I was the telephone guest at a book club last night. They called my cell around 7:30 and for the next hour they asked me questions about the book they'd read and about the writing life.
One of the questions, which I often hear, was, "Where do your ideas come from?"
I chuckled a little as I thought (the chuckling is a good way to stall for time while you think of the answer). "There's no 'one' answer," I told them. "Each book is different."
This is true. Five Brides came from a conversation I had with my good and dear friend Sharon Decker. "Eva, I've got a story you have to hear ..." Most of the time, I listen, but the truth is, I have enough ideas bouncing around in this head of mine. I don't need more. But when I heard about Joan Hunt Zimmerman and her amazing wedding dress story, I knew I had to have it!
But the idea for my previous novels, The Cedar Key Trilogy--Chasing Sunsets, Waiting for Sunrise, and Slow Moon Rising, had come about from a magazine ad for Liz Claiborne Spring White Collection. Five women, four of them tanned and blonde, one a pouty Latina, sat on a wicker sofa in a beach-inspired living room. Almost immediately I "saw" their story.
The idea for This Fine Life came about while listening to Frank Sinatra sing, When I Was Seventeen (It Was a Very Good Year) and the idea for Things Left Unspoken came about when the line, "It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jim" ran around in my head a few times while thinking about the day my family buried our beloved Uncle Jimmy.
The list goes on and on ... (I'm not going to list 30 book ideas here...) but the point is: ideas come from anywhere and everywhere! An old photograph, a song, a memory, a magazine ad, a true story ...
The key is to allow your mind to soar when the idea sparks. Not all ideas are enough to create a book-length story. Several of mine might make a short story--a very short story. And that's fine. But once I start laying out the pieces of the puzzle, I realize I don't have enough pieces.
But that doesn't mean the story is wasted. It only means that the pieces of that puzzle may just end up somewhere else.
What about you? Where do you get your ideas from?