Everyone asks authors where they get their ideas for novels.
The answer is: everywhere. Your own experiences, TV, newspapers, gossip, bits of overheard conversation, an advertisement, an anecdote told by a friend, nature, human nature. Everywhere. I keep my eyes and ears open and always ask What if?
Finding an interesting or challenging topic or setting to write about is not that hard. Taking that topic or setting and turning it into an interesting novel is much harder. But whoever said writing was easy?
In my case, my I’ve melded my two passions, writing and world travel. When I first started traveling my main focus, as an architect and urban planner, was on ancient cultures and the ways in which those cultures manifested themselves in structures, buildings systems, and design. I never expected that interest to eventually blossom into a major source of inspiration for writing novels.
But it has.
Now, when I travel, I look for the unique features of the physical place or pieces of information about the culture that spark a story idea. Sometimes just a word, a phrase, a street scene, an historical event, can suggest a full storyline. Other times they provide incidents to enrich a novel.
I only write about the places I’ve visited. There is just something about living the experience that can’t be substituted.
Sure, I have to research facts, street names, history, what kind of trees grow where, and so on. That kind of information is readily found on the Internet. But as a writer, I have to know how it feels to catch the high heel of my shoe between the worm cobbles and break it off while crossing a busy street in Rome. (With cars are whizzing around you on both sides). I need to experience the panic and fear of getting lost in the souk in an Arab country where I can’t speak the language, can’t pronounce the name of my hotel, or can’t find my way out of the maze of tiny streets and tents. (And the women glare at you from above covered faces, and the men leer.)
There is nothing as exhilarating as the crashing thunder and blinding lightning of a storm at sea or the cold bite of the wind ripping through you on a mountain peak in New Zealand (and the satisfaction of getting that far), the eeriness of driving through the fog near Loch Ness and catching glimpses of Urguhart Castle through the shreds of mist, or the overwhelming awe of standing only meters way from a mother elephant and her baby in the wilds of Zimbabwe.
How does it smell when you climb onto the back of a kneeling dromedary (one hump) in the desert near Giza and feel the lurch of your stomach as the animal rises to seven feet and throws sand into your eyes? (Plus they often spit on you, which I don’t recommend).
What is it like to be attacked by gypsies in Moscow when you refuse to give them money or feel the ache in your burning leg muscles as you struggle to climb the high uneven stone steps of the Great Wall? What ideas blossom in your imagination when you stand on a high terrace in Machu Picchu, unable to breathe in the high altitude, and gaze down at the remarkable ruins?
Experiencing first-hand the sense of place — the sights, sounds, feel and smell — gives me inspiration and story ideas. And as a writer, I hope to transport my readers to those locations and let them feel the emotions evoked by the setting.
R. Ann Siracusa, retired from a thirty-five year career as an architect and urban planner, is involved in many activities, but her two favorite are traveling the world and writing fiction. This talented author combines those loves into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh. She and her husband reside in San Diego, where she writes full time. Her humorous romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire, is published by Sapphire Blue Publishing, and her most recent release “Tiffany” is a short contemporary romance with a paranormal twist.