Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.
The topic this week is a Book Quote Freebie (Share your favorite book quotes that fit a theme of your choosing! These could be quotes about books/reading, or quotes from books. Some examples are: quotes for book lovers, quotes that prove reading is the best thing ever, funny things characters have said, romantic declarations, pretty scenery descriptions, witty snippets of dialogue, etc.)
These are from Agatha Christie’s An Autobiography:
About creating the character of Hercule Poirot:
Why not make my detective a Belgian? I thought. There were all types of refugees. How about a refugee police officer? A retired police officer. Not too young a one. What a mistake I made there. The result is that my fictional detective must be well over a hundred by now.
Anyway, I settled on a Belgian detective. I allowed him to grow slowly into his part. He should have been an inspector, so that he would have a certain knowledge of crime. He would be meticulous, very tidy, I thought to myself, as I cleared away a good many untidy odds and ends in my own bedroom. A tidy little man. (page 263)
About Miss Marple, who was about 65 -70 years old when she first appeared in The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930. Agatha envisaged her as
‘the sort of old lady who would have been rather like some of my grandmother’s Ealing cronies’. But she was not like Agatha’s grandmother at all – being ‘far more fussy and spinsterish‘.
In The Murder at the Vicarage Miss Marple is not the popular figure she appears in the later books as not everybody likes her. The vicar does, liking her sense of humour, and describing her as
‘a white-haired old lady with a gentle appealing manner’, whereas his wife describes her as ‘the worst cat in the village. And she always knows everything that happens – and draws the worst inference from it.‘
People suggested that Miss Marple and Poirot should meet, but Agatha dismissed that idea because she didn’t think they would enjoy it at all and wouldn’t be at home in each other’s world.
In one way Miss Marple was like her grandmother:
…I endowed my Miss Marple with something of Grannie’s powers of prophecy. There was no unkindness in Miss Marple, she just did not trust people. Though she expected the worst, she often accepted people kindly in spite of what they were. (pages 447 -50)
On Writing. Throughout her autobiography Agatha writes about writing, how she wrote, where she wrote and so on. Here are just two examples:
If I could write like Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Sparl or Graham Greene, I should jump to high heaven with delight, but I know that I can’t, and it would never have occurred to me to attempt to copy them. I have learnt that I am me, that I can do the things that, as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do. (page 422)
… I knew that writing was my steady, solid profession. I could go on inventing my plots and writing my books until I went gaga.
There is always, of course, that terrible three weeks, or a month, which you have to get through when you are trying to get started on a book. There is no agony like it. You sit in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking about, or casting yourself on a sofa, feeling you want to cry your head off. (page 490)
On Writing Detective Stories:
One of the pleasures of writing detective stories is that there are so many types to choose from: the light hearted thriller, which is particularly pleasant to do; the intricate detective story with an involved plot which is technically interesting and requires a great deal of work, but is always rewarding; and then what I can only describe as the detective story that has a kind of passion behind it – that passion being to help save innocence. Because it is innocence that matters, not guilt. (page 453)
On Writing Short Stories:
I think myself that the right length for a novel is 50,000 words. I know this is considered by publishers as too short. Possibly readers feel themselves cheated if they pay their money and only get 50, 000 – so 60,000 or 70,000 are more acceptable. If your book runs to more than that I think you will usually find that it would have been better if it had been shorter. 20,000 words for a long short story is an excellent length for a thriller. Unfortunately there is less and less market for stories of that size and authors tend not to be particularly well paid. One feels therefore that one would do better to continue the story, and expand it to a full length novel. The short story technique, I think, is not really suited to the detective story at all. A thriller, possibly – but a detective story no. (page 352) (my highlighting)
I’m not a great fan of short stories, but I think that Agatha Christie’s collection of stories in The Mysterious Mr Quin contains some of her very best short stories. They were her favourites too. They are set in the 1920s and have a paranormal element to them, as well as a touch of romance. I found them all most entertaining. She describes Mr Quin as
… a figure who just entered into a story – a catalyst no more – his mere presence affected human beings. There would be some little fact, some apparently irrelevant phrase, to point him out for what he was: a man shown in a harlequin-coloured light that fell on him through a glass window; a sudden appearance or disappearance. Always he stood for the same thing: he was a friend of lovers, and connected with death. (page 447)
On living :
I like living. I have sometimes been wildly despairing, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. (page 11)