Where Do Ideas Come From? by Phil Lecomber – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Phil will be awarding a $40 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Where Do Ideas Come From?
What is the inspiration for our creative ideas? The word itself—from the Latin inspirare, to inhale or breathe into—gives us an idea of what the ancients believed. To them the inspired poet or artist was imbued with the spirit of the gods or muses, a similar source as that attributed to the ecstatic inspiration of religious prophets throughout the ages.

That creative inspiration comes from somewhere other than the logical brain would be hard to contest, but I don’t think most artists, writers and musicians nowadays would claim that they’d been visited by the divine (with maybe the exception of Bono!). So where do those ideas come from?

Well, for Leonardo da Vinci inspiration for a composition might come from a surprisingly commonplace source. He recommended that student artists should study walls “spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones” and with a little un-focussing of the eyes there might be found there “a resemblance to various different landscapes … strange expressions of faces … outlandish costumes … an infinite number of things which you can reduce into separate and well conceived forms.”

I’m sure we all recognize the form of daydreaming that da Vinci is describing, and can appreciate how helpful an aid it might be to visual composition. But what about the more complex ideas an author needs for plot and characterization? Well, when we daydream our more active facilities—including our will—withdraw a little to allow our imagination to step forward. Of course, this thing we call “imagination” is in itself a conglomerate of diverse mental processes: hopes, fears, memories, retrospection, supposition … and if imagination is allowed to take a step forward when we daydream, then why shouldn’t it take the opportunity for full control when we sleep-dream?

Personally, I think this dream-state is responsible for a lot of my creative output. Indeed, I often find the more ‘inspired’ twists and turns to a story’s plot have been deposited in my brain overnight, to be discovered like little surprise gifts on awakening. However, they do require a little ‘gestation’ period before they arrive fully-formed, kicking and screaming in my arms.

Of course, there are many examples from history of such unconscious inspiration. Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan famously came to him in its entirety whilst he dozed in his armchair following a dose of laudanum that had been prescribed for “a slight indisposition” (he doesn’t say what this was – I’ll leave you to fill in the gaps). On awakening he grabbed pen and paper and started to preserve the epic poem for posterity, only to be disturbed by a caller at the front door. By the time he could return to the poem (over an hour later) he discovered, to his horror, that most of its “two to three hundred lines” had been forgotten. A stranger story yet is that of the 18th century philologist Giovanni Gheradini, who was so affected by a serious nervous condition as to render him unable to feel hunger, thirst, heat, cold, smell or taste. Unable to even sleep he seemed likely to die – but one morning, having slept a little at last, he awoke with a desire to take a little snuff. After which he arose, seated himself at a table, grabbed a pen and wrote, in completion, his treatise, Voci e maniere di dire additate ai futuri vocabolaristi.

However, such inspiration is certainly not the result of any visitation from one of Zeus’ offspring. Just before he nodded off into his opium-induced reverie, Coleridge had been reading a description of Xanadu, the summer capital of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, by the clergyman and geographer, Samuel Purchas; and Dr. Gheradini had years of study in his particular field under his belt before he penned his miraculous treatise. No, rather than divine inspiration, these creative ideas arise from the heady fermentations of our own miraculous Pierian Spring—the human brain. And although it may seem that our conscious will has no control over them, as the essayist Logan Pearsall Smith put it: “… yet by labour and study it can clarify and enrich them; and can form standards and ideals which, long brooded over, may then sink down from the conscious into the unconscious strata of our mental existence, and mould and elaborate the unknown stores of energy which exists there, amorphous and concealed …”

So, as authors we read around our subject; we immerse ourselves in the atmosphere and culture of the world we wish to recreate; we learn how our characters’ voices sound … so that we might hear them more clearly when they whisper in our ears as we sleep. And remember: artistic inspiration is not the same as skill, technique or performance—unfortunately it isn’t so easily tamed as those particular beasts. And if all this sounds a little mysterious … well, I’m afraid that’s the nature of creativity; it thrives in the mysterious, in the symbolic, the suggestive …

As the American writer, Carl Sandburg said: ‘Nothing happens unless first a dream.’

LONDON, 1932 … a city held tight in the grip of the Great Depression. GEORGE HARLEY’S London. The West End rotten with petty crime and prostitution; anarchists blowing up trams; fascists marching on the East End.

And then, one smoggy night …

The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.

Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.

God save the King! eh, George?

THE 1930s … thinking debutantes, Bright Young Things and P. G. Wodehouse? Think again—more like fascists, psychopaths, and kings of the underworld. GEORGE HARLEY’S London is a city of crime and corruption … of murder most foul, and smiling, damned villains.

In part an homage to Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock, and to the writings of Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and the other chroniclers of London lowlife in the 1930s, Mask of the Verdoy also tips its hat to the heyday of the British crime thriller—but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, George Harley operates in the spielers, clip-joints and all-night cafés that pimple the seedy underbelly of a city struggling under the austerity of the Great Slump.

With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.

But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.

Mask of the Verdoy is the first in the period crime thriller series, the George Harley Mysteries.

Enjoy an excerpt:

STILL clutching THE distraught Gladys close to him the Italian moved forwards and fired up at the cage, the round ricocheting off the bars, briefly illuminating the gloom with a spray of sparks. Harley hunkered down, swore, and redoubled his efforts, finally forcing the catch and dropping through the small opening just as another bullet passed inches from his head.

The cage slewed as he dropped inside, the box of dynamite shifting a little to the left.

Now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness he could quite plainly make out the length of two-core cable running through a drilled hole in the side of the box of explosives and out through the cage, snaking away into the gloom. He turned to peer through the bars—and was dismayed to see the second hand of the oversized clock ticking past the three minute mark.

He quickly lay down and started to crawl towards the bomb, the cage listing dangerously to and fro.

Girardi now fired again; this time the bullet made it through the bars to clatter terrifyingly around the inside of the cage.

‘Smith! You still there?’ shouted Harley, feeling in his jacket for his penknife.

‘You betcha, guv!’ came a voice from the gloom.

‘Shine a spotlight down there on that cowson, would yer? Try and dazzle him for me. Make it sharpish, now! We’ve only got seconds before this bloody thing goes up.’

About the Author:

Phil Lecomber was born in 1965 in Slade Green, on the outskirts of South East London—just a few hundred yards from the muddy swirl of the Thames.

Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.

All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.

Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.

So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …

Phil lives in the beautiful West Country city of Bath with his wife, Susie. They have two sons, Jack and Ned.





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  1. Good morning! Thanks for hosting today.

  2. Thank you for hosting

  3. stacey dempsey says:

    Thanks I enjoyed the Where do ideas come from section. Some of my best ideas seem to come when I sleep as well

    • Thanks Stacey. Yes – I always think it’s a bit like baking a cake, or a slow-cook stew – you throw in all the spices and the good ingredients, and then wait to see how it comes out 😉

  4. The book sounds very intriguing.

  5. Great guest post and giveaway!!

  6. Toni Whitmire says:

    I thought the excerpt was very enteresting.

  7. Patrick Siu says:

    Great excerpt, thank you.

    • Many thanks, Patrick. It’s always difficult picking an excerpt as it can’t give away anything important in the plot, but you want to try to capture the pace of the narrative.

  8. I liked reading the book excerpt, Thank you!

  9. Great excerpt love the where ideas come from ^^ I find that kind of thing very interesting.

  10. Barbara Elness says:

    I enjoyed the excerpt and the description of Mask of the Verdoy.

  11. lori faires says:

    Enjoyed the blurb of Where Do Ideas Come From. The excerpt was very entertaining. Blessings & Thanks to All.

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