Agatha Said, pt. 9

We’re now easing our way into September (a celebration for those of us who love fall; my sympathies to anyone who adores summer), which means it’s time for another Agatha Day! This one is all about how her murder-y writer’s mind worked.

Agatha Said:

“Plots come to me at such odd moments: when I am walking along a street, or examining a hat-shop with particular interest, suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head, and I think, ‘Now that would be a neat way of covering up the crime so that nobody would see the point.’ Of course, all the practical details are still to be worked out, and the people have to creep slowly into my consciousness, but I jot down my splendid idea in an exercise book.”

Context: In this section, Agatha is reflecting on the creation of Miss Marple, her second significant detective hero. She lists various Marple mysteries, along with some of her other books. Then she mentions Peril at End House, acknowledging that it left so little an impression on her that she has no recollection of even writing it. She admits it’s possible she thought of the plot long before she wrote it, which she says is a habit a of hers. That leads into this specific quote.

Why I Chose It: Quite simply, I relate to this quote so much. Sometimes I think I’m fully engaged with what I’m doing—washing dishes, for instance—and the next thing I know, I’ve created a full murder plot centering on a chipped dinner plate.

For creative people, inspiration is everywhere. I never know what will be the spark that will set my imagination ablaze, engulfed in flames of creative ideas. Sometimes it’s remarkably inconvenient. It’s difficult to explain to your dinner companions (back when I used to hang out with people in person) why you’re suddenly staring off in the distance with a sadistic smile. But I’m fortunate to have some incredible friends who know my creative side and happily engage with my brainstorming. (My sister-in-law even volunteered to play a corpse once so I could try dragging her along the beach.)

And also like Agatha, I often end up with ideas dwelling and growing within my mind for so long that I can’t even trace the source of them. Some of my manuscripts are linked to specific, striking moments of “What if…”, while others are based on ideas with origins I can’t specifically recall. And like Agatha and so many other writers, I try to capture those ephemeral ideas by scrawling phrases in various notebooks. Maybe I’ll come back to them one day. Maybe they’ll stagnate and fade into unused potential. Maybe I’ll read a line and have no idea what on earth I was talking about.

What matters is that I embrace the ideas when they come and chase them down, sometimes completely surprised by where I end up. It’s encouraging and humbling to know I share that trait with such a literary giant in the world of mystery.

Agatha Said, pt. 8

Happy Agatha Day! This month’s quote talks about some characteristics that are just as important now as they were in Agatha Christie’s day.

Agatha Said:

“I think I admire loyalty almost more than any other virtue. Loyalty and courage are two of the finest things there are. Any kind of courage, physical or moral, arouses my utmost admiration. It is one of the most important virtues to bring to life. If you can bear to live at all, you can bear to live with courage. It is a must.”

Context: This quote lies toward the beginning of a passage where Agatha is writing about life after her divorce. She and her daughter’s nanny quite amusingly divided Agatha’s friends into two categories: the Order of the Rats and the Order of the Faithful Dogs. Agatha admits that there were quite a few people she thought would be in one category who showed themselves to belong squarely in the other. That leads into this quote.

Why I Chose It: Because of what Agatha went through with her very dramatic divorce, she realized some friends were not really friends at all. But it helped her identify her true friends and value them even more, and to identify acquaintances who were proving themselves to be true supporters. The fact that Agatha considered loyalty and courage the most important virtues to possess is particularly revealing. I think you can learn a lot about a person based on what they value in the people around them.

Loyalty and courage are still incredibly powerful and pertinent virtues to have today. On their own, each is a positive trait, but when they are paired together, they can produce a powerful ally, advocate, and friend. May we all strive to be people of great loyalty and courage, now more than ever.

Agatha Said, pt. 7

Happy Agatha Day! It feels a little like we’re in a strange, alternate world right now, doesn’t it? I hope you’re all hanging in there and treating yourselves well. This month’s Agatha quote feels especially appropriate for this time.

Agatha Said:

“Life is really like a ship — the interior of a ship, that is. It has watertight compartments. You emerge from one, seal and bolt the doors, and find yourself in another. My life from the day we left Southampton to the day we returned to England was one such compartment. Ever since that I have felt the same about travel. You step from one life into another. You are yourself, but a different self.”

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