I am often asked where I get the ideas for my stories. The answer is “Anywhere.” I don’t just sit on the sofa and wait for inspiration to strike, however; I look for it wherever I go during the day, or in my environment when I am home. Things hit me at the craziest times.
- For Soul Lost, I was reading about my hero, Alfred the Great, and read a line In Asser’s Life of King Alfred (written during Alfred’s lifetime) that says: “Then the aforesaid revered king, Alfred, but at that time occupying a subordinate station, asked and obtained in marriage a noble Mercian lady…” So I thought what if Alfred was so forward thinking because his wife was from the 21st century? Hmmm…time travel…hmmm.
- The inspiration for People of the Green Hills came while I was sitting at a red light and saw yet another strip mall being built (in addition to all of the others that stand empty) and I thought: What if when they plow down all the trees and haul away the topsoil to level the lot, they uncover the top of a great civilization that existed in Georgia? The tip of a marble pyramid sticking up out of the dirt? What if that civilization was exactly like ours and imploded from its weaknesses as a society, weaknesses just like our weaknesses today? Did anyone else think “ghostly echoes from the past?”
- While I was doing research for People of the Green Hills, I came across the description of a fougou: A fogou or fougou is an underground, dry-stone structure found on Iron Age or Romano-British-defended settlement sites in Cornwall. The original purpose of a fogou is uncertain today. (Wikipedia)This looks exactly like a portal to the North Pole, don’t you think? Of course it does. Thus was born Megan’s Christmas Knight.
- I was ironing one night with the ironing board set up by my husband’s recliner as it always is. I looked down at him and thought, “If I die, he won’t iron. He’ll just wear it wrinkled,” which led to “He would need to remarry someone who ironed.” That led to “Whom he would marry?” and the idea of leaving a list to help him find someone. So I wrote a book about a widower whose wife left him a list of people to date, Maisie’s List, now under contract with Wild Rose Press.
- When I described Maisie’s List to Rhonda Peters, editor in chief at Wild Rose Press, she commented that it sounded like a good story for spin-offs. What a great idea! Within minutes of our interview, I had a vague plot line for the book that is becoming Suzanne’s Secrets.
- All of these books beg sequels. Alfred and Isabel’s children (currently just an idea). The new Green Hills colony (currently 24,000 words of a manuscript entitled The Bend of the River). Megan and Nick moving toward marriage (currently 11,000 words of a manuscript entitled Megan’s Christmas Choice). Peter’s dates getting their own stories (my work in progress, Suzanne’s Secrets, 25,000 words). Also, I have created a backstory for Suzanne’s Secrets that can easily be turned into book length narrative about an Irish family that immigrated to America in 1890 and built the house she is decorating for her ex-husband in 2018. I believe I can write for the rest of my natural life, and never get them all done.
What’s my point? You never know where inspiration will strike. The way a book has fallen on a bookshelf. The shape of a shadow. A story on the news. A bird at the bird feeder. Any place, any time, any thing. My advice to other writers who are searching for an inspiration? Do stuff. Go out in the world and meet people. Always keep your eyes open–at work, at the grocery store, the gas station, etc, etc. You will see something that I don’t see, that no one else sees, and you will write about it.
My second piece of advice: don’t be afraid of it. Let your imagination lead the way and follow it without knowing where you will wind up. What if? What if? What if?
- What if there was a galactic war a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?
- What if there was a great chocolate factory run by a mysterious man who suddenly opened his doors to five children who found gold tickets in his candy bars?
- What if dwarfs, and elves, and wizards were real, but disappeared before our recorded history?
- What if a car could fly?
- What if there is a wizard world kept carefully hidden from all the non-wizards?
What if? What if? What if? All you have to do is be still and let the possibilities wash over you. Soon you too will find you have so much to say that you can’t type fast enough.