Episode 80: Queen Bees and Judgmental Nerds with Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

Kristen and Layne are joined by authors Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson to chat about their new co-written YA mystery THE AGATHAS, why you should never underestimate a teenage girl, and the enduring cultural power of OG Plot Twist Queen Agatha Christie. Grab your copy of THE AGATHAs, or any of Kathleen and Liz’s solo books, in the official Unlikeable Female Characters Bookshop.

Episode Transcript

LAYNE: Welcome to Unlikeable Female Characters, the podcast featuring feminist thriller writers in conversation about women who don’t give a damn if you like them. Today, I am very pleased to welcome the co-writing team of Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson. Kathleen is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces, You’d Be Home Now, and How to Make Friends with the Dark. Her books have been published in more than 24 countries. And Liz is the author of The Lucky Ones, which released on April 7th, 2020. We’re so sorry.

LIZ: Yeah…

LAYNE: I had a book come out around that time too, I feel ya. The Lucky Ones received multiple glowing trade reviews, including a Kirkus star. Liz resides in the DC Metro region where she lives with an adorable toddler, a fantastic husband, and two very bratty cats (who I would love to hear more about). Their new co-written YA thriller, The Agathas, comes out May 3rd, which when you’re listening to this, it will already be out, so you can go get it. Welcome, Kathleen and Liz!

KATHLEEN: Thank you for having us. It’s great to be here.

KRISTEN: And I’m here too, nothing exciting, but you forgot to mention me.

LAYNE: Sorry!! Usually I mention Kristen, and then I introduce our guests and I got, yeah, I don’t know, before this, we were having this whole conversation about the Oscars and Will Smith and Chris Rock. And that’s all I can think about now. Cause we’re recording this right after that happened. So people listening to this in May will be like, what? The news cycle moves quickly. But yes, Kristen is here as well, and you can’t see her, but she’s wearing little headphones with cat ears, and they’re adorable.

KRISTEN: I am, it’s true.

LIZ: They’re awesome.

LAYNE: We’re just going to be loopy today I think. I don’t know what the energy, like the astrological energy is right now, but we’re in a mood. But we’re so happy to have both of you on the show! Do one or both of you, you can decide how you want to do this one, want to tell us a little bit about The Agathas?

LIZ: Sure. The Agathas is a YA murder mystery, in the vein of a cozy mystery. We wrote it with the intent of it being fun, a little bit lighter than some mysteries and thrillers that are out there. The tone is more, I would say One of Us is Lying or the first book in the Good Girl’s Guide series. And it is about two girls who live in a small town called Castle Cove, and they are shoved together by circumstance. And then the most popular girl at their school goes missing and they decide, because one is obsessed with Agatha Christie and the other is obsessed with true crime, that they should be the ones to investigate the disappearance.

LAYNE: There are two main female characters in this, Alice and Iris. One of you wrote one and one wrote the other I’m guessing? Is that how you divided it up?

KATHLEEN: Yes.

LIZ: That is correct.

KATHLEEN: Liz wrote Alice Ogilvie, who starts the book fresh off house arrest for mimicking Agatha Christie’s real-life disappearance. She took a page from Agatha Christie’s book and disappeared early in the summer for five days, and no one knew where she was, who she was with, why she left. And she appeared with nary a scratch and saying nothing.

And she was promptly put on house arrest for costing the town so much money and time and resources, and Iris elected to serve as her tutor since Alice is not doing very well in school. Iris is the opposite of Alice. She’s very reclusive. She hangs out with a group of, for lack of a better word, we’ll call them like nerds at school, called the Zoners who are also into crime and things like that, and they’re very funny and they have their own space in the cafeteria. And they’re thrown together and form this unlikely friendship and bond through the process of looking for Brooke Donovan.

And I think that one of the things I loved about writing this book with Liz was that we have the mystery of the missing girl, which is a trope, but it’s also a mystery about how the unlikeliest of people can become friends. So it’s really a friendship story as well, how these two girls come together.

KRISTEN: I think that’s a really interesting element of the mystery is that building of the friendship. In mysteries characters are majorly at odds with each other, but in this one, we get to see how they work through that, and come together to solve the crime, but also to figure out who they are themselves in the process.

