In The Beginning–So Where on Earth Did that Novel Come From?

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Ask any novelist what readers most often want to know about his/her work.  I can almost guarantee he or she will tell you, “Where do you get your ideas?”  

Some authors–tired of this perfectly legitimate question–will answer “The idea store.”  “And don’t we all wish it were that easy?” they ask.

I’m here to pass on some good news.  The idea store does exist, only all the ideas circulating inside it are free.  The store is an open air market, with no boundaries or limits.  Ideas are everywhere.

I was reminded of this yesterday when, after sending my beloved editor four ideas for my next novel, she came back with the one I knew she would choose.  My next novel, it seems, will be the third–and final–novel in the Happiness Key series.

Those of you who have been reading along know Happiness Key was released in July.  And for the past year I’ve been hard at work on Fortunate Harbor, the sequel.  With Fortunate Harbor in the final stages before I send it to New York, the time was ripe to begin thinking about the next one.

Picture this:  A blank computer screen.  A deadline. A Ministry is Murder mystery to write before I tackle the final Happiness Key novel.  How does a novel evolve from those elements?

In the next year I’ll take you through some of the process.  I won’t give too much away, but maybe you’ll enjoy watching Book Three come together, a bit at a time.

So here’s what I have so far.  Four women who have inhabited two novels together.  Their backgrounds–always ripe for plot elements.  Their present status.  Threads left untied in Fortunate Harbor.  Little facts I’ve mentioned along the way that can be expanded into story lines.  For instance, we know from Happiness Key that Wanda has a daughter who’s a police officer, like Ken, Wanda’s husband.  But we know little else.  Doesn’t she seem like a possible avenue for exploration?  And how about some of the minor characters I’ve introduced?  The rec center staff and users could be fertile ground.  We’ll see.

What else?  Well, I’ve said before that I’ve gotten entire plots from a title. In fact I’m one of those odd ducks who really doesn’t work well until a title’s in place.  So now I’m considering possibilities.  I think I want to use “Bridge” with another word.  I liked Anywhere Bridge, but both my editor and good friend and novelist Diane Chamberlain had qualms.  So I’m still on the lookout.  Once I have the title finalized, more ideas will result.

Of course there’s the fabulous setting, a barrier island off the Gulf Coast of Florida, an area where I have the good luck to be spending part of the upcoming winter.  Details I pick up on site will surely help fuel the story, as well as add authenticity.

Beginning to see how this works?  Ideas are there for the taking.  Later we’ll explore how to separate the wheat from the chaff.  (Although, gardener that I am, I’ll just point out that chaff makes fine compost to fertilize yet more ideas.)

I love this part of my job.  Ideas really are everywhere.  And right now I’m open to all of them. I bet you could find some, too.

***Don’t forget to enter the Happiness Key Beach Bag giveaway. See Contest Page for details.


  1. Patricia Barraclough on September 20, 2009 at 12:30 am

    If you are open to them, they are everywhere. I think sometimes we try too hard and become blind to what is there. The saying “Relax and look around you.” can be so true when looking for story ideas. You seem to have your
    eyes wide open and are paying attention to everything around you.
    Good luck with the next book.

  2. Lynn on September 22, 2009 at 5:22 am

    How about Thunder Bridge?
    Am really enjoying reading your blogs since you got me hooked with the Lemonade Stand!

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