Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Where do story ideas come from?

That's a question I often ask author during interviews for this blog or for Middle Shelf Magazine. More often than not, the answer is--real life.

Toni Gallagher, debut author of TWIST MY CHARM, about two girls who get into trouble by making wishes that affect other kids they know, said this:

"One time, a friend’s daughter was at my place, playing with…well, a voodoo doll.  It’s just a joke one, with things written on it like ‘weak chin’ and ‘tennis elbow.’  This girl said she would like to use it on some kids at school.  Being a wise adult I said, “Well, you shouldn’t do that…” but that’s when I thought, there could be a story here."

Louise Galveston's BY THE GRACE OF TODD was also inspired by real life:

 "When I was a girl, I became obsessed with Sea Monkeys. I totally believed they had personalities and named every last one of them. I even wore them to school in a special aquarium
pendant necklace! I was the girl always on the lookout for fairies and leprechauns… So when my editor asked if I'd be interested in writing a story about a kid who finds a civilization on his sock, I jumped at the opportunity!"

I am working on a novel called THE STORYTELLERS about a girl whose father is dying of AIDS in the early 1990s. It is a historical novel with a twist of magical realism. The idea for it came from a single, brief event in my life many years ago. I was working as a receptionist in a clinic that treated kids with leukemia, and adults with hemophilia and HIV.

One afternoon, a family came in--a father and several young, toe-headed children. They all looked incredibly sad. I learned later that their mother had died of AIDS and the children all had to be tested for the disease. I was struck at how AIDS could traumatize this very sweet family, which was so different than what I was hearing from other sources, that AIDS was a "gay disease." I understood then that no one, no matter who they were, deserved to die like that.

That experience stuck with me for years until I finally started crafting a story about it. It has taken ten years to write this story, and I'm so happy to finally send it out into the world.

It really doesn't matter whether a story is realistic, science fiction, fantastical, or humorous. Our best ideas very often come from real life. Maybe it is a historical event or a person. Or maybe it's just something you spotted out your bedroom window or a song you heard on the radio.

Whatever it that little nugget, that seed of an idea is, an author's magic come from weaving into a story all their own.

What real life events inspire your stories?

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