A Reader’s Mystery Challenge

I love Agatha Christie. If you have visited this blog before, you’ve probably gathered that. Her sharp wit and intriguing plots called to me when I delved deeper into the world of mysteries. I knew of her, as many people know of Arthur Conan Doyle and Shakespeare. Just the main facts and a bit of knowledge about the stories that made them famous. As I lived with a Sherlock Holmes lover for many years, I knew a fair amount about his creator. But I didn’t get into Agatha’s world until later in my reading career.

Agatha Christie lived an extraordinary life, and had a writing career that many writers would dream of. Overtime she wrote 66 detective novels, 14 short stories, plays, and romance novels. How the woman managed to create and solve that many mysteries still baffles me. She is an inspiration to me both as a writer, and as a woman. She traveled all over the world and wrote these locations into her novels. She even disappeared when she was younger and evaded the police for eleven days before reappearing. What an awesome lady! In some ways, I hope to be like her when I grow up.

This year marks the 100th anniversary for the release of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The first time the world met the eccentric but lovable Hercule Poirot. The man whose sharp wit still attracts readers today. I didn’t have the chance to read this Poirot story until very recently, when I was able to listen to an Audible version. It certainly started him off with a bang! In honor of this anniversary, I have revisited a goal that I jokingly made one November evening. I had just finished The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I threw across my dorm room because of my frustration with Agatha. Not at her lack of plot or writing style, far from it. I was livid that she was so good! I couldn’t figure out how she managed to put her red herrings in the perfect spots. I imagined her laughing to herself, thinking about how I, around 90 years later, would suspect the correct culprit. But I would be thrown off by a tiny nugged she planted, and ignore the other signs until the final shoe dropped. After that evening, I set a goal for myself. Before I die, I want to read all of her work.

This goal is not a crazy one. There are people the same age as me, or younger, who have already completed this goal. But the vast world of books is large, and so is her catalogue. Still, I want to go on this reading quest. At first, I foolishly believed I could read all of these works by my 26th birthday next March. Seeing as I have only read 8 of her books and plays so far, that was a dumb idea. Instead, I decided to push the date to a slightly more feasible time. Before I turn thirty, around five years from now, I want to finish these books. Five years seems like a long time to finish 70-something books, especially when I try to read 40 books a year. But, like many readers, I have books I want to read every year. And many of her novels feel at home in the crisp autumn air more than the balming heat of summer. This means many of the mystery novels I read aren’t opened again until the first of September. Despite all of this, I am determined to read all of these stories. I can do it! And you can too!

Have you read all of Agatha’s stories? If so, which ones were your favorite? This list is a bit overwhelming, so a few suggestions would be a great jumping off point! If you’ve never read an Agatha Christie, I highly recommend checking them out. Especially if you love mysteries with a good plot twist. You might even decide to join me on this quest to read them all. Trust me, I have a feeling it will be worth it. Happy reading everyone!

A Love Letter to Agatha Christie

It’s finally March! There’s a hint of spring on the horizon, and the daffodils have started to peep through. March is not only the kick-off of spring. It’s also International Women’s Month. I wanted to highlight some female writers and protagonists this month. Why not start this month on a high note with one of the most famous female writers in the world? Agatha Christie is one of the most well-known mystery writers in history. With 80 works published during her writing career, she is an inspiration to writers.

I was first introduced to Agatha Christie in my teens by my grandmother. As a lover of English history and stories, she has the BBC Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot box sets. My grandmother told me all about the stories, and a bit about Agatha herself. When I was in college, I finally read an Agatha Christie novel. I still remember the intensity of reading And Then There Were None in my dorm room. Also, the irritated look of my roommate after I scared her half to death by throwing the novel across the room. Her stories are so well-plotted and rich that her plot twists make me angry. It’s baffling to me that she was able to write 80 works of this caliber!  

