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Continuing the Story (part 2 with Ann Claire)

Brook and Sarah continue their conversation about continuing the story. In this episode, they speak with Ann Claire about drawing inspiration from another author in her Christie Bookshop Mysteries.

For more information about Ann Claire

Ann at Penguin Random House

Instagram: @annclaireauthor

Facebook: Ann Claire Mysteries

Ann’s website

Books and Films Mentioned

A Carribean Mystery (1964) Agatha Christie

Dead and Gondola (2022) Ann Claire

Knives Out (2019)

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

For more information about Clued in Mystery

Instagram: @cluedinmystery

Contact us: hello@cluedinmystery.com

Music: Signs To Nowhere by Shane Ivers – www.silvermansound.com


Sarah Welcome to Clued in Mystery. I’m Sarah.

Brook And I’m Brook. And we both love mystery.

Sarah Good morning, Brook.

Brook Hi Sarah. It’s so great to be talking with you again and we have a very special guest today.

Sarah Yes, I’m so excited. We’re going to be speaking with Ann Claire. And we’re talking a little bit about her new book and using another author’s world to jump into a new story.

So, I’ll do a quick introduction of Ann and then we can get started speaking with her.

Ann Claire earned degrees in geography which took her across the world. Now Claire lives with her geographer husband in Colorado where the mountains beckon from their kitchen windows. When she’s not writing you can find her hiking, gardening, herding house cats, and enjoying a good mystery, especially one by Agatha Christie.

Welcome, Ann.

Ann Claire Thank you so much for having me I’m thrilled to be here.

Brook Hi, Ann.

Ann Claire Hi, thank you.

Brook This is this is going to be great to talk with you today and it’s just such a great jumping off point for us as we just talked about continuing this story in our last show.

And you know, last week Sarah and I discussed the different ways that authors can continue or play off the work of another writer. And Sarah gave some great definitions of ways this happens such as part of the canon, pastiche, parody, fan fiction. And you know after reading your book I believe your series The Christie Bookshop Mysteries falls into the category of pastiche since it contains similar elements and plays off that Agatha Christie style would you agree?

Ann Claire I do agree. I love those definitions too and as you were saying, and I was thinking what is it and it is a pastiche. I wanted to sprinkle in little bits and have my characters admire her and use her as their inspiration.

Brook That’s wonderful. And have you been a long-time fan of Agatha Christie? Do you even have maybe a favorite Christie novel?

Ann Claire Well I was thinking how to answer this question. And I was thinking about them and I am a long term fan, but when I started writing these books and I blithely told myself, “well I’ll just read all the Christies” and then I realized how many I hadn’t read. So it’s been really fun as part of writing these books to read her books and to read about her.

And I just I read recently an article about her that said you could read one new work by her per month and still be going seven years later, after which you’d forget the endings, which I do all the time. And you could reread them. So I’m feeling a little bit better about having not read all of her things but I am a big fan.

Brook Oh my goodness. That’s great. And I know I fall into that category. I have by no means read all of her work. And I agree with you. You really could reread them in a few years because they’re so tricky and they would just be all brand new again.

Ann Claire  They really are and I’m particularly bad at remembering ending. So for me, it’s like “oh that person did it!” Or I will go back and I have been rereading some of them just to see if I could have figured it out and where she dropped the clues and that’s been really fun too.

Brook That’s great.

Sarah I’m like you and I very rarely remember what the ending to a book was, so I’ll reread it or I’ll watch rewatch a television mystery and it’s only just at the end and I’ll be like I actually think I’ve seen this one before.

Ann Claire   I’m glad to hear that because I always feel like “oh it’s only me”.

But you asked if I had a favorite one too and that’s—I’ve been wondering about that because as I do read them. I find things I love about each one and since I haven’t read them all I off if I could say I’m a favorite but I love Miss Marple. I love anything with Miss Marple and I was thinking if I had to pick a set of favorites, maybe I like A Caribbean Mystery.

