The Booktopia Book Guru asks
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Manchester, England. Raised and schooled there too! I lived in Manchester until I was 25. At that point, after publishing a book of poetry, The Hero and the Girl Next Door, I was offered my dream job – Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge. (This basically meant Writer in Residence.) Working at Trinity was like a dream come true – such a beautiful place, and I fell in love with Cambridge too. I now live there, and have no intention of leaving!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Twelve: I think I wanted to be a writer. By eighteen, however, I was going through a phase that involved doing and saying nothing my parents could possibly approve of, and they approved a bit too much of my writing, so at eighteen I announced that I was going to give university a miss and train to be a hairdresser instead. By thirty, I was already a writer and wanted to carry on being one.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I used to think that in order to be a good person, you had to make an enemy of bad people and fight them and their influence throughout your life. I later realised that fighting anyone or anything – even those who richly deserve it – cannot have a positive effect. If you spend your time fighting and hating, you’re only emitting more negative energy and, ultimately, making things worse. The best way to be happy and make the world a better place is to be kind and compassionate, to everyone, always. (Of course, I’m not a saint and can’t always manage to put this lofty ideal into practice – and when I can’t, I just shut myself away in the house and swear and chainsmoke until I’m able to be civilised again!)
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
I love music and paintings too, but books have always come first.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Novels are, and have always been, my favourite thing to read – and crime novels/mystery novels in particular.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Monogram Murders is a mystery featuring Agatha Christie’s superstar detective, Hercule Poirot. It starts with Poirot encountering a distressed young woman in a coffee house. The woman, who is obviously terrified, says someone is trying to kill her, but insists that she doesn’t want Poirot to try to save her life, or for her killer to be caught. Then three guests at an exclusive London hotel are murdered…and, because of something the woman in the coffee house said to him, Poirot suspects a connection and sets out to investigate.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
More than anything, I want readers to be gripped by the story and desperate to find out the solution to the mystery. I want them to be unable to guess until all is revealed!
Agatha Christie. Because she had all the best ideas, and kept having them, decade after decade. She is and will always be the Queen of Crime.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My ambition is that each of my books should be better and more satisfying than the one before it. I want to become a better writer.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Keep at it. And be very choosy about whose advice you take. Not everyone is as clever and helpful as everyone else.
Sophie, thank you for playing.
by Sophie Hannah
The bestselling novelist of all time.
The world’s most famous detective.
The literary event of the year.
Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s novels have been sold around the world. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand-new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation, Hercule Poirot.
In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle sure to baffle and delight both Christie’s fans as well as readers who have not yet read her work. Written with the full backing of Christie’s family, and featuring the most iconic detective of all time, this new novel is a major event for mystery lovers the world over.