KATHLEEN: They’re both holding secrets from each other. And I like that what we do in the book that Alice might start off as like the popular snobby girl who’s very elitist. She has a lot of money. But we turn that on its head a little bit, because she’s not really that way. And Iris might actually be more of a snob than Alice, which we try to reflect in a few scenes where she’s always coming down on Alice because Alice is a hottie and has this money and is always insulting people. And really it’s Iris who might have a thing against people with more money, a class distinction.

LAYNE: I too was a judgmental nerd in high school. So I really related to Iris.

KRISTEN: Same.

KATHLEEN: That’s exactly it. So Iris is very much, like, she can be a very judgmental nerd.

LAYNE: I thought it was an interesting choice to have Alice, the popular girl, be the one who’s Agatha Christie-obsessed. Like she has all the paperbacks and is reading them, and like bringing up these things from all the different mysteries. And each of her chapters starts with a quote from an Agatha Christie book. Was that part of the concept from the beginning, that Alice was the one who was obsessed with Agatha Christie? Or did you decide that later on?

LIZ: I think it was pretty much from the get-go that we had Alice be the Agatha Christie fan. I think it worked well because she is, she’s very neglected. She grew up her parents traveling all the time and working all the time, and she has Brenda, her like, house manager, nanny, but that’s really her only stable person.

And so I think it worked really well to have her finally find something for herself in these books. And like you said, it does seem less likely to have that girl who’s above it all find herself in books like that. But I think that a lot of lonely kids find themselves in books. It gives her something for herself for the first time.

KRISTEN: Were either of you obsessed with Agatha Christie in high school?

LIZ: I was.

KRISTEN: Yeah?

LIZ: Oh yeah. I read all the Agatha Christies. Any mystery, really. I have always been a huge fan of mysteries, and like the classic-style mysteries. Like, I do like a thriller, I read lots of thrillers, but there’s something about that classic cozy mystery that is comforting in a way. Yeah, I grew up reading a lot of books like that.

KATHLEEN: When I was in high school, I discovered the books of—and I’ll probably pronounce his last name wrong; he recently passed away—Andrew Vox. And those are intensely dark detective stories, basically about a character who’s hunting down people who do bad things to kids. It’s a whole series of books and he, the author, worked in Child Protective Services for a long time as an investigator. And so they are very difficult to read, but I latched on to those because, much like Iris, I was drawn to darker things and darker characters. And so I think that when Liz and I came together to write this book, our respective loves for different types of genre really blended well in terms of how we were going to write the characters and what their obsessions would be in their emotional core.

And I love that Alice—you would not expect, you watch all these things about like rich mean girls and they’re always like “ick, school, yuck.” And she is a little bit like that, but she’s a big reader. She found her books. She found her people in the books, and she loves all the characters in Agatha Christie, and I think that through reading them, she’s really discovering what and who she wants to be in life. But that’s a conversation that Liz and I have in case we ever get to write more of these books.

LAYNE: Yeah, it felt like you left it open to be a series. Do you guys have ideas for future ones? I would love to read more.

KATHLEEN: Oh, absolutely.

LIZ: We definitely have ideas.

KATHLEEN: We have ideas. I hope that it takes off. I could write these forever.

KRISTEN: I like how Alice has latched on to the idea of people being underestimated through the Agatha Christie books, like through the character of Poirot. And she’s picked up helpful life hacks from these books that are like, almost a hundred years old.

And I think that’s a really fun way to loop in, not just the idea of the Agatha Christie books, but also to show why those books are still great. The classic mysteries, just because they’re old doesn’t mean they’re not relevant to our lives. That’s for sure.

LIZ: Absolutely.

LAYNE: It’s so relevant to them as teenage girls, like cause teenage girls are often underestimated or just like looked down upon, and they fight against that through their investigation, but they also take advantage of it when it suits them, when it’s helpful.

