I was at a holiday party recently where the conversation turned towards books and my friend, bless her, said she was reading Lumen Cove and then mentioned to the group I was the author.
One of two things always happens in a situation like this. 1) I get a look of awe and wonderment at how I managed to write an entire book. 2) I get The Question.
All writers are familiar with The Question as it is the most common inquiry we get aside from “How Did You Do It?” which is a pretty easy answer as it’s just “I sat down and did it.” The other is more complicated.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
Don’t get me wrong I love being asked about my work (seriously ask me about my work), but this is often a very difficult question to answer and, most of the time, is specific to each story or novel.
I have it a little bit easier as Lumen Cove, as well as the ideas for my next five or so novels, all came from dreams. I started a new cocktail of anti-depressants and was rewarded with one (1) extremely vivid, start to finish, romance plot a month. This is why when someone asks me The Question, my first instinct is to quip “Drugs.”
Before my foray into mind-altering substances, my method was a little more concrete, or at least as concrete as the beginning of the creative process can be. It started with a character, a plot point or a “What if?”
Character: My first fanfic in the Nsync Fandom, a love story between Justin Timberlake and his art tutor during their first tour in the late 90s (if you’re sensing a theme in my work you ain’t wrong), started with a character. It was my first year away at university and I was taking this Art History course (Prehistoric through the Renaissance period). All of SCAD’s classes are 2.5 hours long whether it’s a pottery class or a math class. This class was also at 8 a.m. I never missed a session. I never felt drowsy. My professor was fan-freakin-tastic. Her specialty was Greek and Macedonian Studies and the woman knew. her. shit. She could also read ancient Greek and often spouted word origins in Latin off the top of her head. Her love for Greek Art was the inspiration for my heroine.
Plot Point: Woefully unsatisfied with the loss of Castiel in the second episode of Supernatural’s seventh season (Hello, Cruel World), I wrote a short based on the plot point that Dean would stop at nothing to resurrect Cas. After that, the idea fanned out to using biblical themes as well as mirroring Castiel’s rescue of Dean from The Pit in the season four opener (Lazarus Rising). It’s actually one of my favorite things I’ve written, so pardon me while I plug it.
What if?: A story I wrote in the Harry Potter fandom, which can be read here if you’re interested, began with the question of “What if Harry had actually died and Voldemort had won the war?” That simple question allowed me to double-down on J.K. Rowling’s darkening of the wizarding world, play with the lines between victim, prisoner, and lover while also exploring the idea of redemption and how far someone would go to make amends. Heavy stuff for just a little “What if?”
Those are just a few of my personal responses to The Question. For the best answer I’ve ever heard from an author on the subject of where our ideas come from was supplied by Stephen King, BAE and Chief of my Soul
Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
Readers, are you interested in knowing where authors get their ideas, or would you prefer not to know how the sausage is made? Writers, how do you respond to The Question?