I have an open Ask box on my tumblr, and once in a while, I’ll receive a great question or two about my writing process. Recently, someone asked the question: where do you get your ideas from?
I’d like to take the opportunity to answer this here, and show off a few photos of my most recent trip to Europe in the process.
The easiest answer to the question is that I don’t know, but I could make certain conjectures based on my personal interests that go back, like, decades:
I’ve always been drawn to cemeteries, and the more romantic, the better: Lafayette and St. Louis One in New Orleans, Pere Lachaise in France, and Highgate West in London are favourites. I’ve visited each in turn, and it’s not hard to fall into daydreams about the people buried there. Likewise, it’s not hard to skip back a few years in imagination to the plague years, yellow fever epidemics, the Victorians and their dark predelictions, the romantic and the gothic when in these settings.
I think a lot of my ideas come from places, for sure, and as a result I tend to build out stories around particular locations. It’s not hard to spark ideas when you look into the folklore and history of a place; and I really love doing research about the places that have captured a part of my heart and constantly draw me back to them. New Orleans has its macabre magic, the drums of Congo Square, the cobbled streets of the French Quarter. London had it’s pea soup fogs that shrouded Jack the Ripper as he killed. And Paris has its speakeasies: illicit underground clubs of the Belle Epoque nestled into its subterranean catacombs.
I also love travelling. When I get the wanderlust bug, I’ve got to get out of my hometown and find a little adventure. “Research” is usually a great reason, in part, for the trips I take.
Wake the Dead plays between a few different locations, including Highgate Village, the ruins of St. Curvy in Detroit, and Louisiana’s backwater. I know from listening to the characters that they have roots in New York as well, and it’s probably a location we will see in Book II.
Looking at photos especially triggers the good ideas. I use Pinterest.com as a great resource for inspiration, and I have several boards dedicated to settings and characters. Whenever I get stumped, I’ll spend a little time searching for visually interesting places and draw what I can from them.
It lends a little truth to fiction when you have a starting point to work from.
Where do you get your ideas from?