My mother read out loud to my brother and I when we were kids. We read a lot of books over the years, including Just So Stories and The Flame Trees of Thika. But I think the most influential books that my mother poured into my brain were The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Complete Sherlock Holmes.
The first two have an obvious influence, and on anyone that has ever written fantasy, whether you like the books or not. I've wanted to somehow touch that level of epic storytelling ever since I heard the description of the Battle of Helm's Deep. (Though from my end of things, by preference there would be a lot more women with swords and maybe a little less detail in descriptions of how pretty the forests are.) I wrote stories from a very early age, and there was that fantasy element in them from almost the get-go.
Sherlock Holmes was a different matter entirely. I loved all the short mystery stories, but it didn't infect my brain quite the same way. I didn't have much of a desire to write mysteries. Honestly, outside of Sherlock, I have little interest in the genre. But the world of stinking London streets and hansom cabs lurked in the back of my mind, just waiting for its chance.
There's a sector of people out there that didn't appreciate the steampunk-ish update that Sherlock Holmes received in the 2009 and 2011 movies starring Robert Downey Jr. as the title character. I loved it. Relished it. That twist to the setting and the addition of sudden, grinning and winking mayhem felt like Holmes had just been waiting for steampunk to be invented. It may be because to a little girl sitting on the couch in 1980s Denver, the 1890s in London felt just as far off and fantastical as the idea of zeppelins floating over the Rocky Mountains in some nebulous, quasi-Victorian era.
At their heart, the Sherlock Holmes stories are about adventure and being intellectual simultaneously, solving problems with an inventive mind first and a well-placed bullet only when that fails. Perhaps that is what makes Sherlock Holmes do so well in the speculative fiction family (just look at the spec fic stories that have been written about him, such as Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald) - he's all about thought and adventure. It feels natural to take that adventure and extend it into the 'what if' while maintaining that emphasis on the intellect.
There's a rabid curiosity fundamental to Sherlock Holmes as a character that also exists in every steampunk story that I've ever read and enjoyed. As a subgenre, Steampunk takes something very real - Victorian culture and steam - and goes on an adventure into a realm of big ideas where the first and greatest weapon is an inventive mind. That's what attracted me to the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when I was young, and what has fueled my enthusiasm for steampunk in recent years.
I thought about Sherlock Holmes often as I was writing my own story. I can't make claims one way or the other how much he helped me out, but I like to think there was a knowing smirk or two.