If you know that one she goes on vacation. Her nephew the writer has sent her on a Caribbean vacation and Miss Marple is bored. But then there’s a mystery and she leaps into action and it connects with a with Nemesis. Which might be my favorite where Miss Marple so the crime in her little fluffy knitwear that she’s made herself and she gives me chills. That’s one where Agatha Christie gave me chills with Miss Marple. So I do love those and it’s a recurring character that features in both of those.

Brook Very good. Oh how fun. Yeah, it’s always fun if the sleuth takes a vacation. I find that like in a cozy series, for instance, it’s a way to keep a series fresh. So we even have Agatha to thank for that little trick that authors can play, don’t we.

Sarah and I often comment how daunting it must be to follow in the footsteps of one of the classic mystery authors. We’d love to hear if there was anything you kind of thought was untouchable, versus what you felt like you could put your own spin on.

Ann Claire Well, it is daunting. I would never think that I am attempting to be Agatha Christie. I think my protagonist, my two sisters, they sell books, they’re booksellers. And their last name is Christie and boy, they really wish they could somehow be related to their favorite mystery novelist.

And then a crime happens in their little small town and so like Miss Marple, like Agatha Christie’s protagonist, they’re thrown into this crime. And they have to investigate and they know their special skill is reading. They’ve read a lot of mysteries and they’ve read a lot of ago the Christie. So like you said about the pastiche before, they call on the various books that they’ve read the things they know about detecting from Miss Marple or what would Poirot do here. So really, they’re in a way paying homage to Agatha Christie in her books in there detecting.

Brook That’s awesome. That’s so fun.

Ann Claire It is fun.

Brook Agatha Christie Limited is the company now managing the literary and media rights to Agatha Christie’s works. Were there any legal issues for you to consider when using the Christie name, for instance?

Ann Claire I hope not. I really hope not. Mystery writers have all sorts of fears and I hope that is one of them.

I love books that play off her plots or follow one of her plots. But mine doesn’t do that. Like we said before, they really use their readings of Christie and use her as inspiration. So I was careful to have them talk about books but I don’t even want them to give away the endings because I don’t want to be a spoiler for other readers of Christie. So, I think I’m okay there I hope.

But like I said she was the inspiration for the characters, so they’re using her methods and her sleuths. You know how Miss Marple when she thinks about crimes she thinks about human nature in people she references well who they remind her of. Kind of like my mother except my mother isn’t Miss Marple the detective.

But Miss Marple will say well “she reminds me of so and so and she behaved that way and this I know this about her because of that”. In my book I hope the characters do that a little away with their reading. “Well, we’ve read about this and this is how that plot worked and that’s how human nature and motivation and the crime worked there,” and so they take a little bit of that from Agatha Christie.

Brook That’s great. That’s great and I think it’s really smart that although they use some ideas from plots that you don’t spoil any of the stories. I think that was that was a really good choice and I think it would probably be a great lead in. You know we talked about this when we were discussing some of the Sherlock Holmes continuations that it might be a way to get readers who have perhaps never picked up a Christie into it and to think about going back and reading some of those stories. So that’s, I think, a really charming thing about it as well.

Ann Claire I hope so, I hope people will read more Christie because it is so fun.

Sarah Yeah, and just on that I do feel like there’s a bit of a resurgence and interest in Agatha Christie and I don’t know, I’m sure Kenneth Branagh’s movies help with that and Sophie Hannah’s books that continue Poirot I think that that all just contributes to the you know the interest that people have in in reading her books. And yeah, I encourage everybody too because I think same thing like you know she’s so great.

Ann Claire She really is I’ve been during the pandemic and I was reading her but I was also listening to her. I was walking around with Christie and audio books in my ear of Miss Marple and Poirot and it was just so much fun and you wouldn’t know that they were over 100 years old really that’s what . . . I think they’re very readable to modern readers. So yes, I encourage people to.

