As I’ve mentioned a few times before, The Dream Peddler was directly inspired by my love of reading and my adolescent obsession with Emily of New Moon. There is nothing greater for me than reading the work of authors I love in order to be inspired. If I’m in a bit of writing doldrums, I’ll just pick up a book (a fabulous literary one, usually) and in no time at all, I’ll be fired up to write again.
So, where else do I find inspiration? This is a tough question for me. Like most writers, I definitely draw inspiration from other people around me and their interactions. I don’t write specific people or conversations into my work, but the mind is a funny thing—sometimes a single phrase or a brief moment in time is enough to spark an idea that eventually becomes a whole book.
I don’t listen to a play list when I write—in general, even though I love music, it doesn’t tend to inspire words for me. Music makes me feel, but it doesn’t usually become something that translates into a story. Same thing for food. Maybe this is because I’m such a visual person at heart. Almost all my imagery comes from trying to describe how things look, and I have to make a conscious effort when I write to remember to include details involving our other senses.
The fun thing for me about inspiration is that it can come from anything and strike at any time. I read an article once about baby boxes—safe receptacles outside hospitals where an unwanted baby can be left anonymously—and it inspired me to write a short story that you can now read here. Walking into a crowded classroom after my daughter’s school play sparked an idea that I’m pretty sure will become my third book. And I can’t even say with any certainty where the idea for my current work in progress came from. A scene popped into my head unbidden one day, a family group in a truck hitting and killing a dog whose stomach was somehow sliced open, and the finding of a small treasure the dog had swallowed. The scene had no meaning at all in itself, except it gave me a very strong feeling that if I could figure out who the dog belonged to, what it was the dog had eaten, and how he had come to eat it, I might have the makings of something.
I started thinking about the family who had hit the dog, and the family it had left behind, and gradually their stories began to take focus. The funny thing about inspiration is the way one thing leads to another. Each scene, for me, each new character, is inspired by everything that comes before them and seems to lead to them in a way that feels inevitable. Maybe this is why I continue to write books without plotting them first. Every word I write begets the next, and every idea I have opens a little door of inspiration that leads to the next room in the story.