LIZ: It worked so well with Agatha Christie, cause really the Miss Marple series is all about how she’s underestimated. There’s the teenage girls being underestimated, but older women are so underestimated too. And so Miss Marple solves the mysteries by basically being like there, but nobody gives her any credit, nobody thinks that she’s going to be smart or helpful or insightful. So like you said, Alice really does pull that from those books and parallel it to how teenage girls are often underestimated.

KATHLEEN: And Alice and Iris are very much, they don’t specifically state it, but they do feel underestimated and victims of, particularly Detective Thompson’s, misogyny and dismissal of teenage girls. Who do you think you are? And how do you think you can solve this? And you’re mucking this whole thing up, and they take it upon themselves.

And when Liz and I were writing their characters too, we didn’t want them to be like really good detectives from the get-go because they are teenagers and they are learning. So it was important to also have elements of they do things incorrectly a lot, cause they’re just throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks. And they make a lot of mistakes, and also sometimes they can’t stay on a stakeout very long because they have to do homework. Like, real life intercedes. It’s not like they can just be out and about all the time, trying to solve this crime.

KRISTEN: So let’s talk a little bit about what the actual process of writing it was like. Would one of you write a chapter and then send it off to the other to write the follow-up chapter? Or did you work off of an outline kind of separately at the same time?

LIZ: Yeah, so basically how we wrote it was to—we did outline a bit first, right, Kathleen? We like, we had our spreadsheet, we did some character bios for our different characters.

KATHLEEN: We did. The whole genesis of the book was it was after the lockdown, and after Liz’s book came out, and we were both feeling very isolated, and we weren’t working on anything. And we had become friends because we have the same editor and I had read Liz’s book, The Lucky Ones. I just love book so much, everyone should go buy a copy of that book. And we had become friends, and we had messaged and we had met in person in DC once, and we just got along really well. And, we were messaging every day. And we just needed something new to do, to think about every day that would get us through that summer of lockdown.

And we were just talking about it, and one day just happened: what if we tried to write a mystery? Who would expect a mystery from Liz or me? Because we were really mostly emotionally intense books. What if we wrote a mystery, we made it kind of fun, with like little threads of real-life things that happen in there to teenagers, like parental neglect or domestic abuse?

But what if we made it, like, fun and they’re not very good at it? What if we just did that, for the heck of it? Liz is very good. She’s a plotter, and I’m a pantser and she said before we start this—she’ll downplay it. She was really great about, we would need to outline this, and make a spreadsheet, because in mysteries, you need to hit these beats. You need to have your red herrings. You can’t just go by the seat of your pants, Kathleen, and throw everything on the page. You have to follow this. And so we had a spreadsheet, we had an outline, we talked about our characters, and then one day we just started like trading a chapter.

And so she would write an Alice chapter and send it to me. And then I would respond and check the spreadsheet to see where we should be going and send my Iris chapter back. And we wrote it very quickly, and I have to say it was a really pleasant experience to write a book with someone else because you’re not as alone in it, and they know exactly what’s going on because they’re in that plot with you. And so you’re texting all the time. It was really great.

LAYNE: Yeah, I also co-wrote stuff during the pandemic, and I’ve been seeing more and more of these co-written projects coming about. Especially from female authors, actually. I feel like, I don’t know, maybe men don’t play well with others. I know they don’t. But it is so much fun, and with the project that I worked on, it was something that was engineered to be more fun than a lot of the books that we’d written solo, like just a little bit more of a romp. But there’s something about having someone to talk to you, especially when we’re all locked in our houses, but just in general, that now when I’m trying to write my own books alone, I’m just like, this is a scam. Like, why do I have to write this by myself? I hate this. I don’t know. What’s it been like to go back to working on your own stuff? Or were you working on your own stuff while you were co-writing?

LIZ: Yeah. I actually had to write my own book at the same time we were drafting The Agathas. So I was writing two books simultaneously, and that was really hard.

KATHLEEN: I can’t believe you did that, actually.

LIZ: I can’t either. And no wonder that draft turned out so terribly, of my own book, because I was like, so confused. It was very hard because it was also like, I was trying to shift this book that I had written as like a sad, contemporary into more of a thriller.