Brook Absolutely And that’s a great point and because if you think about it, when she was writing the idea of an audio book hadn’t even come about but they’re very, satisfying as a listen I think. And there again they probably would be a great read aloud back in the day but I agree I Love listening to them as an audiobook as well

Brook In some of our first episodes of Clued in Mystery we discussed how Christie films and TV adaptations have tended to remain set in the same era in which they’re originally set and this is very different from Sherlock Holmes, for instance. Because we might find Sherlock in any location any era or even any gender. Considering this was it a challenge to bring that Agatha influence into the twenty-first century setting? Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve already discussed this. 

Ann Claire Well I think, I think in a way no because she is quite timeless isn’t she, like we just discussed. And there’s the new adaptations at point to Knives Out being so popular and I can’t wait for the second Knives Out.

But that’s just a pure Christie isn’t it the manor house the bit of fun. That’s what I like about Christie too. There’s a little bit of laughing at the great detective. But then he solves the crime with these clues that you maybe could have seen but you missed or he saw so and I think. Most modern, cozy mysteries really owe everything to Miss Marple and Agatha Christie. It’s the same. Here is the amateur sleuth and she can’t rely on. She can’t go all CSI and wait for that cat for fiber analysis to come back from the lab.

She has to go out there and find who owned the cat or who visited the cat or something like that and so in cozy mysteries. That’s one of the challenges is getting the sleuths out there to meet the suspects and to figure it out and to use their special skills like Miss Marple and her knitting or my bookselling sisters and their knowledge of books or people coming into the bookshop. So I think really the plots and the manner of detecting can be brought into any time period.

Sarah Brook and I have been talking recently about locked room mysteries and we could pick out so several TV shows that use that trope but couldn’t think of very many modern novels using that. But I think your mystery is a locked room. And just wondering what inspired you to use that as the context for the mystery.

Ann Claire I love that you said that. I’ll qualify that people could get in and out a little bit so I won’t unless somebody says well, it’s not really locked. But I did want what I wanted was what Agatha Christie often has is that set group of suspects and characters.

I would love to write one of those books where there’s snow in at the manor house some day and there’s five people. So here they do have a whole village of people who could be suspects but among the cast of the mystery there’s only so many people moving around. And I like that just to keep track of characters but also to keep focus totally focused on who’s who and who’s a suspect and why they might be doing it and why might be misled. that kind of thing that. I love that in Agatha Christie’s books. I do particularly love the locked in aspect.

I think one of the other things that modern cozies pay homage to Christie are the the settings, the small village settings or the small place settings. There’s a lot of modern cozies that are set now even in urban areas but it is kind of in relation to the locked room but a confined setting. You’ve got this little village or you’ve got this little group of blocks in the city within which the sleuth operates and that becomes I think a little bit of a character too. Like St. Mary Mead is.

I love it when Miss Marple is there. I like it when she travels too. But then she’s always thinking about her hometown. And I think modern cozy mysteries do a lot of that too. And so my village is a little mountain village in Colorado. It has a ski slope and has this gondola where the death takes place and they do think about Miss Marple and in that. And sort of the closed room mystery. It just becomes a maybe an interesting place where the murder happens I think she did that a lot too.

Brook So, Ann what are your plans for the series will the Christie sisters have more adventures?

Ann Claire I hope so. Right now I’m working on the second draft and I find I’ve always known who did it. But I think I finally know how they figure it out. That’s one of the things I marvel about Christie too. I was reading her… You can read her notebooks. Somebody wrote a book about her notebooks and her you can see her thought process is. Like “Maybe this person did it? Maybe this is why. Maybe I’ll kill off this person.” And so that was really interesting that as a mystery writer.

I always find the hardest thing is to figure out how they did it. I feel like I can always come up with—well not always. I have the setting and characters and then but then figuring out how they figure it out. There I’m just in awe of Christie.

I’m writing the second one and I think we have a title but it’s not set. But it will involve the Christie sisters again and this time it’s a little different. They’re engaged in. . . a cousin has set up a book-based dating service. So you match each other by your bookish taste. But of course, there’ll be a murder and they’ll have to solve it and they’ll be using some of the same skills they used before their knowledge of books and people and motivations to hopefully solve the case.

