That's a question I'd like to ask all the other mystery writers out there.
Time is a factor, or course. When I'm in the midst of writing a book, sometimes all I have time to do is write. My only reading is confined to research, and I collapse at the end of a long day, staring at the idiots who inhabit Reality TV-Land, as they squabble about their tiny lives.
But right now I'm working on the planning of a new series. I don't take that lightly; I believe that the planning stages are what will sustain you through the series, every layer you plan adding to the depth of your characters. I'm cautiously optimistic, but there have been some bumps along the way. Then who should come along to help me out, but Dame Agatha herself!!
I read Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks... no, not the actual notebooks, but the book by John Curran. What I found was, while reading the book I was reminded of all the many methods writers have to conceal evidence, misdirect, and mislead. No one was better at that than the Queen of Mystery herself! I am not lifting any of her methods or tricks, but reading through her thought processes (weird how familiar the notes feel, sometimes; I can see her thinking things through on paper, like I do. Too bad I will never achieve her level of brilliance!!) illuminates a path that all mystery writers must tread, eventually. How can we successfully conceal the perp and his or her motives from the reader?
But lately I started reading Roberta Isleib's 'Asking for Murder', one of her advice column mysteries. And darned if it didn't have the same affect, but in a vastly different way! If you've never read the series, I urge you to pick up the books, starting with the first one, Deadly Advice.
Here's what I've figured out, about why her book has triggered such a flood of creativity. A truly great mystery writer inspires me, reminding me that while any mystery novel is of course, ultimately about the mystery, at its core a mystery novel is also about the affect of trauma on the human heart, and how the investigation is inevitably cluttered and complicated by the secrets of the soul, the rich interweaving of human experience that is both our glory and sometimes, our downfall. It's all about the people, and their interactions.