Guest Fox: Meg Mims

By Jeff Salter
Delighted to have, as my Guest Fox for this Hound Day, the talented and award-winning author: Meg Mims.
The assignment for this week was “What I would like to discuss with my favorite literary figure.”  Meg took it a step further and actually channeled the entire conversation!
With no further ado, I’ll let Meg introduce herself and her literary figure, whom I’m sure you’ll all recognize:

Meg Mims
            I’m a long time mystery fan. I started reading the Boxcar Children series, the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, and even Nancy Drew, although I found them to be outdated. And then a friend introduced me to Trixie Belden – whose adventures were perfect for my age at the time. Around the same time, a cousin let me borrow an Agatha Christie book. Talk about *totally* hooked!!
I think I read almost every one, including the Tommy and Tuppence Beresford series. I jumped to Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Whimsy and Harriet Vane – at this point, the blend of mystery and romance settled into my subconscious. It’s what I write today, with a bit of inspirational thrown in, plus dead bodies. They seem to crop up a lot.
So when Jeff’s offer to be a Guest Fox came along, I thought over all of my favorite authors. J.R.R. Tolkien. Andre Norton. Ursula LeGuin. Arthur Conan Doyle. Ellis Peters. Sharon Kay Penman. Judith Merkle Riley. Will Thomas. Charles Todd. Cleo Coyle. But I chose Dame Agatha because she’s really cool. Calm. Collected. And very celebrated for her tremendous career. She started the Golden Age of Mystery, after all.

                 A Discussion with Agatha Christie Over Tea
By Meg Mims

            Meg:  Welcome, Dame Christie, and thank you so much for sitting down with me today. Would you like Earl Grey or Hot Cinnamon Spice tea? I prefer the cinnamon.
        Dame Agatha: Oh, the Earl Grey. Please. One lump, no cream. Thank you.
         Meg: My daughter’s favorite as well. I suspect it’s the Bergamot. May I ask you how you managed to write so many mystery novels? I’m a late bloomer and very slow.
         Dame Agatha: Well, in my day there was no Twitter or Facebook, or even blogs. People had more time to do things, and participate in real conversations. I listened far more than I talked, and took notes all the time.
         Meg: You also started very young. I envy your early success! If only I’d kept at it. I took too long of a break due to my daughter’s schedule. But I write like the ocean wave, out and back, out farther and back in, etc. I suspect it happened when it should have.
         Dame Agatha: Everyone has their own method of writing, and ideas came to me whenever they popped in my head. Shopping, or cleaning the house, whatever. Did you know I took a dare from my older sister Madge to write a novel during the first World War? I finished The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1917 and tried for years to find a publisher. Everyone ought to experience that.
         Meg: I believe an American publisher first took you on before an English one, in 1920.
         Dame Agatha: Yes, I’m afraid so. (smiles, sips tea) And it took me another three years before my second novel, The Murder on the Links, was published.
         Meg: Have a scone, or a cherry tart. Things were quite different back then—no need for self-promotion by the author, for one thing.
         Dame Agatha: Heavens no. If your publisher did anything at all in those days. But people stopped by book shops quite frequently. And I would say groups discussed the latest books and news since there was no television and little radio. Life was richer, fuller, and a bit slower. If you weren’t a servant, that is, working from dawn to dusk. However, I did my best thinking over a sudsy pan full of dishes.
         Meg: I love vacuuming. The noise blocks out everything else. Or if I’m stuck, I put Tolkien on the MP3 player. Er, it’s a tiny music—never mind. You must have known about Professor Tolkien, since you’re both English.
         Dame Agatha: Of course. I preferred traveling the real world and observing good and evil, though, to all the fantasy world-building. I found traveling quite an education.
         Meg: Well, you’re both very famous. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was an instant success. Your first book was also a success.
         Dame Agatha: Ah, yes. (Dabs clotted cream on scone and nibbles, sips tea.) A pharmacology journal claimed I did a careful study of poison, without using those silly untraceable ones. Quite nice, I must say. Not at all like the nasty stuff people say now on Goodreads or Amazon. Such a dreadful business. I’m sure I would have gotten quite discouraged if a book failed to have a good twist or two. I always wrote out the notes before I started dictating. Although sometimes a book didn’t turn out like I’d planned. That is for the best at times.
         Meg: Yes, I prefer having the plot outlined, but you’re right. You have to give your characters the ‘wheel’ to drive the plot if things aren’t exciting enough. My first book won a Spur Award and I’m worried about the sequel being a flop! I’m hoping to overcome that, since it’s not finished. Now tell me, how did you feel with Hercule Poirot being compared to Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes when your first few books came out?
         Dame Agatha: Oh, they’re not too different as detectives in methodology. (Takes another sip.) Poirot relies on the little gray cells and observation, and Holmes uses observation and deduction. They both have their quirks, too.
         Meg: Indeed! Poirot’s mustache and neatness, Holmes’ cocaine reliance and chemistry—signs of in-depth characterization. They both had sidekicks too. Dr. Watson may be stronger than Arthur Hastings as a foil, but Miss Marple is far more popular than Irene Adler. We all want an Aunt Jane in our families who knows more than anyone suspects.
         Dame Agatha:  Yes, people cannot hide much from her. Jane Marple doesn’t trust anyone. And I had to create her because so many people ignore the ‘old maids’ of the world. (Crunches a chocolate tart thoughtfully.) If you don’t marry, then something must be wrong with you—or so they say. That’s not the case at all, of course, but people still suspect the worst.
         Meg: I expect in your day people ignored women of all ages. That seemed to be true even when I was young, although the Women’s Lib movement hammered at those fences. However, people certainly paid attention when you suddenly disappeared for eleven days in 1926, or don’t you remember? You were under an incredible amount of stress, with your mother’s death to deal with, your husband running off with another woman—
         Dame Agatha: Oh dear, must we speak of that?
         Meg: All I will say is that writers, musicians and artists are far more sensitive to such life-changing events. After my mother died, I put away my paints for twenty years. I also thank the Lord I had my own young daughter to keep me sane. And I started writing, because I couldn’t do anything else creative. I channeled a lot of pain into those early manuscripts.
         Dame Agatha: Then you do understand. I’m so glad I met my second husband Max. I had a very full and fulfilling life. (Finishes tea.) This has been a delightful conversation, Meg. I’m so pleased I came to visit.
         Meg: Thank you so much for agreeing to come. Chatting is far better than Twitter with its 140-character limit. (Smiles, sneaks the last scone.)

