I am delighted to have Abbie Frost here for today’s Friday Fiction Feature to talk about The Guesthouse.
The Guesthouse has been described as dark, claustrophobic and full of suspense.
Readers often ask how authors come up with their plots. For me it can be anything. Sometimes an idea simply pops into my head, usually along with the question – what if? Or I may hear of an incident and wonder how I might deal with such an experience.
Like many crime writers I’m addicted to true crime books and documentaries, so the germ of a plot might be suggested by one of these. Or it may be something I’ve read or heard about that has nothing to do with crime, but includes a character or setting that could be central to a story. Then I’m into what if territory again.
The Guesthouse had a rather more unusual genesis. I was incredibly lucky earlier this year to be asked to lecture on the golden age of English crime fiction aboard the Queen Mary 2 as she sailed across the Atlantic. In addition to being a wonderful experience in itself this also meant that, while preparing my talks, I had to reread many of my favourite mysteries from the time.
I was talking (make that boasting) about the trip to my editor, and telling him how much I was enjoying the country house or closed circle mysteries that were so popular then, when he suggested I try a modern take on this kind of classic whodunnit.
Agatha Christie is the most famous of the golden age authors and her books are often referred to as cosy crime. However, even in the Poirot and Marple stories where the puzzle element appears to dominate, there is often an extremely sinister undercurrent.
And you only have to read novels like The Crooked House or my favourite Christie, Endless Night, to enter very dark territory indeed. Christie. even taps into themes of the supernatural and black magic, in The Pale Horse for instance. As a lover of gothic fiction this is something that particularly appeals to me.
Although I soon became excited by my editor’s idea, I wanted to give the classic format a contemporary slant: to place the story firmly in the twenty first century. So, the guesthouse of the title may be a remote mansion, but the characters are not the privileged folk at the centre of most golden age mysteries. Instead they are a mix of ordinary people who have used an online site to book a short holiday. It turns out of course that neither they, nor the house are exactly what they seem.
Abbie Frost is a pseudonym.
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