Guest Post – Just For the Love of It

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Social media can be a time-waster or even elevate your blood pressure, but it can also be delightfully social. It was on Twitter that I “met” the talented and charming Kelly Klages of the Poirot Blog, and I’m delighted to introduce you to each other!
Kelly is an enormous fan of Hercule Poirot, particularly the long-running series of TV adaptations starring David Suchet. She’s a prolific artist in multiple media, and she’s devoted a blog to her paintings, miniature rooms, and other fan art revolving around Poirot.
My own Mottley & Baker Mysteries were born out of the shock of realizing that I’d run out of new classic mysteries to read, and the Queens of Crime weren’t making them any more. I thought I might wind up with a fan fiction, but as I toyed with the notion, Mottley incorrigibly refused to be anyone but himself. But I certainly identify with the impulse to make more of what you already love.
Here’s Kelly’s own thoughts about why she loves Poirot so much, and why:

“Poirot & Hastings, Murder on the Links,” by Kelly Klages

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I discovered Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous detective, in the summer of 2014. It was vacation time at my in-laws’ house, and I was idly pulling paperbacks from the shelf to read. Two Christies were zipped through before I encountered a Poirot– After the Funeral, followed by The Big Four and a few short stories. The TV series, at that point finished with its near-quarter-century run, was completely unfamiliar to me. The day after we returned from vacation found me at the local library, borrowing stack after stack of Christie books, and subsequently investigating to see if Poirot had ever been dramatized.

About three years later, I’ve written a continuation novel, maintained a blog, and created an enormous volume of fan art entirely revolving around this character. If the world had never seen quilts themed on The A.B.C. Murders and Murder on the Orient Express, or paper snowflakes with poison bottles and keyholes and mustachioed detectives worked into the design, or a frankly alarming number of paintings and drawings of these characters, they have now. Both the books and the TV series have been absorbed and burned into my memory.

It sounds rather freakish put like that. My husband, who is far too polite to call me an obsessive, says instead that if I’m interested in something, I like to get to the very bottom of it. Put it down to the INTJ personality– we just analyze the crud out of things we love.

All the same, it’s created some pretty serious qualms, both as a writer and an artist. I have my degree in Art with a minor in English. Isn’t all of this too derivative? I’m doing fan art– really? And… fan fiction? Incredibly murky swamps, both of them, in frequent association with bizarre adolescent fantasies and extremely poor end products. And to what end? What’s it all about?

In very general terms, I think it’s safe to say that those who create fan art or write stories featuring existing characters are not only expressing fondness and admiration for the characters, but are attempting to interact with them in some way. Having the image of an existing character slowly grow onto your paper under the pencil, and move once more through new words and fresh pages, gives the sensation that they live and breathe again.Beyond that, I can’t speak for others. As far as fiction goes, I tend to dislike authors who work the characters of others into scenarios and states that the original author would never have dreamed of. If I write (or read) new Poirot stories, I want them to sound like Agatha Christie if at all possible. The new Sophie Hannah Poirots fall short, in my own humble opinion. The first was over-complicated in its denouement and solution, and was burdened with 21st-century attitudes and prejudices. The second one felt more satisfying in its limited country house environment, but the clue to the solution was easy to spot, and the point of the story seemed to be the invention of a never-before-thought-of motive (Christie’s motives are always extremely basic). It is a delicate and difficult line to walk– the place between originality and faithfulness to source material. Although she has many imitators, very few people seem to have attempted accurate-to-source fan writing with Christie’s own characters. I take a tentative hand at it with my book, The London Syndicate. It may be impossible and presumptuous to actually write in the very voice of Christie, but one tries in one’s chutzpah, anyway. My current writing project is a series of short stories featuring Ariadne Oliver. She never made it into any Poirot short stories, and I would have liked to read some.

Art is another thing. With the exception of word art and a few abstractions, most of my Poirot fan art has utilized existing images, drawn from the television series. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with a television series adapting so faithfully and so beautifully from the original books. My artwork tends to look mostly like a tribute to the series, and as I reproduce single moments in time. I am actually learning, in many intimate ways, how other artists have successfully interpreted Christie. The use of lighting and color, the composition of the shot, the flash of telling expression on an actor’s face– all these become fodder for study. It might sound extreme to compare it to going to the museum to copy the old masters, but the principle is the same. There is creativity in the process too, as when a photographer chooses just which existing moment to catch, and in the juxtaposition of images (such as in the Dispatch Case Triptych). I daresay that someday I’ll visualize Poirot from my own imagination, but right now I’m enjoying the learning process. All of this is also, in a sense, a very long and drawn-out way of saying “thank you.”

If you really love a literary character and you’re somewhat on the analytical side, this sort of thing is just what “fun” looks like. It’s also an interesting way to connect with other fans who share some of the same weirdness. The weirdest thing of all is that even after Christie wrote Poirot for nearly sixty years, it still doesn’t feel like enough for those of us who know an immortal character when we see one.

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So, if you can’t get enough Poirot either, head on over to visit Kelly at PoirotBlog. Tell her I said “hi!”
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