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Thursday, August 19, 2010

More 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?

"Inspiration tends to strike me in the car, so usually when I’m having trouble with plots or ideas I’ll hop behind the wheel and just drive for an hour or two. For A Touch Mortal, I was watching Jackass on MTV when Scott Tracey uttered the line that inspired the short story that became the book." - Leah Clifford, author of A Touch Mortal.

"Inspiration once struck me while I was driving and listening to a great break-up song from Melissa Etheridge that made me think The Break-Up Album would be a terrific title for a novel. So I wrote a chick lit novel called just that during the summer of 2007. It didn't sell. Oh, I should have shared inspiration for a book that sold!" - Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds.

"I don’t remember where I was, but I’d just scrapped my first (horrible) novel and was trying to think of something new to write. It was a simple random thought - what if you knew it was someone’s day to die? - that became The Mark and Vision." - Jen Nadol, author of The Mark.

"The first line of the story (which was actually changed during revision) was Sammy's voice in my head, saying, "One thing I knew for certain, we were going to be famous." I think it was late one night while feeding my (then) three month old son in the rocking chair." - Jon Skovron, author of Struts & Frets.

"A very long time ago, while watching an episode of the TV series Unsolved Mysteries, I saw a segment about a very young boy who claimed he remembered being in spirit form and getting to choose his mother. The story gave me goose bumps and stuck with me. Years later, when driving en route to a writers’ conference, I was brainstorming high concept ideas for a YA project. While what-iffing the angel angle, I remembered the Unsolved Mysteries episode. Within minutes, I had the idea of a human stork, one who has the paranormal ability of guiding these unborn—and undecided—souls." - Wendy Delsol, author of Stork.  

"A library - I was free writing. I wish I had a more exciting story! I was working on my Masters degree at the time and was working on a collection of short fiction. I was free writing as a creative exercise and channelled Lenah." - Rebecca Maizel, author of Infinite Days.

"At the start of Nevermore, Varen ( my goth character) chose Poe as the focus for his and Isobel’s English project. From there, I began researching Poe. That’s when I started to discover all the strange events surrounding his death and my big ‘what if’ came along. What if supernatural forces were responsible for Poe’s disappearance and mysterious death? And then—what if the same thing happened again in modern times? So I guess you can say that my inspiration sprang up from just writing a scene, which happens to me a lot." - Kelly Creagh, author of Nevermore.


"I was in the shower of all places when the real 'idea' for The DUFF hit me. I"d had vague notions of what I wanted to write, but when I heard the song 'I Can't Stay Away' by the Veronicas, the full idea smacked me in the face. I was in the shower and had to jump out, wrap a towel around myself, and run into my bedroom to type out the opening lines." - Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF.

"I was reading about the history of séances when I came across the story of two adolescent girls and a spooky prank that snowballed out of control. I was particularly struck by an illustration that depicted the frantic parents trying to find a source for the ghostly rapping noise, while the girls huddled 'innocently' in the background. The Fox sisters hooked me at that moment, and I knew I was going to write their story." - Dianne Salerni, author of We Hear the Dead.

"I was talking with my husband and the idea for Matched popped into my head. Looking back, though, I think inspiration also came from an experience chaperoning a high school prom while I was teaching. Those two things sort of coalesced into the opening scene of Matched." - Ally Condie, author of Matched.

"For me, it takes several (seemingly unrelated) ideas to make a book seed. Summer Falls, my current WIP, is a love story to every creepy town I’ve ever visited in fiction, from Pleasantville to Sleepy Hollow to Dark City. But before I even knew it was about a town, I had this strong image of a teenage girl and boy waking up together one sunny morning with no memory of how they got where they are… or even who they are. When I put those ideas together, I got inspired to start writing." - Phoebe Kitanidis, author of Whisper.

"I was on a cheap bus ride to New York City. I was unemployed and broke at the time (and continued to be so until my book sale rescued me from poverty), but I'd scraped together enough money to meet a friend in the city for a neo-Victorian party. I'm very much a 'can't take it with you' sort of person, so maybe it was stupid, but...hey. Anyway, I'd brought along some books to read on the ride. After completing them, I ended up thinking, 'You know, I'm sure they exist, but I've never seen a zombie romance.' The ideas just flowed after that - thank goodness I'd brought along a notebook. I came up with most of the main characters on the bus - and by that I mean names, vague backgrounds, and hair colors. That was about the extent of my planning. I came up with most of the plot, character quirks, and story details once I returned home and started writing. I really should have been sending out resumes, being unemployed and all, but writing was far more interesting. Guess I won that life bet." - Lia Habel, author of Dearly, Departed.

"Margie and I came up with the idea for Beautiful Creatures over a long lunch, at El Cholo, one our our favorite Mexican restaurants. I should mention that they do offer unlimited refills of Diet Coke (in pitchers), which is directly responsible for us loitering in our booth for hours. We were talking about the YA books Margie was reading with her teen daughters & I was reading with my teen students, and the fact that all of us were yearning for something different. So many authors had covered vampires and werewolves -- and done it well. We wanted to create our own universe and populate it with supernaturals and magic of our creation. We didn't want to be bound by the mythology and history of an existing creature or supernatural -- we wanted to create that mythology ourselves. Coming from a video game (Margie) and comic book (me) backgrounds, we love world-building, so we started brainstorming then and there. We wrote our ideas on a napkin, and through our conversation, the idea for Beautiful Creatures took shape. By the end of lunch, we had the basic premise. And we knew we were going to write a classic Southern Gothic paranormal romance -- written from a boy's point of view, with a strong female main character." - Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"My best ideas tend to strike first thing in the morning, in that groggy state between sleeping and waking, and Losing Faith was no exception. I first had an idea about what my main character was like, and next about her relationship with her sister. I often see a snippet of a scene play out in my head and work from there. In this case, I saw an argument between the two sisters." - Denise Jaden, author of Losing Faith.

"I was on a plane. Actually I was at the tail end of a long trip and so tired I was starting to hallucinate a little. I leaned my head on the glass and watched the plane take off and seperate from its shadow – watched that shadow shrink and fade away on the ground. The first line from Plain Kate – in which the heroine sells her shadow to survive – popped into my head, along with Kate herself. They have been there ever since." - Erin Bow, author of Plain Kate.

"Inspiration doesn't strike so much as build. It starts growing in the subconscious, brews and simmers, and finally rises to the surface." - Jennifer Hubbard, author of The Secret Year.

Remember to stop by Thursday to find out what our authors write and why they write it!


  1. Very awesome- loved this installment! I'm so excited for next week's!

  2. this is such a great series> I love the questions and you have some of my favorite authors featured!