Internationally acclaimed master of psychological crime reveals how staying at Agatha Christie’s home, Greenways, inspired her latest novel.
Sophie Hannah author of the latest Poirot, The Monogram Murders talks to Mary Hogarth about her favourite author and her zest for penning psychological thrillers.
What was Agatha Christie’s influence in A Game for all the Family?
The idea for A Game for all the Family
evolved while I was staying at Greenways, in a rental apartment at Agatha Christie’s holiday home in Devon.
While staying there the house, landscape and setting by river was hugely inspiring so an idea emerged. The story is built around the heroine, Justine and her family were about to start new life in Devon.
Then strange things started to happen. . .
Soon after the move there’s a few things. It starts with the first of many anonymous phone calls from a stranger suggesting she and Justine share a guilty secret.
Her daughter Ellen starts to withdraw when her new best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school. Justine begs the head teacher to reconsider, only to be told that nobody’s been expelled – there is, and was, no George. . .
How did you develop her character?
Justine's character was easy - she is basically me.
You are a prolific writer. . .
I try write a book a year, but sometimes it’s two.
Last year I wrote the latest Poirot novel, Closed Casket
as well as The Narrow Bed
, part of the Culver Valley Crime series. That was hard. Often I had to stay up until 2am to get my daily word count done.
How do you plan your workload?
By focusing on one novel at a time. This is essential as my head is totally immersed in that story so I forget everything else becoming obsessed with work in progress.
I set a daily word count. This is different for each book depending on the word limit and deadline.
When I get a commission I decide what my daily word count needs be by calculating how many days there are between the start date and the deadline.
When I first started writing I worked out I could write 1,000 words a day. But my ideal target is 400 words a day as that’s not so daunting.
Tell us about The Narrow Bed
In The Narrow Bed
, the idea is tied up with the solution so it’s difficult to talk about. I first had the solution to the mystery – an interesting motive for murder.
It starts with what appears to be a serial killer (known as Billy Deadmates) killing pairs of best friends.
Before each one is murdered the killer sends them a book with strange contents. Then the heroine, Kim – like all the previous victims – receives book.
But the pattern doesn’t fit as Kim has no friends because she doesn’t trust anyone. So how can she be target of the best friend serial killer?
for more details about Sophie’s work including her crime novels, poetry and children’s books.
to read an interview with Sophie Hannah about her new Poirot novel The Monogram Murders