And so it was almost like I was writing a murder mystery, but also a thriller at the same time. The Agathas was fine. I didn’t have trouble with that, but my other book kept bleeding into it. So anyway, I had to rewrite that book again because my editor was like, no. And I was like, okay. I understand. So I actually wrote it again, after we finished writing The Agathas. So I wrote that last fall. And it was weird writing it by myself. Like I kept wanting to text Kathleen and be like, what should I do now? But I was like, Liz, you have to write this book by yourself. I did miss writing with somebody else while I was writing that solo.

LAYNE: Screenwriters really have it figured out, cause they co-write or they have the writers’ room on a TV show. And it’s so fun just to bounce ideas. If you have a good vibe between your collaborators, I know people can fight, too. When it’s going well, it’s just so much easier and like a more joyful process than this idea that we all have to be in our little garrets typing away alone. I want to leave that behind. I’ve even been taking, like for my solo projects, taking some of the lessons from co-writing into it, and having FaceTime calls with some of my writer friends, and we’ll help each other out. We shouldn’t be locked alone in rooms anymore.

LIZ: Agreed.

KRISTEN: I haven’t tried co-writing anything yet, but I would like to at some point, it sounds fun.

KATHLEEN: I think it’s a really good process, and it does strengthen you when you go back to, like Layne said, when you go back to writing your standalones, like you’ve learned some tips and tricks that help you a lot. I think that you have to be flexible, because you’re not writing the whole book.

Like you have to be a team and you have to have rules. Liz can go into Iris chapters and revamp the dialogue that I gave Alice so that she sounds like Alice, or she can say, okay, I don’t think that Alice would do this or feel this way in that chapter because she knows Alice. So you have to be very flexible and realize that 50% is you and 50% is this other person, and you’re making a whole thing together. So you have to make sure that you’re ready and open to do that.

LAYNE: I think having that ownership of a specific character helps. That’s how it worked for my projects as well, where it was like we each had our own character, so we would trade off chapters and then say oh my character wouldn’t say or do that. And we each were the final authority. I think that really helps settle potential conflicts.

LIZ: Yeah. Agreed. I don’t know how people do it, who co-write from one single POV. It’s just fascinating to me, to be able to do that. I think you have to be in the same place physically. That’s the only way I feel like it would be possible. I don’t know. I know a co-writing duo in LA, Jenni and Ted, they wrote Unpregnant, and they said that they’re in the same place physically, but one of them mostly does the jokes, and one of them does more of I guess the scene builds and stuff like that, which is interesting.

KRISTEN: That is interesting.

LIZ: Yeah.

LAYNE: I like to write dialogue, and I hate writing descriptions. I need a co-writer who wants to describe everything, and I’ll write all the dialogue.

KATHLEEN: It’s me, it’s me!

LIZ: I also am a dialogue person.

KATHLEEN: See, that’s why it’s good. Because Liz is like, “dialogue!” And I don’t like dialogue a lot, but I’ll be like, oh, I’ll describe that. Give me that scene.

LIZ: It’s always like, what kind of clothes are they wearing? I’m like, I don’t know, why do they have to wear any clothes? They just exist in space.

LAYNE: Yeah.

KATHLEEN: But what is she wearing? What kind of fabric is it? What would she wear? What’s her house look like? How many stairs does Alice have, like in her house? Is it really airy?

LAYNE: Yeah, my first drafts are like characters, just talking to each other in a void. They have no physical form.

LIZ: I have to describe two characters moving in a room, it takes me all day to write one scene. Cause I’m like, why do I have to do this?

KATHLEEN: And partly that’s because our editor’s really detailed and great. And this helped Liz and I writing, because since we have the same editor, when we would write things, we’d be like, she’s going to say this. She’s a big stickler for, if you have a character in a room and they’re suddenly in a different spot of the room, you’ll get this note: did they get up from the chair and walk across? How did they get to that table? We had her voice in our head as well. And we didn’t tell anyone when we were writing this book, not our agents, our editor, and I’m immensely grateful for that, because I think if we had gone into it with just a synopsis that everything that they would have said about the book would have hung over us. And I think it was really important for us to just do it quietly by ourselves, so that the story could be its own thing and not what other people thought that maybe it should be coming from us.

