Inspiration from the Queen of Crime
April 13, 2013
The secrets buried inside a good mystery are delicious, delightful, and thrilling. So—as a writer, I continue to take the puzzle apart in order to reconstruct each clue and fit it together again in a way to keep the reader off guard. Have I mastered the concept? No, but I hope I’m getting better at it.
I mix romance and mystery, the unexpected, the surprise you don’t see coming. It’s what I love to read, so naturally, I want to write that way. One thing I don’t want in a book is predictability. Oh, for sure, there are rules, but I like to break them. Will that turn off some readers? Not if they are blessed with a very active imagination.
I grew up reading Agatha Christie, and she is probably responsible for why I love to intertwine a good bit of mystery into my romance novels.
They call her the ‘Queen of Crime’. Did an unconventional education spark the imagination in this icon of mystery? I believe so.
Torquay, England was her birthplace in 1890. Frederick and Clara were her parents. They had two other children. An older sister, Madge and an older brother, Monty.
The unconventional part comes when Agatha’s mother decided only her sister Madge was to receive a formal education, and Agatha would not be taught to read until she reached eight years of age. However, it seemed Agatha had a calling and taught herself to read before the age of five. The remainder of her education subsisted of part-time schooling and French finishing schools.
At age eleven, Agatha and her mother took to travel after her father died. Here is where her love of travel began and the many plots to her stories.
Agatha Christie explained her ideas like this – “Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop… suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.”
I can identify with that, and here is where the pedicure comes in. I was stuck on a section of my mystery, couldn’t put it together. I tried everything. Nothing worked. Today, still stumped, I chunked it all and went to get a pedicure. Can you guess what happened? The idea materialized right in front of me. The shop is in the mall. A distinguished man walked past the open store front, and boom, I had my character. Tweed jacket, graying at the temples, glasses, nervous, glancing around. He fit perfectly for the ‘job’ I needed him to do in my story. It did the trick, and I couldn’t wait to get home and write him in.
Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard, described her as “a person who listened more than she talked, who saw more than she was seen.”
Another quote from historian C.V. Wedgewood – “Her social settings, her characters and her dialogue are always accurately observed. There is no better all-round craftsman in the field.”
It was often the most everyday events and casual observations which triggered a new plot for Agatha. Her second book The Secret Adversary stemmed from a conversation overheard in a tea shop. Murder on the Links was prompted by a newspaper article about a suspicious death in France. A theatre trip to see the actress Ruth Draper led her to write Lord Edgware Dies.
Agatha Christie said: “Nothing turns out quite in the way that you thought it would when you are sketching out notes for the first chapter, or walking about muttering to yourself and seeing a story unroll.”
I’m taking a page from Agatha’s notebook.
Please click the book cover to learn more about Patty Wiseman’s novels on Amazon. Patty can be reached at [email protected], Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and www.pattywiseman.net