Guest Post by Isabel Anders
You never know what might lead to a fruitful idea for writing a new book.
My husband and I originally began watching the BBC Miss Marple series (on discs) starring Joan Hickson—for entertainment and fun—when we would “crash” at the end of a busy work day. We love mysteries, and I’ve even co-authored one. But I never envisioned becoming a literary critic—and certainly not penning a profile of a fictional character—after years of authoring inspirational Christian anthologies and writing spiritual reflections.
Yet—there was something behind the plain, sincere, intelligent face of this elderly sleuth from St. Mary Mead that I couldn’t put my finger on. Something MORE. My intuitions about Miss Marple’s “extra dimension” wouldn’t go away, and as a writer, I found myself jotting down themes.
Then, as I was pondering what I perceived to be unusual depth behind Jane Marple’s selfless actions on behalf of others—expending her own time, money, and energy on their behalf and often outwitting professional detectives on the cases—I discovered that the fictional character professed to reading the devotional classic Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis each night. That is apparently something that Agatha Christie’s own mother used to do.
Well, the title says it all. She was intentionally seeking to reflect Christ through her own presence in her world.
Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth is the result of my working out the clues in the twelve novels and twenty short stories Agatha Christie wrote starring Miss Marple—and arranging them to build a literary case for these books being more than mere entertainment. I was excited at my findings, and felt that other readers interested in ethical and literary convergence would enjoy a study of deep background behind “why she did it.”
As one of my pre-publication endorsers kindly wrote: “[This] village snoop may well be the supreme character invented by the most popular author of the twentieth century. And without a guide as good as Isabel Anders, I might have missed out on the fun altogether. As with every contribution to our understanding worthy of the name, we ask ourselves why we hadn’t thought of that before, in this case being aware that the Miss Marple books must be saying a great deal to large numbers of people, and that must be worthy at least of a reader’s consideration; and what we learn from Isabel Anders is the sheer goodness of Miss Marple and the books she inhabits.”
And so Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth invites readers to discover or re-discover the Marple/Christie oeuvre and join the fun.
I did not at any time consider myself a literary critic, though I was an English major in college. Instead of going into teaching or research, though, I have spent my career in writing and editing. And so, to have a book coming out that is categorized: Literary Criticism/Mystery & Detective/Women Authors—and attached to the Christie legacy with a new/spiritual angle was a late-career surprise I couldn’t have envisioned or planned for.
My conclusion: Our leisure-time activities may be telling us more than we realize, if we choose to listen, follow the clues, and diligently do the work required. ... Then perhaps as writers we can prepare to experience even more fun!
I look forward to hearing more readers’ responses to Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth.
Isabel Anders www.IsabelAnders.com has authored more than 25 books for adults, children, and young adults, including three recent spiritually themed study guides: Becoming Flame (2010); Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold (2012); and Miss Marple: Christian Sleuth (January 2013).