Nina de Gramont: UNCW professor lands on NYT Best Seller List with Agatha Christie novel (‘1on1 with Jon Evans’ podcast)
“The Christie Affair” was the February selection for Reese’s Book Club
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - What happened to Agatha Christie in early December of 1926? Many people have speculated on the famous author’s eleven-day disappearance. Nina de Gramont had an idea to give the story a fictional twist. After all, the UNCW professor had already written and published eight books. So, de Gramont set out to craft a story and take her readers to England just prior to the time of Agatha’s mysterious absence, as her husband Archie planned to run away with his mistress. The Christie Affair published in early 2022, seven years after de Gramont’s previous release, The Distance from Me to You.
“The book was acquired by a publisher in the end of February 2020,” de Gramont said. “So, the sort of two years between that and publication I think was a little bit due to COVID. Before that, it was just the daunting task of researching and all the reading I had to do. I will say that at one point. I had written a draft or two of the book and I just had a panic attack. I’m an American, I cannot write this book! I put it aside and wrote an entirely different book. Then I put that one aside and came back to The Christie Affair.”
The book became a New York Times Best Seller, fueled in part by being picked as the February selection for Reese’s Book Club. Founded by Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, the club spotlights books with women at the center of the story. De Gramont got the news while prepping for a class, and also learned she had to keep it a secret.
“It was about five minutes before I was going to teach,” de Gramont remembers. “My editor Jennifer (Enderlin) called and said, ‘I have the most thrilling news! Reese Witherspoon has chosen The Christie Affair for her February book pick!’. I screamed and I jumped up and down, and Jennifer said, ‘You can’t tell anybody!’. Everybody I know just heard me scream! What am I going to tell them?. It was amazing! Then I had to say, ‘I’ve gotta go! I’ve got to go teach!’ So, it was definitely the most distracted class I’ve ever taught. But it was it was very thrilling and very exciting.”
The Christie Affair is de Gramont’s second book to be optioned for film or television, along with The Distance from Me to You. She was hired to write the 2015 book and does not own any of the rights to it. But she has been in touch with the screenwriter working on a The Christie Affair series, and hopes to have the chance to give feedback during the process.
“I think it’s important to remember that the book still stands on its own. The Christie Affair is going to be a TV series, and I hope it’s wonderful. That would be more fun than if it were not wonderful,” de Gramont says with a smile. “But at the same time, it doesn’t change what the book is. You think about how many books have been made into multiple different versions of movies and series. So, I try to separate myself from it a little bit.”
De Gramont grew up in New Jersey, in the shadow of New York City. She says her parents fostered a love and appreciation for the arts around their home, and the family would venture into the city often to see plays and tour museums. She attended Colorado College, getting a degree in English Literature, and finished her Master’s in Fine Arts degree at UNCW in 2006, after moving to Wilmington when her husband, fellow author David Gessner, accepted a job to become a professor at the university. De Gramont’s first novel, Gossip of the Starlings, published in 2008. Her first work, Of Cats and Men, was a collection of short stories put together in longer form. The Christie Affair is her ninth book, and most successful to date. She admits, being known as a ‘New York Times Bestselling Author’ does come with a range of emotions.
“It’s something I worked hard for a long time and hoped would happen,” de Gramont says. “My first book was published in 2001. Had that book hit the New York Times Best Seller List, I would think it was because I was so brilliant and preordained, and it was my destiny. But having been through all the ups and downs and knowing so many other authors, I know that there’s a hefty dose of luck involved. So that’s where the modesty comes in. And yes, I am a little nervous about following this up.”
Nina de Gramont has taught several courses in fiction and creative writing at UNCW. You can click here to visit her page on the university’s website. Ninadegramont.com is the website to learn more about her previous works and to read news and reviews about The Christie Affair. I hope you enjoy the conversation with Nina de Gramont as much as I did.
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