As an author, I am often asked where I get my inspiration from. People not connected to the writing world are amazed that us pen-pushers don’t run out of ideas. But – it may seem obvious to say it – there is inspiration to be found all around us, if we keep our eyes and hearts open. Here are some of the places that have provided stories for me.
The Zeitgeist – I am fascinated by what grabs the public’s imagination. With my new summer novel, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun, it was the TV series Poldark. Women across the world seemed enamoured with this programme, especially the lead character. And this got me thinking, what would it feel like to meet your fictional hero in real life? Kate Golightly finds out, in my story, when she heads off to the coast to find her very own mining hero! Likewise, the public’s obsession with Downton inspired my debut novel, Doubting Abbey.
Whereas the inspiration for my Christmas bestseller Mistletoe Mansion was the public’s obsession with celebrities and the gossip magazines featuring them. The main character, Kimmy, lands a house-sitting job in a posh area and becomes friend with a famous person – and discovers that the celebrity life-style isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all…
Locations – places you have fallen in love with, over the years. For me, obviously rugged, brooding Cornwall. Plus Paris (as in my novel From Paris with Love). I worked there as a young woman and never forgot its romantic, bohemian feel. My honeymoon was on a Greek island. The cheery village feel and stunning sunsets inspired the setting for my award-winning 2015 novel Game of Scones. My novella, How to Get Hitched in Ten Days was set in a fifties diner after I’d eaten in one which blew me away with its fab American memorabilia, and reminded me of the film Grease. So think back over your life and places that have meant something to you. Draw on that passion. The setting doesn’t need to be exotic, just somewhere you can get excited about as a background to your characters’ stories.
The Tabloids/Magazines/Reality shows. Well, they do say life is stranger than fiction! If an article makes you gasp enough to tell your family or friends about it, then that is probably something worth writing down. I founds these forms especially useful when I used to write short stories for women’s magazines. And they don’t need to be the sensational stories – perhaps the heartwarming ones instead, like communities pulling together to overcome adversity.
People. Keep your eyes and ears open. Tap into conversations you hear in a shop or pub. Speak to people on the till or in a queue. I’m a very chatty person and can’t help but strike up conversations. It is fascinating what people will tell you. I know many of the workers at my local supermarket – the one that plays darts, another who goes camping, the lady whose son has a Masters degree in astronomy, the man who works on local radio… I listen to the ups and downs they go through. I’ve also spoken to fellow customers who are on a health-kick or lonely ones who are widowed… Everyone has a story and are often keen to share it if just prompted by a friendly word or smile.
Moments of emotion – whether that is something sad, moving, hopeful, happy or funny. We all experience these on a day to day basis. Draw on the incidents that really make you feel something and stay in your mind. They could provide material for a plot or character. Keep a record of them in your notebook. Like in the short story I wrote about someone who accidentally poured hollandaise sauce over a pudding, instead of custard – that was based on me and my laidback husband still polished off his dessert! How that had made us laugh. Or the time we got burgled whilst we’d gone on holiday. We’d left the house in a terrible mess. The neighbours thought the criminals were responsible and we didn’t confess it was us. Oops! Cue a few feelings of shame!
Also, don’t be afraid to tap into your own mood when writing. Don’t hold back. I was in a very happy, sunny, shiny place when writing Game of Scones and I think that probably showed. Whereas this year has brought challenges and I think that is reflected in the heartache a couple of characters deal with in Breakfast under a Cornish Sun. So be your own inspiration, because that will mean the writing has real meaning, is heartfelt and true.