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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Author Insight: When Inspiration Strikes

Ideas for novels can spring from unexpected places.
Where were you when inspiration struck and
what form did it arrive in?

"I got the idea for from a dream. (I know!) In the dream, two people were sitting on a train--one of those old-fashioned, very fancy trains, but the train itself had become very worn down. And it was very hot. I still remember the girl in the dream--that would be Grace--thinking about how hot it was. And how scared she was that she was going to get caught. I woke up, thought, 'Huh?' but wrote it all down and then fell back asleep, hoping for a nice dream about, oh, me and three weeks with nothing to do but read! Instead I was back on the train. And this time the girl--and now I knew her name was Grace--wasn't alone. There was a guy about her age sitting next to her, and they knew each other but didn't know each other and they were both on the run from something. And then the guy looked at her and what Grace saw--I can't tell you because it's a huge spoiler for the book, sorry!---terrified her. And then he told her he knew what she was, said a word she didn't think she'd ever hear again. Then they just looked at each other. I woke up again then, thought, 'Nooooo! More!!' and got up and wrote everything down. And then it actually just sat for a while, stewing around in my brain while I tried to figure out why Grace was so scared of him and why the guy said what he did. And then, one day, as I was folding socks (!), it all came together. I started taking notes furiously, and began writing the story that day." - Elizabeth Scott, author of Grace.

"Shape of...a Kitchen! Form of...a lightning bolt!" - Heidi Kling, author of Sea.

"For Witch Eyes, it was just walking out of my apartment to go to work and having the sun in my eyes. From there, I researched light allergies, and later thought about a supernatural cause for light sensitivity. My inspiration is usually like that: a hop, skip, and a jump from where the idea really takes root." - Scott Tracey, author of Witch Eyes.

"Well, just last week I had an idea for a new novel while I was getting my makeup done at the Estee Lauder counter at Macy's for a book signing. The lady was putting mascara on my lashes when an idea hit me. However, the book has nothing to do with makeup. It's a mystery, tentatively titled, Tarnished and the concept just hit me at that time." - Danielle Joseph, author of Indigo Blues.

"Beautiful Creatures appeared on the backs of napkins during a long lunch at a Mexican restaurant (El Cholo!) in L.A. The Diet Coke kept coming, we kept talking, and by the end of lunch we had a story for a southern gothic paranormal. After lunch, my then fifteen-year-old rolled her eyes, saying 'you never finish anything.' Those were the fateful words; so more than anything, she inspired us to prove her wrong! But we were also inspired by the South, and our genre. There is nothing generic about a southern gothic novel. We wanted our world to be as quirky and twisted as we are." - Margaret Stohl, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"The inspiration for Split grew slowly from coordinating a domestic violence legal clinic where I listened to thousands of victims recounting their experiences, but one boy, in particular, inspired the story. He was a client's son. He was a very, very cute kid and it was hard for me to let go of my memory of him -- wiggling his loose tooth with his tongue, his laugh. Thinking of him witnessing his mom's abuse made me cringe. When I couldn't let the memory go, I decided to write about it instead." - Swati Avashti, author of Split.

"The very first scene of Other arrived to me after I'd watched a bus pull away without me, leaving me stranded on the sidewalk, with groceries, for thirty minutes. Luckily, I had my trusty notebook with me. The scene popped out fully fledged, and remains in almost identical form in the published novel." - Karen Kincy, author of Other.

"I can't really say that I'm much of an inspiration person. I mean, ideas rarely spring into my head fully-formed. Instead, what happens is that I'll have a conversation or read an article or remember something that happened a long time ago, and I'll think about it. The thinking part can happen for months or years, until I eventually figure out what I want to say about the idea. I wrote the first draft of The Replacement really fast, but I'd been tossing around the concept of a modern-day changeling since high school." - Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement.

"I was driving down the street on a dark night in January 2005 and at a stoplight I looked up at a billboard and something about it made a conversation between a brother and a sister pop into my head. The brother was warning his sister to stay away from a friend who had suddenly returned to town. I was so intrigued by what they were saying that I went home and started writing. That conversation turned into The Dark Divine." - Bree Despain, author of The Dark Divine.

"When the inspiration for Angelfire came to me, I was in my room watching the Guy Pearce movie 'The Time Machine' and I remember being so deeply affected while watching his character build a time machine to go back and save his fiancé from her untimely death, only to have her die over and over no matter what he did to prevent it. I wondered what would have happened if he had never stopped trying to save her, and that’s where the initial inspiration came from." - Courtney Allison Moulton, author of Angelfire.

"Most of the time inspiration crawls up on me slowly. Bits of things hook into my mind and whirl around and then come together like a ghost out of the clouds. After awhile, that ghost begins to take on form and shape. It usually turns into inspiration when I’m cleaning the toilet or pulling weeds. Such a glamorous job." - Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of Bitter Night.

"I was sitting at my desk, and for some reason, I had an upsetting memory of crying in the hallway after a guy in high school broke up with me. Suddenly two characters popped into my head who eventually became Seth and Rosetta from Freefall. (And, no, the breakup scene doesn't exist in the book or have anything to do with the story.)" - Mindi Scott, author of Freefall.

"For the Secret Society Girl series, I caught a glimpse of 'The Skulls' on TV one night, and later, at dinner with my husband, said, 'I wish someone would write a story about secret societies the way they really are.' Then I decided that I could be that person. With the killer unicorn books, I was doing some research about unicorns and stumbled on all these references to a man-eating unicorn ridden by Alexander the Great. I discovered there was this whole other side to the unicorn legend that no one had really exploited in fantasy before, and things snowballed from there. For my newest work in progress, it was a fusion of two ideas: I'd wanted to write a post apocalyptic book for a while, and I'd wanted to do a retelling of Persuasion for years, and I suddenly realized that those two ideas could work really well together." - Diana Peterfreund, author of Rampant.

"My ideas usually start with a tiny seed and grow over time, then come together with other plants to form the garden (i.e. the basic plot). Shadow Hills started with an idea gleaned from a 60 mins segment about a savant, and blossomed during a road trip to LA. From there I came up with the characters of Zach and Phe, and once I had them, they really drove the story." - Anastasia Hopcus, author of Shadow Hills.

"New York City, May 14, 2009. A blackly comic joke was made about high school. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the next day I had 5,000 words." - Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

"For Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different, the idea to set a story in Cades Cove, TN at the beginnings of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park came when I was touring John Oliver’s cabin (a log cabin now in the Park). The tour guide said 12 people once lived in the tiny space. I knew there had to be a story behind how one’s home becomes a national park. For Selling Hope, I was writing an activity book about Space for Dalmatian Press, and stumbled upon the fact that in 1910, people actually sold 'comet pills' because Halley’s Comet passed so close to Earth, and many thought they were in danger. I was working on Autumn at the time, but I knew it’d be the next novel I’d write." - Kristen Tubb, author of Selling Hope.

Don't forget to stop be Thursday to find out how inspiration found the rest of our authors!


  1. I love this feature! And some of the stories were really interesting.

  2. YAY! I kept checking back for this throughout the day today. I loved this- can't wait to see the rest!