Poet and young adult novelist is on the trail of Sherlock Holmes

Graduate Student Spotlight: Brittany Cavallaro

Brittany Cavallaro

PhD student in Creative Writing

Update: Congratulations, Brittany! She is now an Instructor of Creative Writing at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Dissertation: Unhistorical

My poetry manuscript and creative dissertation, Unhistorical, combines transformative writing, historical narratives, and detective fiction to tell the story of a contemporary romantic relationship that begins in Scotland and falls apart in America, as the narrator finds herself in the role of spectator to her partner’s genius. Many of these poems are written in the elegiac mode, following a speaker who is, as turns, tourist and historian. These poems bookend the manuscript, while a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery is at the manuscript’s center I wanted to tell a mystery story through diary entries and monologue, obscuring the actual whodunit in order to foreground the emotional relationship between detective and detective’s assistant—that is to say, again, genius and spectator. In the bookending sections, I pull antiquated language from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories to underscore the emotional parallels between this relationship and the Holmes and Watson narrative. As a whole, the poems in Unhistorical are interested in inheritance and expectation.

In addition to my poetic work, I’m the author of the Charlotte Holmes series of young adult novels for Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins. The first of these, A Study in Charlotte, was released in early 2016, with sequels to follow in 2017 and 2018. These young adult novels reimagine Sherlock Holmes as a brilliant, flawed teenage girl at a boarding school. Along with her best friend Jamie Watson, Charlotte is framed for the murder of her rapist. Like Unhistorical, A Study in Charlotte is interested in ideas of inheritance and expectation: here, those expectations are family ones, as Charlotte and Jamie are the great-great-grandchildren of the original Holmes and Watson. In many ways Unhistorical and the Charlotte Holmes books feel like two sides of the same project, albeit for different audiences.