When I sit down to brainstorm or outline a new book, I always start with one question: What intrigues me?
Reconnecting with my younger self, I recall the stories, secrets, mysteries, and phenomena that once sparked a burning curiosity within my adolescent mind. What was forbidden and what was taboo? What was sneaky and tempting and possibly dangerous, but oh-so-seductive and impossible to resist? What made me feel as though I’d entered another world, what dreams and dreamscapes had altered my thoughts and perception in ways I’d never considered before? If I could learn the truth about any secret buried in history, which secret would I choose to unearth?
What if Anastasia Romanov had really survived her execution? What if I could find out who I was in a past life? What if I lived in a haunted house? What if I were to walk in the sandals of a Greek goddess? What if a girl had pulled the sword from the stone? What if I fell in love with a pirate? What if… what if… what if…?
The day I stop asking ‘what if’ is the day I run out of ideas. The moment I realize nothing intrigues me any longer is the moment I am no longer a fiction writer. For me, creative writing stems from the roots of exploration and experimentation. And I only want to explore and experiment with ideas that truly inspire me. It’s the only way I’ve found to sustain my passion for a project. And as any writer knows, you’ve got to have passion to finish a novel!
You can look at what’s hot. You can gauge the market. You can see what’s selling and try to follow trends. You can set goals, track word count, and turn yourself into a production machine. Some people look at the number of publications I have and think that’s what I’m doing. Honestly, it isn’t. Sure, I outline my novels, which saves me an immense amount of time, but what truly enables me to write is my determination each day to tap into what intrigues me, and to stay excited, impassioned, and inspired from page 1 to page 201.
What ignites me most of all is love and relationships. I will never tire of conjuring up different couples and throwing them together in a wild and fun adventure. I love making the characters interact with each other. I especially love villains who become the love interest, or enemies who turn into lovers, a common theme in my books. I like to first choose a premise that intrigues me – whether fantastical, historical, or paranormal – then create characters who come alive and demand I tell their story. They become the reason I keep writing. Once I call them into being and develop a connection between them, I know I must finish their stories and do them justice. My commitment to the characters and the relationships they’re building is what propels me through the more difficult chapters, the boring logistics, the action scenes that can be challenging to execute, and the days when it feels like the words just won’t come. I am grateful for the colorful characters and timeless love stories that keep me company and keep me working.
Dukes and duchesses, princes and princesses, gods and goddesses, kings and queens, emperors and empresses, married couples and young singles, witches, ghosts, reincarnated souls, priestesses, paupers, and pirates have all filled the pages of my novels. I’ve covered master plots from rescue missions to treasure hunts to quests and mythology retellings. I’ve written for adults and young adults. Sometimes I flip through the pages of my notebooks and wonder where I’ll go next, what’s left, what’s fresh that I haven’t already done before. That’s when I know it’s time to return to the crucial question: What intrigues me?
If you dream of writing a novel, or more novels, ask yourself what intrigues you. The answer might surprise you. Either way, when it comes to finding inspiration, it will never lead you astray.