LAYNE: Interesting. I had assumed you guys sold it together on proposal.

KATHLEEN: No.

LAYNE: That’s fascinating. You’re just like, here’s a secret book, like “surprise.”

LIZ: We wrote a hundred pages and a synopsis, but then our editor was like, she’s so great because she’s so flexible with things. So she was basically like, yeah, go write it. And we were like, oh, okay.

KATHLEEN: I think they were very surprised and happy, and our editor was very supportive. At first she was, like, wait, the two of you did what now? And she read it.

LIZ: Kathleen’s impressions of our editor. It’s amazing.

KATHLEEN: I don’t ever want to leave her, cause she’s just a really good and close reader. And also not a lot of editors or agents are supportive of writers moving in a different direction, like switching to a different genre entirely. And they were all supportive, and especially for Liz, she’s making a bigger move into mystery and thriller. This is a good place for her as a writer, just to start here to make a shift. But not a lot of editors and agents are always supportive of that from the get-go. They’re like, no, you do this one thing. You write romcoms, I don’t really want a horror book from you. But ours were like, no, this is a good move for the both of you, you’re doing something new, and we like it a lot. And we think that people are gonna really be enthusiastic about it. But I think the only thing, and this goes back to the unlikable female characters, is I love Alice and Iris, but our editor wanted to pull back a little bit on Alice’s prickliness in the beginning.

LIZ: Alice was, personality wise, the most like me character that I’d ever written, and our editor’s like, she’s unlikeable. And I was like, oh. Thanks.

KATHLEEN: You take that stuff personally, but I think that it was more of an editorial thing because Alice, her chapter opens the book. And so they can be unlikeable, but they can’t be too much so, because a reader has to start that book and want to stay with it. And so we had to pull back in the beginning, but maybe, not so much, like later on.

LIZ: And I will say, I feel like there are different kinds of unlikeable. I don’t think Krista was reacting to the prickliness. It was more, she was almost like too snobby in a lot of ways. And when I went back and reread some of the parts, I was like, oh yeah, like I can see what she’s saying. This could be very off putting for a reader. I had the same editor for The Lucky Ones, and my main female character in that, I’ve had multiple comments about how she’s very unlikeable, but my editor never said a word. May is super angry and lashes out at people all the time. And I think that it’s just, she didn’t want people to be put off by unnecessary comments about snobbiness, because that’s not really what that character is about. That’s not what Alice is about.

LAYNE: Yeah. And I think it’s maybe a different thing for a character who’s like the Queen Bee popular girl. Cause a lot of readers are probably predisposed to dislike that girl because of their own high school experiences or other media that they’ve seen. So there’s that issue right there where they’re not going to find her relatable, which is even more important than likeable. But, as we talk about on the show all the time, really all a female character has to do to be considered unlikeable is to speak or take action.

KRISTEN: Have an opinion.

LAYNE: A single opinion.

KATHLEEN: Or to have a very intense, emotional reaction to something, like you’re being dramatic and you’re overreacting. And I think that’s people’s discomfort with women who just express themselves in general. And that the young adult community of writers is largely female. And I think it’s really interesting, there is that sort of pushback on all these—these are written by largely female authors. They’re not, there are a lot of way male authors, but the majority of it is female, as far as I know. And it’s interesting that there’s this punching down against unlikeable, teen female characters. So we’re supposed to be writing morality lessons in our books or something. Just for expressing their emotions and reacting to events. What are you supposed to write? Then I’m unlikeable. Then Liz is unlikeable, and all of us are unlikeable. Right?

LAYNE: For young characters, especially, I have to roll my eyes so hard every time I see a review of a YA book, and these are adults reading these books and writing these reviews sometimes, and they’re like, oh, the female main character was just so immature and she made bad decisions and she’s so dramatic. And I’m like, do you remember what it’s like to be a teenager? That’s part of it.

KATHLEEN: People can say what they want in reviews. I think that’s fine because it’s out of your hands as a writer, but I think that slant in reviews is really interesting because, like you said, don’t you remember what it was like to be a teenager? Of course you’re supposed to make bad decisions and you’re supposed to be over-reactive and you don’t always do the right thing.

