Finding Ideas and Inspiration
by Joanne Phillips
The release of a new book gives me the opportunity to meet lots of new people, and one of the questions they invariably ask is: ‘So where do you get your ideas from?’ Usually I smile and say a variation of: ‘Oh, you know, everyday life, my past, stuff …’ and then I tail off, not sure where to go from there. Because it is a very good question, but not one that’s easy to answer in a sentence or two.
Most writers find success a little later in life. Not all, of course, but many will have served a fairly long apprenticeship, mastering the craft, being rejected time and again, learning what works and what’s dire. During this time they will no doubt have clocked up a few years and quite a few experiences. Life, is the simple answer to the ideas question. I get my ideas from life. My life, and the lives of those I’ve observed, talked to, read about, or imagined. But of course, like most things it’s not that simple at all.
Life is often messy and complicated, but it’s also just as likely to be pretty boring and mundane. The idea for a novel can’t be lifted directly from real life – that’s no recipe for exciting fiction! Ideas are like seeds, containing the blueprint for a plot, or a character, or perhaps a single scene. Before I became a published author one of the (many!) careers I had was hairdressing. Boy did I meet some interesting people and hear some juicy gossip! ‘You could write a book about this’, was something clients would say to me from time to time (they all knew I was a hairdresser by day/frustrated writer by night). But they were wrong. Usually the stuff they told me wasn’t any where near interesting enough to write a book about, no matter how exciting or out of the ordinary it sounded.
Ideas for fiction are all around, and the grain of an idea may well come from a story we’ve heard or some gossip or a newspaper clipping. But the writer’s job is to flesh it out, to make it larger than life, to give it some zing. And this is where my interest in psychology helps – an interest I also gave to Flora Lively, my amateur sleuth in Murder at the Maples. What brings ideas to life is the characters who act out events, and what brings characters to life are the motivations – overt and hidden – that drive them. Through all my various jobs – hairdresser, air hostess, librarian, to name a few – I’ve always been a people watcher. And this, more than anything, is what gives me inspiration.
I love to write about characters who become real to me – and hopefully live for the reader too. I love to explore their inner world, to give them challenges and problems, and then see how they react. I like to think: ‘What if?’ and then get to work. I hope the characters in the Flora Lively series come alive for you, and I hope you find yourself rooting for them, getting annoyed and frustrated with them, but most of all I hope you enjoy them. I certainly enjoyed writing them.
About The Author
Joanne Phillips lives in Shropshire, England with her husband and young daughter. She’s the author of commercial women’s fiction Can’t Live Without and The Family Trap, and the Flora Lively series of cosy mysteries. Can’t Live Without was an Amazon top 100 bestseller in 2012 and her books regularly appear on category bestseller lists. Joanne blogs about writing and publishing atwww.joannephillips.co.uk
Murder at the Maples:
Flora Lively Mysteries Bk. 1
Published by Mirrorball Books (September 6, 2013)
Paperback: 276 pages
File Size: 414 KB
A tragic death. A reluctant sleuth. A childhood prank that went horribly wrong.
When Flora Lively inherits her father’s business she’s totally out of her depth. Shakers Removals is in trouble, and manager Marshall isn’t helping one bit – the ex-pat American delights only in winding her up. But Flora has other things on her mind, like Joy: surrogate grandmother and resident of the Maples Retirement Village. When Joy’s pet pug has a brush with death, Flora is pulled into a series of bizarre incidents at the Maples, where fear is starting to take hold.
Could harmless old Mr Felix really be the boy from Joy’s past, determined to exact his revenge, or is it Joy’s guilty mind playing tricks on her? And what about the Captain’s death? Accidents happen, even to the most careful people, but Flora’s not convinced the old man simply fell down the stairs … Playing detective seemed like a good idea at first, but before long Flora realizes the stakes are far higher than either she or Joy imagined.
Joanne Phillips has laid a really good foundation to start the Flora Lively series.
Flora feels the family obligation of her inheritance but working with Marshall definitely makes her wonder what her father was thinking. The relationship she has developed with Joy shows Flora’s caring heart. It is so hard for those in nursing homes with no family to visit them and I could see Flora easily “adopting” many surrogate grandparents.
The subplot surrounding a childhood incident added an extra dimension to the story. The main plot puzzle started to fall into place for me quite easily but the thought of Joy’s past entering her life so many years later kept me guessing.
I think Flora is like a young Jessica Fletcher that just happens to find herself in surrounded by mysteries. There was hint of romance in her future and plenty of room for all the characters to grow.
This was a delightful cozy and I look forward to more adventures with Flora.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”