Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mysteries Among Us, Or Where Ideas Come From

One of the coolest things about being a debut middle-grade author has to be getting fan mail. Or maybe it's not fan mail exactly--more like kids wanting some info so they can do a book report on Double Vision. Still, I love hearing from readers. I've had a handful of these emails now, and one question is in there every time:

Where do you get your ideas?

I've heard other, more seasoned authors complain about this being a lame question, but I still think it's a good one. This may be because I'm still a relative newbie, I don't know. For the Double Vision series, I started with the idea of a regular kid being recruited as a spy (who hasn't dreamed of that, right?); as the series goes on, I dig through history and biographies for inspiration. It's like mining for nuggets of juicy information--and you never know what will spark your imagination until you find it.

Did you know, for instance, that Amelia Earhart learned to play the banjo? And that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day, July 4th 1826, the 50th anniversary of Independence Day? Those kind of details may seem like boring history to anyone else, but to me, they're just dying to be in a story.

Since I write middle-grade, I can't really use much true crime (too grim), but I've heard authors who write for adults say that get their ideas by reading newspapers. There are lots of mysteries among us, dying to be spun into a good yarn.

How about you, fellow writers? Where do your ideas come from?

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