Every time I attend a book club as a guest author or answer interview questions or even just have a conversation at a bar that leads to the discussion of writing books, I get asked this question:
Where do you get your ideas?
And you would think that after having been asked this question so many times I would have developed a succinct answer that I could deliver quickly. But no. I typically flounder my way around this question because the answer is really complex. Or so I thought. I would spend too much time trying to explain, with examples from my books for god’s sake. I essentially always end up boring my questioner to tears because the reality is that while readers enjoy fantasizing and romanticizing about the writing process, especially when they’ve just finished something they really enjoyed, actually hearing the author talk about how they make the sausage is far less glamorous.
Anyway, all that is to say it finally occurred to me what the real answer to this question is. I’ve generally failed at this because I’ve tried to focus on answering it based on end results, when in fact the better answer, and what the questioner really wants to know, is what is happening inside the brains of writers. And while I can not, and should not, speak for other creatives, this is what it’s like for me.
So here it is, the where, how, and why I get ideas for books, stories, characters, settings, plots…a goddamn chair that is placed in a particular room–all of it.
In my real waking life, and sometimes dreams too, whenever absolutely anything happens, or I hear about literally anything that captures my attention enough to take notice of it, my immediate follow up thought is ALWAYS about how this potentially works in a book, story, character, setting, plot, or even furniture placed in a fictional room.
I don’t know why, but this is my hardwiring. And while I’m not one of those people that always JUST KNEW she wanted to be a writer, I am absolutely someone who has ALWAYS done this.
As a child, it looked like daydreaming and an overactive imagination. Traits I would still use to describe me today. Traits that both serve me well and cause me grief, to be honest.
So where do I get my ideas? Everywhere, all the time, all at once–and I don’t seem to be able to ever turn this off.