“Very few of us are who we seem.”
“Evil is not something superhuman, it’s something less than human.”
“These little grey cells. It is up to them.”
Author alert: Agatha Christie is the bestselling novelist of all time. Most widely known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short-story collections, her books have sold a billion copies in 445 languages. She’s been outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.
A new TV adaptation of And Then There Were None, a novel published in 1939, has just been released. The book sold 100 million copies and has inspired four films over the years. This isn’t unusual for Christie. In fact, a remake of Murder on the Orient Express is also in the works. All this led me to troll around a bit to learn more about her.
Christie’s described on her official web site as “a writer, traveler, playwright, wife, mother, surfer” — she led quite a life, it seems, which is captured in a newly released autobiography that sounds fascinating. In it, she says: “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 mind.”
Her second book, The Secret Adversary was sparked by a chance encounter: “Two people were talking at a table nearby, discussing somebody called Jane Fish… That, I thought, would make a good beginning to a story — a name overheard at a tea shop — an unusual name, so that whoever heard it remembered it. A name like Jane Fish,
or perhaps Jane Finn would be even better.”
Agatha turned her ideas into novels by jotting down tons of notes in dozens of notebooks, just throwing down on their pages “erratic ideas and potential plots and characters” as they came to her: “I usually have about half a dozen (notebooks) on hand and I used to make notes in them of ideas that struck me, or about some poison or drug, or a clever little bit of swindling that I had read about in the paper.”
She spent most of her time working out the plot details and clues in her head or in her notebooks, before she started writing a book down. Her son-in-law Anthony Hicks once said: “You never saw her writing,” she never “shut herself away, like other writers do.” It took her a few months to write a story and a month or so to revise. She’d write it down in long hand, have it typed up, and then make her corrections.
No fancy writing process or digital apps here: Just plain old notebooks, pens and pencils, a typewriter, and little grey cells firing. Something to ponder as we write on!