Here’s a short profile of Sophie and her lively thoughts on genre, fiction and being the successor to Agatha Christie.
Sophie on crime
“A great crime novel is a great novel.” Some people can be dismissive of crime fiction, but Sophie Hannah is having none of it. A crime fiction fan since reading her first Enid Blyton at the age of six, (which she followed by reading the whole of Agatha Christie’s work between the ages of nine and 13), she is a passionate defender of the genre. “People are snobby about crime because it sells so well,” she says, explaining that the reason it is so popular is because there is always some kind of puzzle. Our need to solve puzzles is the main motivation in our daily lives, she writes. “We all have that experience of wondering what’s going to happen: Will we get the job we want? Does our sister-in-law secretly hate us? Is our current relationship going to last? OK, usually we are not falling over dead bodies, but crime is the best because it most closely mirrors our experience.”
Sophie the poet
She has (so far) published six volumes of poetry. Their titles, including Pessimism for Beginners, Leaving and Leaving You and Marrying the Ugly Millionaire, give a clue. Witty and brisk on the surface, they take on some very modern issues – dumping your lover by email, waiting for someone to call – but are also questioning, poignant, and thoughtful. What happens to people who storm out of rooms? Why do men enjoy setting macho challenges for each other? They’re disarmingly readable and formidably correct to poetic form.
Poetry was how Sophie got started – having had three early crime novels rejected, she turned back to poetry which she had written since a child. After her first collection was published when she was 25, the Poetry Review called her a genius. Scroll to the end to see a short example of her recent work.
On being prolific
Sophie wrote in a Guardian article in 2018: “Prolific authors take note: the word ‘unstoppable’ is never truly intended as a compliment, and you should be suspicious of anyone who uses it about you.” So let’s just say she shows no sign of stopping, with 23 books of fiction published in the UK, two volumes of non-fiction, and six poetry editions to her name. She is published in 32 languages and 51 territories. She has also written bestselling continuation novels featuring Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Oh, and two short story collections. And hang on, there are a couple of children’s books there too. She has sold millions of books.
Teacher and coach
Sophie has been teaching at the University of Cambridge since 1997, when she was made a Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College. She is now at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, where she is the course director of a Master’s Degree in Crime and Thriller Writing. She helped create the two-year course and is its main teacher. She is also the founder of Dream Author, an online coaching programme for writers.
In 2014, Sophie obtained the blessing of Agatha Christie’s family and estate, to publish a new Poirot novel, The Monogram Murders (see Pheebs' review here), which was a bestseller in more than fifteen countries. She has since published two more Poirot novels, Closed Casket and The Mystery of Three Quarters, both of which were instant Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers.
In 2018, Sophie published a book called How to Hold a Grudge. Subtitled From resentment to contentment, the power of grudges to transform your life, it looks at how grudges, when managed correctly, can be good for us. As well as being a best-seller it has spawned a podcast and if you go to her lively website you can check in on grudge of the week or listen to the best music written about grudges. (sample song: I Hope You Will Never be Happy by Dolly Parton).
Phew – this short tour of Sophie Hannah’s work shows her huge range and energy. She’s bound to be a lively guest and offer a fantastic insight into all of it on 23 January. Book NOW!
E-mail your lover one full-stop
To let him know he’s got the chop,
The old heave-ho, the push, the sack.
Period. Tiny, plump and black,
And if a question mark comes back,
Rows of full-stops across his screen
Will point out starkly what you mean:
You loved him once. Now you do not.
If he mistakes an awful lot
Of full-stops for a dot dot dot,
Go bold, pump up the font, press hash
(The one he made of things), then dash.
For each new season’s thriving crop
Of travesties, each wound, each flop,
E-mail your lover one full-stop.