Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Probably the most frequent question I'm asked. And wish I could give people a better answer than “everywhere.” But I'm afraid that's the truth. Maybe if I tell you about how my latest idea is forming, you might get a better idea.

I'm working on a series of historical romance set at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In my series (because I love nothing more than a little suspense), there are nefarious spies, who, in the third book, commit my heroine Kate in an insane asylum. Not a good thing for her, certainly. But as I was writing the scene, I realized something important. This isn't a normal insane asylum. This asylum is controlled by the nefarious spies, who really think they are working for a good cause. If some people have to be kept constrained until the bad guys gain control, well, so it must be.

But, as often happens, once I have one new idea, several more follow. I realized that while Kate is in this asylum, Kate hears about another woman kept there; a woman who has been committed because she threatened to turn her husband over to the authorities for his part in an attempt to overthrow the government. And for a while, that was all I knew. Except I had the nagging suspicion that this mysterious woman would end up with a book of her own.

Cut to Venice. I'm sitting on the balcony of my B&B overlooking the Canereggio Canal, and suddenly a voice comes into my head. It's of a woman in exile from her homeland, smuggled away to Italy to recover from incarceration. Her health has been fragile, but the beauty of La Serenissima has begun to heal her.

Still, she is hundreds of miles from her children. She has a husband she may not have loved, but certainly respected. She knows that he believes he is acting for the best, that her commitment was, in his mind, to protect her, because if he hadn't been able to contain her she certainly would have been murdered. She simply knows too much.

She still knows too much. She is still a threat to the group her husband belongs to. She would do anything to protect him, even refuse to speak of his involvement. But she knows that she cannot remain this way. Besides, there is a man...

Well, there's always a man in romance. But that's not the point. The point is that it was the sight of that side canal in Venice that set her loose in my head. Until then she had only been a one line idea. A plot point. A possible complication. That canal began to give her color and shape. Conflict, purpose, goals. To her the pastels of those old, crumbling, palazzos are the colors of melancholy. She wants to go home and knows it to be impossible. She wants to return to her marriage and knows she can't. She has begun to fall in love with the man who brought her to Venice and should not. And she thinks all of this as she sits on a balcony in an old palazzo as the sun sets over the choppy water and the bells of St. Mark's toll out the hour. She is in one of the most beautiful spots on earth, and she can only wish she weren't.

And that is where I got at least one of my ideas.

1 comment:

Liz said...

Beautifully expressed, Eileen. Wouldn't mind your courage when it comes to writing prose. Here's a poem for you in thanks, love, Liz in Ireland still.

“Shifting Sands”

“Shifting sands”
Glass mutely speaks
But who is there to hear?
Memories of oceans
Come and gone,
The waves rush on
As the Moon pulls
Hordes of people
Through the labyrinthine swaying
Of jet and silver playing
With the foam of Life
It knows what’s truly happening
When flashing through
The mirrors of our minds –
Sing they will someday
Of poets
Come and gone,
As the sand sighs once again
And Life emerges from the sea
Called Love, to play once more ......

Liz Forrest O Driscoll