Where do you get your ideas?

One of the most common questions authors get asked is “where do you get your ideas?”

My standard reply is that ideas are everywhere and all that’s necessary is having the mindset to recognize them. Just be receptive and they will leap out at you, sometimes faster and more numerous than you can handle. For me, I have more ideas that I could possibly write in one lifetime. This is a truthful answer and usually appeases anyone who asks. However, it’s often a little more complicated than that and may depend on the book.

One of my favorite origin stories is about BLIND RUN (which I originally titled THE MOUTH OF BABES). I’m not certain where the kernel came from, but I had an idea that I wanted to write a story about a man protecting children he had no connection to and thus no logical reason to risk his life for. Yet he does. That’s it. That’s all I had. The CIA, the eventual bad stuff going on, even why the children were in danger was all in the future. I do remember that the idea of him living in the desert came early.

So, how did that tiny seed of an idea develop into a four-hundred-page book? Well, I had help.

At the time, I was writing romance, shifting into romantic suspense, with my books edging closer to the suspense line. And there was this niggling of an idea. So, I was coming back from a writer’s conference with two friends, Deborah Smith and Sandra Chastain – both experienced and successful authors – and I told them about my idea. One thing you need to know about writers is that we love brainstorming story ideas – especially someone else’s idea, because the other person must actually do the work. Brainstorming is fun and easy. Writing? Well, it’s work.

Anyway . . . it was a long flight from the West Coast to Atlanta, then a drive to Sandra’s house where we spent the night before Deb and I headed north to our respective homes. We brainstormed the entire time, and by the next morning, I had the beginnings of a real story. Yes, a lot of things changed along the way: the title, the agency Ethan worked for (I originally thought he worked for the NSA), and ages and personalities of the children. But I knew Ethan, who he was, and why he was living in the desert alone. I also had a good idea about the kids and the danger they faced. In other words, I was ready to start and it was just a matter of putting the work into making the story come together.

Do all of my books have such a detailed creation story? No. Some were simpler, some a little more complicated, but BLIND RUN was definitely the most fun.

Now, tell me, what other questions you have about writing, the writing process, or publishing. Just pop your question into the comment section below, and if I don’t know the answer I’ll find it for you.

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