You’re not supposed to because you’re not an adult, you haven’t learned some tools of life yet. But it’s also strange to me because if you don’t want to read about teenagers, then there’s this whole other thing called adult fiction that you could go to. And when I read YA fiction, I try not to read it as an adult. Like I don’t read it that way, where I’m judging the characters for simply being young and doing things incorrectly. I read it as like a 15 year-old. And so a lot of times I’ll be like, oh God, I really love this book. This is so great. It’s like wild. And all this stuff happens and I cried and, oh wow, they did this kind of awful thing.

And then someone else will read the book around my age and they’ll be like, she’s so petulant, like all the time throughout that whole book, like I could not believe. And I’m like, what were you like when you were 16 years old? Have you read your diaries lately? Cause you should.

LAYNE: I read a bunch of my college blogs when I was writing my last book, They Never Learn, because one of the POVs is an 18 year-old college freshman, and I was like, why did anyone speak to me, it was awful. It’s awful. But I like reading YA because it’s almost like the nostalgia factor, remembering what it was like to be young and have those intense feelings and so many different feelings all at once. And just to capture that again, but not actually have to live it.

KATHLEEN: Yeah.

KRISTEN: Yeah.

LAYNE: There’s a pleasure in that. But I can’t imagine reading a YA book and being like, why didn’t she make the decision that like a 35 year-old grown professional woman would make, like what’s going on?

KRISTEN: I also think it’s really strange when people take the stance of, this book was frustrating because the characters made bad choices and these bad things happen. Do you really want to read a book about characters who are just completely likeable all the time and always make good choices? Of course not. There’s no story there at all. Do people just want to complain?

KATHLEEN: There’s no fiction at all, ever, if you don’t have any character from any book making a bad decision, because that’s what sets everything in motion really is bad decisions, in every single piece of fiction that you’ve read.

LAYNE: Do we want to talk more Agatha Christie, like Easter eggs and stuff? I was going to let you take the lead on this, Kristen, because I am woefully uneducated about Agatha Christie. I was in an Agatha Christie play in high school. That’s all I know. And I did know about her disappearing. After her husband cheated on her, she like just fucked off to a hotel for a few days.

KATHLEEN: She registered under his mistress’s name.

LAYNE: That is iconic behavior.

KRISTEN: Yes, the absolute legend.

KATHLEEN: I think it’s a great story, cause it was covered in newspapers. She was a famous novelist already, so it was everywhere, and it became a real-life mystery, like where is she? And she’s kicking back in this hotel. Liz, didn’t she, like, fake crash her car too?

LIZ: Yeah, they’re not sure if it was faked, like that’s the thing is people still don’t know how much of it was. Like there’s theories that she disappeared just to be like, eff you to her first husband. But there’s also theories that she was so upset when she found out about the affair that she disassociated and disappeared without fully knowing what she was doing. That’s also fascinating to me that, now a hundred years later, people still don’t know what happened, and that’s what we wanted to capture in this book is, like, Alice disappearing, and people just not knowing, like that’s her story, and she’s not going to share it.

KRISTEN: Yeah. The hotel where Agatha Christie was staying and later reappeared is the site of a really great book festival in the UK called the Harrogate. It’s called like the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Mystery Writing Festival. It’s fantastic festival, and if you ever get a chance to go, you should definitely go. But this hotel is like the most Agatha Christie-looking hotel I have ever seen.

LIZ: Ooh.

LAYNE: Describe please.

KRISTEN: So it’s just, I don’t know, like red and gold and brocade stuff and low ceilings and ornate elevators, and the rooms were quite modern, but like the common areas are very like, old, British hotel feeling. I went there to go to the book festival a couple of years ago and yeah, it was just really cool to see it.

LIZ: That’s awesome. I would love to go there sometime.

KRISTEN: Highly recommended. So I love that you have quotes from the Agatha Christie books at the beginnings of the chapters. I feel like that really adds a nice layer to it. How did you go about deciding which ones you wanted to use? Were they quotes that you always liked, or did you have to do a hunt to find out which ones would be most appropriate?

