Agatha Christie's Everyday Inspiration

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Find out what inspired the Queen of Crime

We love the fact Agatha Christie was inspired by her travel adventures, by her work on poisons in the pharmacy, and by her experience of archaeological digs. However, there are also plenty of the author’s reflections which show that she was inspired by the everyday – which we thought might add a lift to those whose daily routines are quite restricted right now. In fact, she thought the monotony of the pharmacy work inspired her to progress with her first novel (although the expertise she obtained no doubt helped her with the finer details).

We take a look at how Christie’s everyday life provided her with the creativity we know and love…

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1. Imaginary Friends

As Christie’s siblings were away at boarding school, and Agatha was home-schooled, she was the only child in the house most of the time, but she reflects fondly in her autobiography that she was not truly alone: “From as early as I can remember, I had various companions of my own choosing.”

Mrs Green had a hundred children, of whom the important ones were Poodle, Squirrel and Tree. Those three accompanied me on all my exploits in the garden. They were not quite children and not quite dogs, but indeterminate creatures between the two.
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

We see this imagination given to Vernon, the central character in her Mary Westmacott novel, Giant’s Bread too. “Vernon was, perhaps, a lonely little boy, but he never knew it. Because, you see, he had Mr Green and Poodle, Squirrel and Tree to play with.”

In An Autobiography, Agatha Christie reflects that her habit of talking to herself, creating stories and speaking them out loud did not go away, instead they became part of her writing process.

It never occurred to me to write anything down-and I was quite indifferent to what any[one] thought. I occasionally walk about nowadays muttering to myself - trying to get some chapter that won't 'go' to come right
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

What do you do to engage your imagination when you are without company?

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2. Books

Agatha Christie’s mother, Clara, did not want Agatha to learn to read until she was eight. However, Christie’s curiosity got the better of her mother’s intentions, and she taught herself.

'I'm afraid, Ma'am,' said Nursie apologetically to mother the next day, 'Miss Agatha can read.' My mother was much distressed - but there it was. Not yet five, but the world of story books was open to me. From then on, for Christmas and birthdays I demanded books.
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Christie became a voracious reader, which continued throughout her life. She considered Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark and Graham Greene amongst her favourite writers. Have you discovered a new author over the last year, or enjoyed revisiting an old one?

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3. Nature

Those who are lucky enough to have access to a garden, or some local green space, might be able to relate to the wonder Christie experienced as a child.

Perhaps the most absorbing thing in mine [childhood] is the garden. The garden was to mean more and more to me, year after year. I was to know every tree in it, and attach a special meaning to each tree.
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Her travel diaries and letters which appear in The Grand Tour reflect this fascination with the natural world. She notes that "Trees are always the first things I seem to notice about places, or else the shape of hills." How does being outdoors inspire you?

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4. Washing Up

For those of you who have spent the last year feeding yourselves, without the help of eating out at others houses, cafés or work canteens, the idea of washing-up being inspiring might seem tricky! But we think the way Christie considers the task, and uses it to solve a creative problem, might just get us through our next pile of dishes with a smile.

The really safe and satisfactory place to work out a story in your mind is when you are washing up. The purely mechanical labour helps the flow of ideas and how delightful to find your domestic task finished with no actual remembrance of having done it!
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography
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5. Walks

Despite Christie's childhood interest in the outdoors, her main enthusiasm on her daily walk as a child was for Nursie’s stories:

Once a day, like all well brought-up children, I 'went for a walk'. This I much disliked, especially buttoning up my boots - a necessary preliminary. I lagged behind and shuffled my feet, and the only thing that got me through was Nursie's stories.
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

It is fair to say however, that this was a childish dislike. She found walking of increasing interest as she grew up, and it was to become a valuable source of inspiration when she became an author.

Plots come to me at such odd moments: when I am walking along a street, or examining a hat-shop with particular interest, suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head, and I think, 'Now that would be a neat way of covering up the crime so that nobody would see the point.' Of course, all the practical details are still to be worked out, and the people have to creep slowly into my consciousness, but I jot down my splendid idea in an exercise book.
Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

We hope learning a little more about Agatha Christie's everyday inspirations provides some comfort and hope this month, and beyond.

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