What Inspires You?

3 08 2009
Sometimes the best view is from high above

Sometimes the best view is from high above

As I wind down the current novel I’m working on—Moonlight Madness, a time travel set in 17th century England—I’m hunting for my next project and looking for inspiration. Which brings me to the question for our blog theme this month: what inspires you?

I made a list of the most common places writers find inspiration (in no particular order):

  1. writing groups: RWA, local chapters, critique groups
  2. reading
  3. browsing bookstore/library shelves
  4. travel, road trips
  5. new experiences (jobs, careers)
  6. observation/people-watching
  7. the news
  8. music
  9. poetry/quotes
  10. celebrities
  11. movies/tv
  12. antique stores/flea markets
  13. museums
  14. parks/gardens/nature
  15. family/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend

In writing a 90,000-100,000, I’ve found all of the above can be useful sources of inspiration!

My favorite kick-in-the-writer’s butt—Travel

This week I’m relaxing on one of my favorite beaches. My family has vacationed in South Carolina almost every year since the early 80’s and it never fails to plant the seeds of a new story in my mind.

The history of Low Country attracts me to this area in the strongest way. First, it’s in my blood. My father’s Welsh/Scot/Irish family settled in South Carolina in the early 1700’s. Second, this is the same area where pirates once roamed, where the Civil War was fought, and it’s the setting for a plethora of great literature including the eerie true story, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Poe’s The Gold Bug.

After I meditate beneath one of the ancient Spanish Moss-covered oaks or on the balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, I’ll be blessed with another story to take back home with me. Travel definitely inspires my writing—the settings in particular. I can almost hear the characters’ voices in my head as I listen to the waves on the shore.

Finding island history inside a lighthouse

Finding island history inside a lighthouse

Is there anyplace that makes you want to write? Do you feature places you’ve visited in your stories? If so, where?

This month I’m giving away a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card along with some books from my shelf “to inspire you.” Comment on one post this August and you’ll be entered to win in a drawing to be held at the end of the month. Good luck and be inspired!

The Book That Ruined Them All!

19 07 2009

woman_reading_a_book-otherI worked as bookstore manager for nine years—the best hourly-wage job I ever had. (Love those discounts, author’s galleys, and ARC copies!!)  I loved handselling my favorites to my customers. I giddily approached shoppers who appeared to have similar taste in reading as me so I could share the gems I’d recently discovered. But I will never forget one book that changed everything.

It was a novel, not my usual romance. Something about the Scottish plaid on the cover called to the Celtic-lover in me. I picked it up and put it down for weeks, always disregarding it for its size alone—a paperback at least 2 1/2 inches thick.  Finally I gave in, and oh, how my world changed. To me, that book was as close to perfect as I’ll ever read. I finished it in one weekend. Food, sleep, nothing mattered except finishing that novel! (same goes for the sequels—but that’s another story!).

I cried so much while reading the novel that when it came to handselling it, I got misty-eyed just talking about it. I will always remember the reaction of a frequent customer of mine when she returned after reading the book, which I’d heartily recommended to her. With eyes narrowed, she approached me and grasped my arm. She said, “I read Outlander last night and I just wanted you to know what you’ve done. You’ve completely ruined all other romances for me from now on. Nothing, nothing will ever beat that.”

And for me, some have come close but she’s right. One book changed it all.

I love to feel so connected with the characters and their journeys that I experience an emotional bond. I’m sure authors—romance authors in particular—want to tug on our heartstrings as their heroine suffers a setback. Why else would the author “torture” the hero? Do you have a reading experience that “ruined” all other books for you? Or maybe you’re still looking for that pageturner that you just can’t put down. If you’ve ever had a reading experience so real you had to have a box of tissues nearby, tell us about it. You’ll feel better once you get it off your chest.