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January 30, 2024

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

This is the first question most people ask once they learn you’re a writer. “I don’t know how you do it,” they’ll say. Then, there will be the other smart arses who want to know if you write from real-life experience and waggle their eyebrows suggestively, knowing that I write romances.


Sometimes, I’ll answer with a flippant, “I buy my ideas from Walmart.”

But the truth…

Ideas are everywhere.

Most writers have fertile imaginations. We’re good at wondering, “What would happen if…”
Many of us are like magpies collecting treasures. We’ll gather tidbits of fascinating and intriguing information, and suddenly, a situation will occur where several of these bits of our collection slot together to make a cohesive story idea. We know what will happen if x and y occur.

This is how the idea for my Middlemarch series came about. I saw articles in a newspaper about mystery black cats spotted in the South Island of New Zealand. My Fancy Free series came to life after I read about a new condom product in an Air New Zealand inflight magazine.

My Alien Encounter series came to fruition after old reruns of a television show ran on Saturday mornings. It was about an alien who crash-landed on Earth and found refuge with a human. I took that idea and ran with it, adding things I enjoy. Our previous dog, Scotty, found her way into that series and became a popular side character.

Places I visit, such as Stewart Island and Antarctica, inspire books. Those places inspired Protecting the Bride (Stewart Island) and Snow Moon Dragon (Antarctica). A visit to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, led to my Churchill Polar Bear series. Lone Wolf and Seeking Kokopelli came about from trips to Yellowstone National Park and Southwest America. So yes, travel is a huge inspiration for me.

My home country of New Zealand also plays a big part in my stories, with Māori mythology and a Kiwi setting coming together in my Dragon Investigator series.

Other series, such as the Friendship Chronicles series, emerged when I experimented with different themes and ideas. I wanted to write a sexy series set in Auckland and featuring a group of friends.

Recently, I’ve started writing a new series under a penname: India Lord. I wanted to write short palate cleansers featuring lots of tropes. In these, I use tidbits of personal experience and things I enjoy. You, the reader, won’t know it, but I, the writer, get a kick out of plastering bits of myself hither and thither!

The Clare Instalove series is set in the fictional town of Clare, which is near to real-life Napier (that travel inspiration again). There are four books in this series so far. The heroes of these are military men who know their minds and make quick decisions. They’re take-charge kind of guys, but they have soft hearts regarding their ladies.
The fictional town of Clare is also featured in One Night of Misbehavior (our characters visit for the weekend) and Enemy Lovers, where the hero and heroine’s families come from Clare.

In Hunted Pack, the book I’m currently polishing, the heroine owns a pub. Boy, do I know a lot about that now.
And finally, there are books where my imagination takes flight, such as the pet bird named Blue in Snared by Saber. This book’s big, scary birds are based on the extinct Haast eagle, which used to hunt the moa in New Zealand. It’s said they were big enough to fly off with a person, so I used that as fact. I’m not sure my heroine will forgive me for that!

Shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, and everyday life can provide the spark. Whether it’s eavesdropping on conversations or spotting a ballgown in a shop or magazine that needs a story, my normal activities offer a wealth of ideas.

As I said, I am a magpie with ideas and information, and I never know when something will come in useful.

In conclusion, I get ideas from:

  1. Watching television and movies
  2. Reading newspapers and magazines
  3. Travel.
  4. Listen to radio and music
  5. Eavesdropping in cafes, malls, and restaurants

They’re all fertile gathering grounds. Personal experience sometimes kicks in, and I scramble everything around, layering it into plots and characters. That’s where my book ideas come from.