I'm still giddy over my Team Patriots win, that's why this post is late (plus I had to clean up after the party).
When I do author panels, or meet readers at signing events, I get asked, "How did you come up with the idea for your novel?"
For Blonde OPS, our editors at St. Martin's, Peter Joseph and Kat Brzozowski had the original idea of a 16-year-old hacker girl who goes to Rome, works on a fashion magazine, thwarts an attempt on the First Lady's life. They'd read Sirenz and liked our style. We wrote several drafts, filling in characters, plot, and details, and they offered us a contract.
Sirenz is a long way off from how it originally started... as a vampire book. With the success of books like Vampire Academy and Twilight, Natalie and I figured we could write a funny vampire book. But then we saw how many vampire books there were. And the Percy Jackson series was so popular... We decided to do a Greek mythology book for girls, only we didn't want to be similar to Percy. So we chose to focus on sirens. Of course a number of the Greek gods had to saunter through the story.
Which left us with plenty of opportunities to bring the two main characters, Meg and Shar, back. And, being that he was such a hit, Hades, the Underworld bad boy delish, was central to the plot again.
Now that I'm focusing on my solo novels, I can tell you my ideas come from a lot of places. For my sci fi novel, Lethal Dose, I watched a Discovery Channel special about space travel and the possibility of humans being able to live on other planets which intrigued me. Then I saw another program about a murderous poisoner. My devious mind put them together. (Sorry, no cover yet- I'm in the midst of revisions for my agent. Stay tuned.)
Last month I sent a my agent a middle grade manuscript based on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. (Sorry, I can't give any more details and I don't have a cover yet...). I got the idea thinking about all the popular books that were mashups or 'rethinks' of popular stories, like Wicked and Dorothy Must Die for the Wizard of Oz. Or Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies. Or Cinder for Cinderella. I browsed through my library and wondered, which one hasn't been done...?
My two year project is another middle grade novel, but this one is historical (hence the 2 year timeline- research). It's set in 1937, at the Berlin Zoo. I saw a program on the History Channel about one of the many disturbing programs the Third Reich instituted involving pushing science past then currents limits for nefarious purposes. (I love that word and never get to use it.) Of course I can't tell you more because that would give away my twist. "Truth is stranger than fiction" is a phrase I've come to endorse, so I watch scientific, historical, and technical shows. (I can fix a lot of stuff.)
Dear to my heart is a faery story (yeah, I know, there are a lot of faery stories out there), but I like mine because it deals with murder, the Mafia, art forgeries, angry fae kings, and a conniving little backstabber out to make trouble for my main character, Breena. This idea came from... I don't remember because I've been working on this story for so many years. (I refuse to give up on it.)
There is a rough manuscript about a girl who gets a heart transplant and wakes up so very different from the operation. That idea came from an article I read in Reader's Digest about heart transplants and how one woman emerged changed more than just physically. (There's no magic or super powers involved.)
I can walk down a street and see a couple arguing--and make a story around them. I got an idea for a horror novel from watching my cat. Other inspirations? A news story about a runaway. Driving in my car and passing a twisty, unkempt street. Walking in the woods on a snowy day and seeing footprints wander off... So many things spark story ideas that I wish I had time to write them all. (Well, I would if I could just write them and not have to revise, revisit, rework them.)
So if you're stuck for an idea, watch a show that normally you wouldn't- Underground Cities. Biography Channel. Foreign news. Muscle car fix ups. Hoarders. Explore a road you've never been down (you have GPS, so don't sweat it; just get out before dark.) Rummage through an antique store and imagine the history of weird and wonderful things. Visit a hospital/nursing home and listen to people's stories. Make your worst nightmare come true. Trace your genealogy. Take two unrelated things, like a sock without a mate and the squirrel in a tree and think how they ended up together in the neighbor's yard. Harvest your dreams, especially the weird ones. Sniff your grandmother's favorite perform. Listen to a symphony you're unfamiliar with. Taste a food that grosses you out. Feel the softness of a milkweed seed.
Ideas are all around you; use your senses and your imagination. You can find a story.