“Where do you get your ideas?” This might be the number one question readers ask authors.
My quick answer is that ideas pop into my head all the time and they come from everywhere. My personal experience, conversations with other people, places I’ve lived in and visited, the news, books I’ve read, TV, movies, perhaps a painting or line of music.
This winter, I’m editing a novel-in-progress, book # 3 of my Paula Savard mystery series, while mulling ideas for book # 4. With a series, many of the basic ideas are already there. I start with my sleuth, Paula, a fifty-five year old insurance adjuster, and her cast of supporting characters, who impact her personal life and, in some cases, her sleuthing. Paula and most of her family, colleagues and friends live in my home city, Calgary Alberta. I could send Paula to another location for all or part of the next book, but I see her as grounded in Calgary. Unlike me, Paula isn’t drawn to travel, although book # 3 presents her with a future travel opportunity. For now, I think her adventures in book # 4 will continue in Calgary.
An often deserted pathway behind Calgary’s Saddledome arena inspired my idea for the murder in the first Paula Savard novel, A Deadly Fall.
My current novel-in-progress, Winter’s Rage, ends in January 2020, with Paula at a crossroads in her life. Book # 4 will begin with her dealing with that situation. I’ve decided it will take place in spring, since Paula’s first three mysteries happened in fall, summer and winter. But which spring will this be? January 2020 was right before COVID-19 changed the world. Will we next meet Paula in spring 2020, as she grapples with the start of the pandemic both personally and at work? Or will it be spring 2021, when the the pandemic is (we hope) nearing its end? I could jump over the virus and set the novel in spring 2022. This would make the time frame more contemporary to my publication date, although I find it hard to envision the post COVID-19 world. What things will return to the old normal and what will be the long term changes? The year I choose for this fourth novel will affect my ideas for it. Thoughts to mull during the winter.
Calgary’s annual Stampede parade prompted ideas for a major character and an inciting incident in my second novel, Ten Days in Summer.
While Paula got into solving mysteries as an amateur sleuth, I decided her subsequent ventures would come from her insurance adjusting work. Ten Days in Summer starts with a suspicious death resulting from a building fire. Paula naturally becomes involved in the course of investigating the property fire insurance claim. In Winter’s Rage, she adjusts a hit and run collision and gradually suspects the fatality was no accident.
This quiet, suburban Calgary street plays a large role in Winter’s Rage.
For book # 4, I’m thinking that burglary could make a good cover up for murder. Last spring, my husband and I bought e-bikes at a local bicycle shop. I was intrigued by the store’s booming business. With most of their usual activities shut down for the pandemic, Calgarians sought outdoor activities and many of us updated our old bicycles. That store and the two guys operating it are giving me ideas for the crime that will launch Paula’s next mystery.
I also want to include a ghost in book # 4, because ghosts both interest and frighten me. At the end of Ten Days in Summer, Paula’s office moved to Inglewood, Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood. Many ghosts lurk in Inglewood, a location for Calgary’s haunted walking tours. The ghost rumoured to haunt her historic office building will challenge rational Paula, who doesn’t believe in other worldly happenings.
All of these bits and pieces, swirling in my mind, will converge into the start of a story, when I eventually sit down and write the novel. As the story moves along, it will pluck more ideas from my usual sources. That’s the plan, anyway, and it’s how I get my ideas.