Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The number one question I am asked: "Where do you get your ideas?"

Every book has to start somewhere. Even if that somewhere never makes it into the end product, it's the catalyst, the spark. Can you trace back where your latest idea came from?

For instance, Danita's red-eyed demon dogs. Danita has said she often gets her ideas from dreams. I am curious to know in what form that particular dream appeared. Was it just the dogs? Was it also the demon aspect? How much came with the initial birth of the idea?

And Karen with her urban fantasy and that whole world she's creating with gargoyle masters and all the rest I am afraid to write down because I know I'll get it wrong. Where did that idea originate? What was the beginning thought?

Paty and historicals. Did she read about a stamp mill or grow interested in a geographic place, did the characters come first or did the plot?

Eli's writing a paranormal. Did she read about gods and goddesses, or did an idea pop into her head, or did the concept seem interesting and she built the rest?

And everyone else, of course. I have no idea how Genene originates a book. And Lisa, where did yours start? Did Wavy think of the YA characters first or their situation? I know I am leaving people out, please forgive me.

The idea for my WIP came from a newspaper article about an event. My strongest thought upon reading the article was the "what if?" we all know so well. The book after this one is trickier as it morphed from an idea that came at a NY conference in a blinding moment during someone's workshop. The book itself no longer resembles much of the original idea. The one before this book came from a concept -- revenge. And before that, the general idea of not knowing who you are, where you are, or how you got there. What would happen next?

I haven't been specific with my examples because you've heard them before. Please, be as specific as you like so we can see how your spark ignited and created a book.

Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.


Paty Jager said...

Interesting topic, Alice!

MIP started because I attended a RWA workshop on how to write humor. Since I didn't think I could do the normal way, I made my heroine accident prone and wanted to set it in the area (Blue Mountains) where I had recently visited. And it morphed from there.

GOA came from the research I did for MIP. While discovering the info I needed about railroads for MIP I discovered the sternwheelers going up and down the Columbia in the 1800's and then my characters and their beliefs came to me.

PGN came as I was driving home from a meeting where you suggested I write a contemporary cowboy. I was mulling over the fact I didn't/couldn't write contemporary and a story I heard on the radio about a child buying stuff over the internet with their parent's credit card and the story started taking form.

Outlaw in Petticoats started out with the knowledge I had to put to rest a dangler I left in the first petticoat book. The tintype. And after doing what if's and looking at how it was in the first book, I came up with the second.

The third book I'm working on now, I knew which brother needed to fall in love, I looked at his characteristics and found someone maybe just a little stronger willed and who has seen the worst in life to counter act his naivety. And then put them at odds.

The spirit trilogy came about because I grew up in the land of Chief Joseph and have always had a reverence for him and his people.

I have more, but they all seem to stem from either something I've read or a part of history I want to have others know.

It will be interesting to see what other's have to say!

And I'm slow today. Got home at 12:30 am to a message from my dh that they tagged out and he'd be home today. So instead of making pies to take to camp, I had to run to town and buy a turkey and trimmings so I can make the whole meal tomorrow. But it gave me a chance to see my daughter and her family for a short time before they get on the plane tomorrow.

Happy T-Day All!

Alice Sharpe said...

Man, I either picked a subject NO ONE is interested in or everyone is traveling or cooking or visiting. That's okay, I'll amuse myself and review the germinating idea for a random book. I'll go with a book I wrote called The Baby Season.

The original idea started with a comment from somebody about a band comprised of older musicians. I think they are Mexican but I'm not sure. The point is, they had gotten together and made a record and were doing well.

I was intrigued by the idea. I made it a reunited band of old folks. Since I write romance, I needed a younger protagonist, so I gave the old lady a grand daughter. The woman wants to reunite her band. The heroine needs a compelling reason to go out of her way, so I made the grand mother sick. Now I needed a reason the heroine just didn't call everyone on the phone and say Grandma wants to.... so I made one member missing. Wait, what if she'd been missing for many, many years, in fact, what if she left the band abruptly and never came back?

Okay, so I needed to give the woman a reason for leaving that way. It was awhile ago, back when young women who were pregnant hid their pregnancies. And if the baby was the love child of an affair between this woman and one of the other member's husbands, then there would be great secrecy, even from her friends.

Okay, so what happened to the baby?

In the end, we have the heroine (who I made a television producer to give her an occupation that would irritate the hero to no end as his recent divorce was treated as a media event by the press) travel a long way to find this woman based on the one photo of the missing woman sent eons ago which showed a distinctive landmark in the town from which it was sent. The landmark belongs to the hero. In the end, the hero turns out to be the adopted child of his now deceased parents while the woman who has spent his lifetime being his nanny and is now the woman who takes care of his own child, is his real mother who reinvented herself so that she could live near him without the adopted parents knowing who she was.

And to add a little internal tension for the heroine, I had her the product of a woman who hated having a child making the heroine positive she would make a lousy mother. I gave hr a fiance who just broke up with her because she wasn't good mother material for his future children and I made it springtime. Everything in the book is either pregnant or has a baby. The quail. The fish in the tank. The horse. The friends. The live in housekeeper. The cat. The dog. Everything. And I made the hero a doctor who delivers babies and cares for children.