LIZ: Yeah, so I basically just did a hunt. There were a few that I felt worked immediately that I could, think about, pull up in my head. But most of them, I just was thinking about what happened in each individual chapter and going off of that, like I wanted the quotes to really fit the chapters as well as possible. So I would look at different—like Goodreads has a lot of quotes from authors, and look at some of the books that I have here, and just try to fit it as close as I could to the content of that particular chapter.

KRISTEN: Love it. Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie novel?

LIZ: My favorite is actually A Caribbean Mystery. I love that one, and I also love The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

KRISTEN: That’s one of my favorites as well.

LIZ: I just love A Caribbean Mystery cause it’s so cozy. Like it’s Miss Marple, she’s like in this different setting, and it’s almost a more fun book than some of the other ones.

KRISTEN: Yes. To get out of the dreary English countryside does Miss Marple well.

LIZ: Yes.

KRISTEN: Yeah, and that’s a lot of fun.

KATHLEEN: I love that Agatha Christie is so prevalent in our literary culture. There’s so much Agatha Christie coming out this year. There’s a couple of other books that are contemporary retellings of some of her novels in the YA sphere. And then there’s an anthology coming out, where I think writers are writing short stories based on some of the Christie books, like Karen McManus is involved in that. And I think it’s really great that the books are so timeless in a way, and I think it has a lot to do with the mystery factor, because everybody can get lost in a mystery. You could be any character in a mystery. There’s always somebody to root for and somebody to root against, and I think that’s a really great thing.

KRISTEN: And they’re so cleverly constructed. You take away all of the trappings of modern life that we can bury our clues in. The way the mysteries in her books are built, they’re just so artfully constructed to be these great puzzles, and that’s completely timeless. Like you can take that dynamic out of there and put it anywhere, and it’s going to work. Which is why I think so many people who write mysteries in particular look at Agatha Christie as such an influence just because she invented this game that we’re all trying to do. And she did it so well.

LIZ: Absolutely. I recently read Riley Sager’s new book—it’s coming out in a month or two—and even in that book, the twist was from an Agatha Christie book. Or was used in an Agatha Christie book, originally thought of by Agatha Christie. And it’s just so fascinating that she really, like you said, like she really managed to come up with these incredible twists, like having the murderer be the narrator. It’s things like that, that people were like, wait, what? It astounded people at the time.

LAYNE: There’s only so many plots, and she thought of all of them.

KRISTEN: She did. And they’re so good. Like they’re such good plots that we can just borrow them, and they still work. We can use some of these constructs and interpret them in new ways to make new stories. But really every idea that we could possibly think of has already been done by Agatha Christie and done better than we could ever hope to. We can try.

LAYNE: There should be—maybe there is?—a mystery writing craft book that just like breaks down her different plot structures and all the twists. Has anyone done that?

LIZ: That would be amazing.

KRISTEN: That would be fantastic. Thanks for the idea, Layne.

LAYNE: I’m not doing it. That’s a free idea. There you go.

KATHLEEN: You could co-write it.

LIZ: There you go.

KRISTEN: You can write all the dialogue.

LAYNE: I can write all the dialogue.

Thank you so much for coming on the show. If you would each like to tell us, if you can share, what you’re working on now, or what’s next for you, and then where people can find you on the Internet. Do you want to go first, Kathleen?

KATHLEEN: The Agathas comes out May 3rd, so I’m very excited about that. And I have a solo book that is, I think coming out, I don’t know, it could be like two years. I don’t have a date yet. And right now that’s called The Glass Girl. And you can find me on social media @kathglasgow on Twitter and @kathleenglasgow on TikTok. Or you can go to my website, kathleenglasgowbooks.com.

LIZ: I am currently working on something that I can’t talk about yet. And I’m waiting for notes on the book that I wrote last fall, which is a fun mystery. I’m very excited about that book too. And you can find me on all socials @lzlwsn, which is my name with no vowels. And my author website is lizlawsonauthor.com.

LAYNE: Awesome. At the time this airs, The Agathas will be on shelves, so go get your copy ASAP.

KATHLEEN: Thank you so much.

LIZ: Thank you.

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