“Where DO you wacky writers get those crazy ideas?”
I don’t know if fantasy writers get this question more often than mystery or romance authors, but we get it quite a bit. And I have decided, in the interest of fair play and brotherhood, to share the Secret. Yes, you guessed it – there IS a place we all go to get these nutty ideas: the Gregorovich-Feister Idea Farm and Fresh Market. It’s a coop tucked into the high grass along Interstate 26 between Columbia and Charleston. Take exit 132 and 2/3 (it’s a dirt road, so be sure and slow down on the curve, else you’re liable to go flying!) and drive at exactly 42 miles per hour for exactly 17 minutes. Stop at the 17 minute mark, close your eyes, and whisper, “I just can’t think of what to write,”, and the gate will appear on the left. Drive in quick, since it only stays open about 30 seconds.
Once you’re inside, you can pick up a bushel basket and hit the fields yourself. The urban fantasy trees are over on the west side of the farm, under those dark clouds. Keep one eye open for the random questing parties in the epic fantasy orchard, and whatever you do, don’t pluck the golden rutabagas in the mythic fields – the demi-gods are terribly sensitive about that.
If you don’t feel like doing your own work, you can go straight to the fresh market and buy the ideas Viktor Gregorovich picked first thing that morning. Viktor’s a darling, and if you can’t find what you want, he’ll waddle out to the fields to find it for you. (Don’t ask him where Feister is, though – it’s still a sore subject, ever since Hurricane Hugo came through.) They only take golden dollars and dull pennies in payment, so stock up before you get there.
Okay, you’re not buying the story. The truth is that when I answer that question honestly, people never seem quite satisfied with the truth. The wacky ideas are all in my head, just as they are in yours. My first novel was born on a trip to the Olympic Rain Forest in Washington State, when my husband started telling me about a news story he’d read about lost trees at the bottom of Lake Superior. The second novel I began came from my love of Renaissance faires, and the third, Mad Kestrel… well, heck, I was missing the beach and the ocean, and pirates could take me there fastest. I get ideas from flipping through the latest issues of Newsweek, Scientific American and Skeptic. I half-listen to news stories on the radio, and let my mind run wildly with the portion I did catch. I hear songs that send my mind fluttering in another direction than the poor songwriter meant for me. I read histories and wonder what secret ambitions drove this general or that dictator to do the things he did. The trick is to think “What if?” instead of assuming what you heard or read is all there is to the story.
Still with me? Cool. I’d love to hear some of the interesting or unusual or bizarre places that you’ve found ideas for your own stories. If you haven’t gone so far as to write your own stories yet, tell me where you found an idea that made you want to write.