‘So, where do you get your ideas?’

I know I’ve written on this topic a couple of times before, but it’s one of those questions that never goes away.

Where do you get your ideas?’

This is one of the first questions people usually ask me – and I’m pretty sure it happens to other writers all the time. It kind of makes me want to groan, because it’s next to impossible to give a sincere and considered answer to this question without boring the pants off everyone by talking for an hour. The short, somewhat trite answer might be, ‘Everywhere!’

But if we really want to answer the question, it takes a minute or two longer. Because really there’s no single answer. Ideas don’t come from one unique, unvarying source. Nor do they come in the same way each time. Anything from the world seen or unseen can come to my attention and lead me to think, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting…’

Inspiration, which is what ideas really are, comes from everywhere and nowhere. A snatch of song, a news story, a little patch of colour on a card in the paint section of the DIY store, the turn of a person’s head making you think just for one split second it’s someone else, someone from another time, someone who should be dead. An unexpected view of yourself in a shop window, that odd moment before you recognise yourself, that brief second when you think, slightly puzzled, ‘I know you.’

An overheard snatch of conversation, ‘Don’t lose my hat, man, my hat’s my identity,’ and ‘Of course she never did find out who’d sent it.’ A film, a book, a taste, a smell, a memory, a story your mother told you – you’ve known her all your life yet this is the first time she’s ever mentioned this particular incident.

I have based two full-length stories on dreams, three short stories and one novel on songs, a poem on a piece of art, a novel based on a documentary I saw on TV about ancient tapestries, (Opus Anglicanum: Latin for English work), and another about the Reformation. I’ve written a short story about an arrowhead, and another about ancestral bones and the relevance they might have to a Neolithic man, about a couple of  trips to Skara Brae in the Orkneys.

I’ve written a whole series of stories about the fact that all too often people think it’s okay to take the law into their own hands. (I’m looking at you Cressida, MC of the Friendship Can Be Murder trilogy!) I’ve written about work situations, about hopes and plans for the future, about family tree research, about children, and pets, and parents. About love. About the absence of love. About Faith. About fear. About books I read as a child. And books I read as an adult. I’ve written about identity and what it means to be who I am, who you are. I’ve written about death – loads.

I saw a gorgeous man on the bus many years ago and wrote a story about him, (The Ice King – still not ‘available’, but if you’re intrigued, here’s a link to a short bit about him.) I’ve read news reports and been inspired to create my own story around some of those. I’ve written in hospital having just given birth, in hospital awaiting treatment for cancer, at work during my lunchbreak when I felt so depressed I just wanted to run away and hide. I’ve written when sitting on the loo, sitting in the garden, on holiday, in bed with flu, and in cafes all over Britain, Europe and Australia. I’ve written on buses and trains and planes. I’ve written when someone I cared about has died. I’ve even got inspiration from sitting down at my desk every day and just making myself write. Sometimes I’ve written page upon page of ‘I don’t know what to write’, like lines that we had to do at school, and still nothing has come to me and I’ve gone away desperate, feeling that the well has not only dried up, but was only a mirage to begin with.

If you are a writer, you squirrel away in the eccentric filing cabinet known as your brain EVERY single thing that you ever experience, and a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle or creating a patchwork quilt, you keep trying pieces together every which way until something fits and makes a pleasing and meaningful picture. There’s not really a pattern to it, there’s not a system or a set of regulations to follow. You just do it.

That’s where I get my ideas.

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Author interview – Emma Baird: multi-genre author extraordaire!

It’s been a little while since I last did an author interview, and I recently ‘met’ Emma Baird by the magical medium of the Interweb. With her recent release of her novel The Girl Who Swapped, I thought this would be the perfect time to interrogate her before she can recover from post-publication exhaustion.

Hi Emma, it’s great to have this chance to find out a bit more about you. Q1. What kind of books do you write?

Women’s fiction – which is a broad church, thankfully. So, I can write fantasy, chick lit, young adult, contemporary fiction, humour, adventure stories, thrillers, crime fiction… You get the picture. Women, luckily, are very open-minded about what they read. And they tend to read voraciously. I think that gives writers so much freedom.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

I just read. And read. Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens and a lot of Greek mythology which meant I was useful for crossword clues.

I do remember loving Judy Blume. She tapped into the 80s child psyche so well. If I mentioned Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret or Forever – I’m sure there are lots of people who would nod along, saying ‘Yup! Loved those books.’ I did have to work my way through understanding American food references, though. Graham Crackers, digestives, basically.

And er… my mum had a copy of a Jackie Collins book, and a friend and I used to sneak into her room and read it. Now, that was educational.

Lol I bet it was. My parents used to go through my books quite carefully to check they were suitable. I’m glad to say a few things slipped through! They didn’t realise I read their books too! Q3. I know you’ve only recently released The Girl Who Swapped, which I’ve read and really loved by the way, so what are you working on at the moment?

 What can we look forward to in the future from you?

Oof. I went through this mad writing phase last year and finished quite a few books. They are not fit to be unleashed, however.

I do have one book that I’m quite fond of, a coming of age tale that needs a little French polishing. It is set in a small Scottish town, and it tackles lack of confidence, homosexuality, crime and acceptance. The working title is Artists Town, though I’m working on that too. Re-writing and revising is the really important bit. I wish I could find a way to stop procrastinating about it. My way of dealing with rewriting is to start another story instead!

Q4. What are your favourite authors? What are you reading now?

Otherwise, I’ve just finished Anita Brookner’s Hotel Du Lac, as I adore many of the 20thCentury women writers. I re-read my way through Barbara Pym’s books a couple of years ago, and I really enjoyed Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop. I love their observational skills, and the way they make the ‘ordinary’ so interesting.

I LOVED Lauren Graff’s Fate and Furies – and she’s a much more current writer. Special mention too, to Fiona Walker and Marion Keyes (women’s fiction experts extraordinaire). I’ve read all their books – and Marion Keyes is vastly entertaining to follow on Twitter.

Q5. What do you do when you’re not reading?

Cook. I love cooking. I don’t do anything else while doing it, but prep and cook, so it feels mindful. I walk a lot, as it’s easy exercise. Kind of fond of drinking wine too… (interestingly, you can drink and write, but you can’t drink and read!) Also, I’m very much into the 21st Century habit de jour – Netflix binge watching. What the flip did we do before Netflix?!

Q6. What is your writing process?

Boringly prosaic. A word count per day. I set it low. I read a book by Martha Beck years ago about the importance of setting small goals. So, mine is 200 words every day. As it is so low, most days I manage 500 words, so every day I get to feel like I’ve over-achieved my goal. The day job helps with that too. I’m a copywriter – blogs, website content, product descriptions, e-books, video scripts, etc. The usual deal is you get paid by word count, so that discipline makes writing for yourself a lot easier.

At least you’ve got a process that works for you! Emma, thanks so much for ‘popping along’, and I wish you every success with The Girl Who Swapped, and with your future projects. I’m looking forward to reading your Scottish-based book hopefully fairly soon. But you can’t rush these things! To find out more about Emma and her work, please follow the links below:

Links

http://emmabaird.com

http://diabetesdietblog.com

Twitter @Glitterbaker

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