Magistrate’s Folly in November.


  1. Generally, I highly dislike these kinds of books. Maybe I'm a purist.

  2. Hey Laurie Alice, I can see that they might not be everyone's cup of tea. What in particular do you dislike? Is it that another author's handling muddies the characters for you? They aren't necessarily the same people when they've been wrung through the filter of another person's mind.

  3. I haven't read any yet, Lisa, I don't think. But I think it's a fun idea. I have the book called The Sherlockian, but I haven't read it yet - I'm not sure if it fits this category - but I am looking forward to reading it. How does that work as far as copyright goes? Do you then pay royalties to their original creator's estate? Or has so much time passed that they're fair game?

    I think it would be fun to continue the mystery solving adventures of Hercule Poirot.

    I know someone wrote a series of books with Nellie Bly as the protagonist,which I would also dearly love to do (!), and there was a protest from her descendants, but the books were published anyway. I haven't read the, just read about them.

    Fun fiction subject, Lisa.

  4. Oh, btw, I know this sounds kind of silly coming from a writer, but I'd never heard the word pastiche before.

  5. I just finished The Sherlockian, Suzie and really enjoyed it! It's not a pastiche, because it doesn't use the characters or settings from the originals. It's got two intertwining tales. The first about a Sherlock fan and the mystery he solves. And the second using the "real-life" Arthur Conan Doyle who also solves a mystery. But since ACD was not a character in his own stories, it's still not a pastiche.

  6. I follow a blog called Austenprose, and although I have never read any of the books mentioned (and that's quite a few) I can confirm it is a boom market. What about all the StarTrek fan fiction over the last 40 yrs? Does that qualify?

    Probably the most significant for me was Scarlett, the so called sequel to Gone with the Wind

  7. I've wanted to read Scarlett, but I don't think I've read any of these to date.

  8. I briefly tried reading some of the Jane Austen pastiches. If I really like a book I find it hard to enjoy these. I feel that the authors can sometimes try too hard to take on the previous author's voice to the detriment of the book.

  9. Deb, Scarlett is a great example. And of course there are die hard fans that come down on the side of both loving and hating the result.

    Fan fic is close and really, I think the only difference is one is pubbed and one isn't.

  10. Hey Julia, Did you just get the sense the author was tying too hard?

  11. Susie Dietze needs to stop in. Shes read a lot more Austenesque stuff. I see so many choices and never know whether to try one.

    I want to say Alexandra Ripley wrote Scarlett. There was a big fuss about it. She had to sign off with the Mitchell estate. I liked it but it had its detractors. I think it would be fun to see more Scarlett pastiches!

    Interesting post Lisa. Thanks for improving my mind (though I still think its a type of pastry)

  12. It certainly sounds as if it ought to be some kind of pastry! By all rights it would be delicious!

  13. Is it just me or does anyone else think of green nuts or green pudding when they see the word, pastiches?

    I have the Jane Austen zombie book but that's because Mary Balogh of Regency fame is one of the ladies I go for coffee with once a month and she's also one of the authors. She gave us each an autographed copy. I'll read it one of these days because I enjoy Mary's books but the zombie part and cover doesn't tickle my fancy.


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