by guest blogger Carla Neggers
My latest book, COLD PURSUIT, just hit stores, and I swore this time I wouldn't get caught by surprise when I'm asked: Where did you get the idea for this book?
It's a natural, legitimate question that's just not always easy to answer. I can't always look back to a light bulb "ah-ha" moment and say, "There. That's where I got the idea for this book."
With COLD PURSUIT, the main characters – Secret Service agent Jo Harper and Special Forces soldier Elijah Cameron – jumped onto the page for me. I could see Jo fixing up rundown, one-room cabins on a chilly day on a small lake in the heart of the Green Mountains, and I could see Elijah, home from the war. But what are they doing there? Are they from Vermont? Do they know each other? While these questions were simmering, I realized Jo and Elijah would be called upon to find a teenager missing in the mountains before a killer finds her first.
And off I went. That answer isn't as straightforward as saying the idea for THE ANGEL, my most recent novel, started percolating when I stood in the ruin of the Irish stone cottage where my son-in-law's great-grandfather was born.
For me, the idea question is almost like an arson investigation digging back to the cigarette butt that started the fire. But even if we find the butt and know where the fire started, conditions had to be right for the cigarette to cause the conflagration. Toss it into a puddle – no fire. Toss it into dry kindling on a hot, dry, windy day – big fire.
Did I know a story had sparked when I was in the Irish ruin? No, but I can look back and see that's where the creative fire that became THE ANGEL started. COLD PURSUIT is a bit different. I can't trace that creative fire back to a specific spark, but I do know the conditions for it to catch were perfect. I live in Vermont, I know cold weather, I hike, I snowshoe and I was gripped by these characters, Jo and Elijah.
In his brilliant book, A Writer's Time (W.W. Norton & Co., 1995, 1986), Kenneth Atchity puts it this way: "…the imagination helps us scout out where we're going to be before we actually go there. It's set up to do the advance work for us—feeling on all sides, trying to determine the best path before the rest of us becomes committed to, and endangered by, the multiple choice of available perils."
This helps to explain why the question of where we as writers get our ideas can be tricky to answer. The process often starts without our knowledge or our permission!
Michelle, John, John, Clare, Kathryn and Joe, thanks for this opportunity. Keep up the great work with the Kill Zone. So…where do you get your ideas?
Note: Join us on Sunday, November 9 when our guest blogger will be New York Times bestselling author, M.J. Rose.