Western Historical Mystery
            A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.
August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.
As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?
[Winner of 2012 Western Writers of America Spur Award – ‘Best First Novel’]

BUY LINKS:  Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Meg’s Bio Blurb
            Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Meg is also staff writer for Lake Effect Living, a West Coast of Michigan tourist on-line magazine, and for RE/MAX Platinum in Brighton. Born and raised in Michigan, she lives with her husband, a “Make My Day” white Malti-poo and a rescue Lhasa Apso, plus a drooling black cat. Meg’s artistic work is in watercolor, acrylic and pen/ink media. Check out her website!

Questions:
            What additional questions would YOU have for Dame Agatha Christie?  Which literary figure would YOU want to converse with?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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37 Responses to Guest Fox: Meg Mims

  1. Meg Mims says:

    Thanks, Jeff, for having me today — and Dame Agatha, of course. 😀

    Like

  2. Lindsay says:

    What a marvelous interview of Dame Agatha. She truly did set the bar for those of us today.

    Like

    • jeff salter says:

      Though my wife devoured the Christie stories, I think I’ve only read one … just to see what the buzz was about. [Don’t recall which one]. I liked it okay, but I’m not really a reader of mystery / detective genre.
      I do very much enjoy the dramatizations of her work: particularly the PBS Poiroit and the Marple stories played by (can’t think of her name right now).

      Like

    • Meg Mims says:

      She did indeed!! The QUEEN of mystery. Always will be,

      Like

  3. Jeanne Theunissen says:

    I never heard of the Boxcar Children, but I sure remember the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, and I had the entire Nancy Drew series, too. I think The Ghost of Blackwood Hall was the first one of those books I read, and I was hooked from then on.

    What an imaginative twist in your interview of Dame Agatha! Surprising and enlightening to see both sides of the conversation.

    Like

    • jeff salter says:

      I never heard of the Hollisters. I never read N. Drew as a kid — tho I did read a few hardy Boys — but I started collecting some early editions of ND shortly after the principal author — whose name I no longer remember — died. She’d won a court case against the publisher and was finally cut in on the royalties of that empire. Carolyn Keene, of course, was a collective pseudonym. This particular author wrote not only the most titles, but — critics agree — wrote the best stories in that series.
      The early versions — BEFORE the 1959 re-writes began — are much better than the ‘new improved’ versions.
      Same for the Hardy Boys series.