Brook That sounds like a lot of fun.

Sarah I love the idea of a book-based dating service.

Ann Claire I do too. I should set this up.

Sarah The other thing that Brook and I recently talked about was kind of authors being sleuths in in the mysteries or there being a strong literary theme in the mystery itself and I think that really appeals to readers to be reading about people like themselves. People who would much rather be tucked away with a book than in a crowd of people.

I think a lot of us are pretty introverted and much prefer a crowd of books to a crowd of people. So I can see how that would really appeal to readers, that notion of being immersed in this bookseller’s world. And you know, I love the descriptions in your book of the bookshop itself. It sounds like a really great place that I would love to visit.

Ann Claire I would too. This is in a way I think cozies are little fantasies in the way they are also like superheroes for books for all of us like we can enjoy reading and knitting and have our cats and be in this wonderful bookshop and then save the day too.

So yeah, it’s kind of my little fantasy world. The Village the bookshop the bookshop cats and also them being so brave if a murder happened here I would not know that would not be going out but in cozy mysteries they go out and they save the day. So I think that’s also fun to read about and write about.

Brook For sure. And I think in a day and age where we don’t have so many corner bookshops that it’s very nice to be able to turn to a book that references it and like you said, kind of live out that fantasy again. So yeah, really really fun for bookish people like us.

Sarah The other thing that I wanted to mention was I like not only the references to Christie’s novels but the references to her life that you pepper through the book. And the little Christie facts that you share. I think that’s a nice way of incorporating her and incorporating her legacy into what you’re what you’re doing.

Ann Claire Oh thank you. No I’ve really enjoyed learning more about her and I think I think she said something about like readers will mislead themselves to not seek clues and when I thought I knew Agatha Christie I was seeing her as Miss Marple.

Yeah I think as writers we get “oh you’ve written yourself,” especially writing a cozy mystery people think I’ve written myself. And maybe I do sometimes but not always.

But I had pictured her as Miss Marple and now as I read more about her I thought she’d go there and she did all that traveling. But she was also she was also very shy I read. I was just feeling all this empathy for, this connection with, Agatha Christie and I just read something about she was supposed to go to a banquet in her honor and the security guard didn’t know who she was and kept her out and she was like, “Okay, I’ll wander about the hotel and maybe go home.” Which is totally how I would react. So I felt love for her even more.

But it’s been really fun to learn more about her in her life and her struggles and her marriages, and she married an archaeologist as her second husband and went on digs. And it’s just all quite fascinating.

Sarah Yeah, she was a really remarkable woman.

Brook Yes, she is a fascinated woman. I too love the story where even the doorman at the dinner in her honor didn’t recognize her. It just shows what an introverted, quiet person she was. I love that story.

Ann Claire And there she is writing all those novels and killing off so many people. In her writing she was so bold.

Brook Well, Ann this has been such a great pleasure. I think it really adds to the conversation—several conversations that Sarah and I have had recently, especially about carrying another author’s work into the world. How can our listeners find out more about you and your books?

Ann Claire Well just thank you so much for having me this has been such fun.

You can find me, I think maybe the first place to go would be to go to Penguin Random House website and look up Dead and Gondola or my name Ann Claire. And they have all sorts of links where you could go buy the books.

I hope it’ll be in libraries as a library lover I think you can request it from your library.

You can also find me on Instagram where I’m annclaireauthor and I share too many pictures of books and cats in Colorado. And on Facebook I’m annclairemysteries and then I have a website it’s NovelMystery.wixsite.com. So I’m kind of lax about my website. So I’m chagrined. But you can find me in many places and my books.

Brook That’s wonderful. Thank you so much.

Sarah We’ll make sure to and we’ll make sure to put links to all of those places in the in the show notes so readers can find you.

Ann Claire Thank you. Well thank you so much for having me this really has been fun.

Brook This has been fun. And thank you listeners for joining us again today on Clued in Mystery.

 I’m Brook.

Sarah And I’m Sarah and we both love mystery.