The stories I have read by Agatha are intriguing. Among the countless classics, there are some standouts that make her the Queen of the plot twist. Her plays, short stories, and novels are a wonderful study of how to build a good mystery. When I have a story idea wrapped in a mystery, I always want to build a story worthy of Agatha. Her masterful use of point-of-view and small details are a perfect study. I’ve read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd a few times for writing inspiration! I have only read seven of her stories, but I know that the other 73 will offer the same caliber of inspiration.

Agatha Christie herself is a woman full of mysteries and sharp wit. She came up with Hercule Poirot, one of her most famous detectives, in her twenties! Agatha also managed to completely disappear for 10 days before authorities found her. With all the information we know now, we still aren’t completely sure what happened.  She also worked on archeology digs around the Middle East with her second husband. During this time, she would write 3-4 books in a year. Can you imagine writing a high-caliber story like that in a year? Let alone three stories? She kept her pace going throughout WWII and didn’t slow down until her mid-50s.

Since Agatha first began writing she has become an iconic part of the mystery genre. Her characters are still referenced in pop culture today. Modern writers use her plots as inspiration for their stories. From tv to books, you can find the ghost of Agatha Christie almost anywhere. It’s inspiring that one of the most famous female authors in history wrote mysteries. The kind of stories that need a clever mind to create the story, and then hide the clues. One day, I hope that I can unlock that side of my brain and create wonderful stories. Until then, I’ll continue on my quest to read all her works. Maybe a line or character will spark something for me. It’s possible that with her guiding me, I can uncover a story of my own.

What Agatha Christie book is your favorite? Who is your favorite female author? Let me know in the comments below! I have so many others, but couldn’t resist an opportunity to fangirl over Agatha! If there are books by female authors that you would like to recommend, you can do so here. Thanks so much for reading, and happy International Women’s Month!

NaNoWriMo Week 1- Adventures

Hello dear readers!

Today marks a week and three days since NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month, sent writers across the globe into a frenzy. The countless characters, plot lines, and world-building unfolding every day is insane. The number of stories unfolding in the many chat forums on NaNoWriMo’s website is almost overwhelming, with people popping in to ask questions from how to describe a gunshot wound to the hierarchy of a dystopian society. It is also inspiring to someone who considers herself to be an amateur writer. NaNoWriMo writers are bonded in this very specific quest to bring a world to life in 30 days, and they somehow have the time to offer advice and be the cheerleaders I need at 11 pm.

In the past few days I’ve given my creative brain enough jolts of espresso to get back up on the writing hamster wheel. Through what I can only call my “Emily determination”, I’ve managed to write more than I ever thought possible in one week. As I write this post, I have reached 10,797 total words! While I’m not on track for a sparkly first draft on November 30th, these 10k words are like a badge of honor.  Last year I wrote a total of 6,223 words over the entire month. You could say I’ve made progress!

The story I’m writing this year required much more planning and outlining than the one that popped into my head the year before. In June a crew of thieves slipped into my mind and refused to leave. They told me a story of cons, underground societies, and an oblivious college student who somehow gets caught up in the middle of their adventures. Even though I’ve written a rough outline and have a Pinterest board with my characters neatly lined up, they’re still telling me new information as month moves along.

Storytelling for me is usually like that. I’m brushing my teeth, or sending an email, and a character pops in my head. They start weaving a tale of their adventures, their worries. However, they never start the at the beginning, so it’s up to me to figure out how they record scratched and ended up in their extraordinary circumstance. I’m always left diving for a nearby notebook or my phone so they don’t turn into wisps and disappear from my mind before I can solve their mysteries.

Over the next few days and weeks, that’s what I hope to uncover. I’m putting on my deer stalker and channeling my inner Agatha Christie to solve the case. How does my character wind up in this gang? Why does she stay? That, and much more, will unfold before my eyes as I join them down the rabbit hole.

Want to follow my adventure as I try to write a novel? You can sign up to get email notifications, or follow me on Instagram @teaandcoffeforemmy and on Twitter at @emiliz32695. Comment down below to let me know how your NaNoWriMo is going!