      Like

    • Meg Mims says:

      NEVER HEARD OF THE BOXCAR CHILDREN???? you pooooor, deprived child, Jeanne!! You must go to the children’s section and read the first two or three. Go. NOW. LOL

      Like

  4. tonettejoyce says:

    Nice to have you with us,Meg.My sister got me hooked on Agatha Christie.(She also had a Happy Hollister’s book and some Nancy Drew’s she passed down when I was a kid,plus a few others.I remember “Sherry Ames” or “Cherie Ames” who was a nurse caught up in a mystery.) I was an avid reader of The Boxcar Children, and now, my grandson has read many of them,(updated a bit).
    There is an Agatha Christie book I am trying to remember the name of.It was about a middle-aged woman mystery novelist, kind of a lampoon at herself.She kept talking about how she grew to hate her most famous detective, a ‘foreigner’ …which was obviously a take on Hercule Poirot.
    But we sure loved him.I will do a very bad accent, call my sister Hastings and tell her to use her ‘little gray cells’!

    Like

    • jeff salter says:

      how did you sister react when you called her ‘Hastings’?
      LOL
      If you recall that Cristie title (the lampoon), I’d like to get it from you. That sounds like one I’d want to read too.

      Like

      • Meg Mims says:

        That book doesn’t ring a bell, Tonette, but I am sure I missed a few of her books. I have read the majority — and perhaps forgot that I read all? that was my high school phase, when Tolkien/Christie/Sayers/LeGuin had a tight grip on me. LOL I love the PBS series with David Suchet. He’s the ultimate Poirot. Best ever.

        Like

  5. tonettejoyce says:

    I’ll do some research and get back to you.
    (BTW, My sister called just as I was reading this.I read it to her and she laughed.She said,”I ANSWER to Hastings! We’re been doing this for what, 40 years?”

    Like

  6. tonettejoyce says:

    Jeff, the “writer” is Ariadne Oliver, who is a friend of Hercule Poirot’s. Now that I found her,I remember reading more than one story with her. I am not sure that I read all of these….a lot of years have gone by.
    This is from Wikipedia:The true first appearance of Mrs Oliver was a brief appearance in the short story The Case of the Discontented Soldier which was first published, along with four other stories in the August 1932 issue of the U.S. version of Cosmopolitan magazine (issue number 554) under the sub-heading of Are You Happy? If Not Consult Mr. Parker Pyne. The story first appeared in the UK in issue 614 of Woman’s Pictorial on 15 October 1932, and was later published in book form in 1934 as Parker Pyne Investigates (titled Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective in the USA). Within this story she appeared as part of Pyne’s unorthodox team of freelance assistants. She also briefly appears in The Case of the Rich Woman, also published in the same book.

    All her subsequent appearances (save The Pale Horse) were in Poirot novels:

    Cards on the Table (1936)
    Mrs McGinty’s Dead (1952)
    Dead Man’s Folly (1956)
    The Pale Horse (1961) — Oliver’s only appearance in a Christie novel without Poirot
    Third Girl (1966)
    Hallowe’en Party (1969)
    Elephants Can Remember (1972)
    Hope that helps.

    Like

  7. tonettejoyce says:

    Hope you can find some of them…I thought I had read about all of them but maybe I haven’t…A.C. is still the best!

    Like

  8. jeff salter says:

    I want to thank Meg for agreeing to be my Guest Fox for this week.
    We were passing out free chocolate and since several of our expected visitors didn’t show up, we have lots left over.
    Guess I’ll have to deal with it.

    Like

  9. tonettejoyce says:

    OK, Buster, where’s mine?

    Like

  10. crbwrites says:

    Came across this Agatha Christie quote just yesterday: “I have learnt that I am me, that I can do the things that, as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do.”

    Applies to the writing life quite well. Thanks for the visit with Dame Agatha, Meg, and all the best with Double Crossing. And congratulations on your new release, Jeff!

    Like

  11. jeff salter says:

    BTW, I don’t think I got around to telling y’all which literatery figure I would have discussed, if I’d kept my column this week — Wm Shakespeare.
    The first question I’d ask him is, “So many people say that you could not possibly have written all those wonderful plays and poems. What is your reaction / response to those critics?”

    Like

  12. Ahh, yes, Agatha. I love, love her. Read them all. When I was a kid, I used to start reading them and write down the page number I was on and the solution. I’d give it to my sister so I could prove how fast I figured it out. I still love to do that when reading mysteries.

    Thanks for popping in. I’m always late on the comments. Good luck with your work. It sounds great.

    Like

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