And that's how that original idea of a reunited band of old gentlemen musicians became The Baby Season.

Now someone come out and play with me!

Alice Sharpe said...

Thanks, Paty! I love hearing those things and was busy posting my own story when you posted yours.

I love the way you get your ideas from history and from what you read and hear. The way a book goes together is fascinating, isn't it? And I wear with honor the badge that says, "I inspired Paty's book." Yay for me.

Thanks for playing! And groan for having to cook dinner at the last minute, but maybe that's better than going up to a hunting camp -- it would be for me.

Karen Duvall said...

No, Alice, I love your blog post! I was out all morning getting my hair done (highlight and cut; it takes 3 1/2 hours every single time because I have too damn much hair). Then I had a couple of business meetings, and then I came home and I, uh, took a nap.

I'm off to the gym in a minute to burn off the burrito I had for lunch, but I can quickly run through where my idea for this particular book came from.

The character started the whole thing so it's her fault. 8^) Her name, Chalice, just appeared in my mind one day when I suddenly envisioned a golden chalice filled with human ashes and blood. Don't know why. I think I channeled it from somewhere. Heh. Anyway, she was originally going to be my heroine for a silhouette Bombshell novel I was planning, but we all know what happened to that line.

So that's how it started, a kickass heroine (she's not really THAT kickass, though) who has super senses and was raised by monks in a Lebanese monestary. The rest just organically evolved from there. I had no idea I'd have gargoyles or fallen angels or mummified saints who still lived to tell the tale, and a one-thousand year old Seljuk Turk who had fought in the Crusades. I know it sounds like a jumble, but it really does work, believe it or not. Each piece fits like parts of a puzzle and I'm thrilled with the results so far.

There you have it. Karen's recipe for an urban fantasy unlike any other on bookstore shelves. Could be good or bad, but I'm having fun writing it and that's what counts.

Alice Sharpe said...

Karen, this books sounds like so much fun (a lot more fun than spending three and a half hours at a beauty shop. Ack!) How long will it be and where are you?

THanks for chiming in. It's neat that it started with a chalice and it sounds as though the chalice and the character made a simultaneous appearance!

Have a great Thanksgiving..

Barbara said...

Jim and I started with some concepts and a setting. We had been reading The Cat Who... books by Lillian Jackson Braun, and we enjoyed the way she created a small town and had ongoing characters who lived in the town and interacted with each other. We decided we didn't want to write mysteries, though, and after meeting Linda Needham at a Seniors fair, we were enthusiastic about writing a series of romances taking place in this town.

We wanted to find a way to bring new characters into and out of the town, changing the town in the process and being changed by the town, too. That's where the tour bus came in.

We decided we wanted to have both a plot and a sub-plot in each book (because we find that more interesting in books and TV shows). We also wanted to have our romances involve people at different ages and stages in their lives, to have our main plot involving a happily-ever-after couple and our sub-plot involving a couple for whom love has gone wrong (or was never really love in the first place). Sometimes the older couple would be the HEA couple, and sometimes the younger.

Those are the basic concepts; the setting is one we fell in love with along the Alsea River in the Coastal Range. There we have created a small town that has recently changed its name from West Rome to Romance, Oregon, in a bid to draw tourists and keep the town from dying.

Our HEA couple is 50ish. He is battered and scarred but has found a haven living in this town. She is a career woman facing a major transition in her life. I chose to make them both 12-Step recovery people (one an alcoholic and the other a compulsive overeater) because I know them best and think much about their story hasn't been told.

The psychopath in the sub-plot came out of reading The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D., and Jim's work with anti-social juveniles.

If we manage to learn characterization and everything else that goes into a book, perhaps this imaginary world will yet come to life. Time will tell.

Thanks for the topic, Alice. That's the most I've written about our book in a while. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Alice Sharpe said...

Barbara -- Your well thought out concept sounds great. I am a fan of the earlier Cat Who books, too. Creating a town and characters to inhabit it the way you have is wonderful and giving them a past is smart. I wish you the best and hope you can learn the aspects of characterization and story telling you mentioned you want to learn to carry it forward. I'll be in line at your first book signing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Barrie said...

My spark came from a 3rd grade project on rhinos done by one of my kids. He wrote down the fact that rhinos have a keen sense of smell. That one sentence grew to:
Sherry (short for Sherlock) is your typical thirteen year old. She wants more mall time, less homework and a certain eighth-grade boy. Instead, she's recruited by her mother's ghost to prevent a rhino heist at San Diego's Wild Animal Park.

And that's the premise for I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES.

Very fun post, BTW!!

Genene said...

Hey, Alice, I like this topic! I just don't usually get to the blog until several days after they are posted.

The idea for my first book coming out next May came from seeing a concert of a rock band whose lead singer I had a wild crush on as a teenager. Then I played the "what if" game -- what if you actually got to meet your idol and have a relationship with him, but it didn't turn out at all like your fantasies? Then you got a second chance to do it right fifteen years later.

