Wednesday, June 10, 2015


It’s the oldest question authors are asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Also the most popular. Since we hear it so often, many of us might have stock (even snarky) answers, like, “A wizard comes in the middle of the night and drops ideas in my head.” Or, “They come from an IDEA BOOK, which is out of print.”

The rest of us don’t mind telling readers, or anyone who asks, how the inspiration came to write a particular story. We enjoy remembering the moment, and, talking about our books is our favorite topic anyway.

My first book was THE GREEN BOUGH, the memoir of my husband’s aunt, who was a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913. The e-book recently took part in an Amazon Countdown promotion priced at $.99, but, although that ended yesterday, it’s still available in both e-book and print. Being a memoir, the events chronicled came from Aunt Gladys herself, and I’m indebted to her for having such an adventurous early life.

Next came CHOICES, based on the nineteen years I sold my husband’s artwork at art shows and fairs all over the San Francisco Bay Area. The characters and their stories in that book were the result of observation and/or my imagination. I simply thought about a person and asked myself, “What if?” Such as, “What if he really killed his wife?” Or, “What happened at the Gay Ball?” Or, “Why did she cheat on her husband?”

So, real life is a great plot generator. Plus, real life often involves travel. To Hawaii, London, Paris, Rome, or to New Orleans by train. I’ve used all of those places in my books.

Three years ago, the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic spawned ideas that found their way into my novel COLD APRIL, and my experience founding and running an investment club was responsible for my novella, THE WEDDING GUEST.

The Kentucky Derby plays a major part in my novel BEATING THE ODDS, currently in an editor’s office. Wouldn’t it be great if that book got published the same year a Kentucky Derby winner went on to win the Triple Crown? And after 37 years? (See last week’s sports news.)

The fact is ideas are everywhere because people and their interesting lives are everywhere. There’s a saying, ”Love makes the world go around,” which is proved every day, as men and women find each other and fall in love. That’s why thousands of romance novels are published every year.

How about you? What did you do recently that could be turned into a story other readers might like?


  1. Hi Phyllis,

    Thought provoking as always. Story ideas come to me differently in part. The first one was borne when I rescued a wolf/dog pup. Nobody knew he was. I started a journey in which I asked myself what was life like before dogs. How did men and wolves get along (or not) before domestication (farming). In each case thereafter my stories grew out of insight.


    1. Bob: Thanks for the comment. How interesting that your first book was because of a wolf. How many people can say that?


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