The second and third books grew out of this first story. Why was the bodyguard so silent and stoically jaded? Why did the leader of the band act like such a jerk sometimes, though you caught enough glimpses of a soft heart to intrigue you? So of course their stories needed to be told.

As the characters reveal themselves -- or in the case of the bodyguard, I had to prod and dig deeply because he guarded his pain carefully -- the story can take surprising turns.

Ideas for other stories come from newspaper articles that intrigue me or situations that beg for justice to be done. However, by the time I play "what if" or the characters develop, the story may bear little resemblance to the idea that started everything. :)

Also, my secondary characters seem to spawn their own stories. They don't want to stay forever in the background or the subplot!

Danita Cahill said...

Gobble gobble to you too, Alice. We celebrated turkey day yesterday since DH has to work today, so the past couple days have been all about shopping, cleaning and cooking. Today I have a little time on my hands to catch up on the blog.

As far as the dream and the red-eyed dogs, it was more like a nightmare, and they came to me as definite demonic images. That was the spark. As you know, I had to wrestle with the images for awhile to plot them into a book in a way that made sense -- if red-eyed dogs ever make sense. ha!

I knew I was onto something after I'd told my DH the plotline and he had his own nightmare about evil red-eyed dogs invading our home in the middle of the night.

I often get sparks from newspaper stories too. I keep a clip file for future reference.

Danita Cahill said...

Congrats, Paty, to your hubby and the others on a successful hunting trip, and happy you got to see your daughter and fam again before they left, but bummer deal about your interrupted week of writing for 8 hours a day. Always something pops up, huh?

Danita Cahill said...

Most of my ideas come to me via the dream channel, which I plug into at night, whether I want to or not. But one idea I'm currently mulling over came to me as I was walking around our pond, which is surrounded by forest. It was a breezy day and the wind kept rustling through loose, dry leaves. I knew it was just the wind and not a live beast or spirit, but it got me to thinking, what if there really was something -- or someone -- there, behind me, around me, and I just couldn't see it?

Oooh, scary scary. And possibly my next paranormal.

Danita Cahill said...

Wow, Alice. How did I miss reading the baby season? I probably can't buy it anymore, can I? Now I'm dying to read it.

What an interesting, sort of convoluted way of weaving everything into a consise story with many twisting and turning surprises. Cool.

Danita Cahill said...

Wow, Barb, thanks for sharing your book ideas with us. Sounds like a fun start to a bestselling series to me. I love Lilian Jackson Braun's books. And I spent several years of my childhood growing up along the Alsea River in a little village area called Tidewater, or even more specifically, Barclay Meadows (My parents bought the original Barkclay homestead). So your book will be of special interest to me.

Sure enjoyed Jim's demonstration and informative talk. And your Vanna White fencing talents. I even enjoyed wearing the hat and coat and acting silly for the camera.

Danita Cahill said...

Hi Barrie! Always fun to have you pop in, girl!

And Genene, now I'm dying to know who the singer was you had a crush on as a teenager. Do share, please!

Alice Sharpe said...

LOL Danita, if you really want to read the Baby Season (I don't have any copies I can put my hands on easily) go to where you can buy your choice of new and used copies starting at $0.01! Really!

Nightmares about red eyed dogs....I pity your poor husband! Btw, the idea of something living in the trees is neat. I wonder if it could be scary and somehow, I don't know. Benevolent. Injured?

Thanks for playing!

Alice Sharpe said...

Hey, Barrie, I'm glad you checked in. I love the idea for your book. Is it published?

It's so wonderful the way a sentence or a picture or a dream or an article or a song can inspire.

Alice Sharpe said...

Genene, I'm with Daita, I want to know who the rock star was. I didn't know your three books were related.

Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Alice Sharpe said...

Danita, I want to apologize for going off on your story idea. It stirred my imagination! Wasn't my place to throw out ideas on your new story idea, however, so oops, I'm sorry.

Danita Cahill said...

Are you kidding, Alice? You throw out story ideas to me any old time you feel the stirring. I mean that.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Fun topic. I'm sorry I missed the discussion and I'm sure my response here will be lost but I'll add it anyway.

The idea for my paranormal came out of my love for greek mythology. I've always been fascinated with the heroes - you know, guys like Hercules who are technically mortal but half human/half god. What if they spawned their own unique race? What would that race be like? What interactions would they have with humans and with gods? The idea for this book just morphed from there.

So fun to hear how everyone gets their ideas. For my RS's, generally I get ideas from news articles or events. A lot of times they come from science related articles from National Geographic, etc. which I morph into RS's. You found a rare headdress that could be a famous Egyptian pharoh? Who might want to steal it and why?

Alice Sharpe said...

Eli -- No comment gets lost, baby! I love that you got to wondering about Hercules. That guy has spawned a million stories but I never thought about one that came from his half human side.

I am definitely going to pay more attention to my National Geographics!

Good to have you back!