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Collated Answers from WW interviews

Where do you get your ideas from?
Al Hunter AshtonThe storyline dept of EastEnders and Holby mainly, just lately. My expertise if I have any is writing dialogue.
Ali McNamaraFrom Notting Hill with Love...actually came to me when I was watching one of those countdowns on the music channels Ė Ď100 greatest Movie theme tunes.í And I got the idea for the novel Iím currently working on from a conversation I had with my husband when we were on holiday in Ireland about how easy it would be to live on a remote island.
Andrew BlackmanAll over the place. Itís completely unpredictable Ė the idea for my first published short story came from a chance comment by one of my fellow temps at 4am on the night shift. Often itís overheard snatches of conversation on buses or in cafes. I always carry a notebook to record these things, and add them to an Ďideasí file on my computer later on
Anne BrookeI always think: what if so-and-so happened? - what would happen then? What would it be like? Also, some of the ideas for novels come to me in dreams: for instance, the whole of the first section of "Maloney's Law" was something I dreamt in 2004. I woke up thinking: what are those two men doing in the city late at night? Why the cigarette? Where's it going? Who are they? - and the whole thing came from that.
Ardella JonesTravel. Observing people. Documentaries on TV Ė I will look at them obliquely and ask myself questions about the peripheral issues, the bits the doc makers seem to miss.
Beanie BabyPretty much everything but more often than not the ideas find me. I could be sitting on a bus, reading a paper when - bam - an idea pops into the front of my brain. Like for example, the other day, I suddenly wondered how a child from the second world war would deal with a computer that had slipped through a time warp and landed in her back garden. I think I'd been thinking about that night's dinner so I have absolutely no idea where it came from.
Bill SpenceIdeas come from all over, maybe from something I have read or seen, the atmosphere of a place, a contact with another person. Any of these things and more can generate the germ of an idea. Then it becomes a situation of allowing that germ to develop in the context of having characters in place in time. Working on that germ of an idea and working continually as the story develops is the question I keep asking myself- ĎWhat if?í
Cally TaylorďThey just pop into my headĒ isnít a very helpful answer is it? Iím a big fan of programmes like True Blood, Heroes, Lost and Buffy so I guess it was inevitable Iíd end up writing supernatural novels. A lot of my ideas start with a ĎWhat if?í question and I go from there. ďHeaven Can WaitĒ was born because I thought ďwhat if
Candi MillerA mysterious but well-exercised muscle, I reckon. As a copywriter I spent years having to come up with ideas for campaigns, in a very pressured environment. Consequently, I became pretty slick at it. Now Iím still quick at the origination/creation bit. I never strugg le for ideas or plot.
So, if there is a part of the brain responsible for this facility, mine is well-toned from years of training.
Caroline RanceMost of my ideas come from non-fiction Ė I'm often intrigued by a passing mention of a situation or obscure real-life historical character. I love looking at old newspapers and seeing all the unusual little stories about ordinary people who are now forgotten. Quite often a single sentence can spark off a whole sub-plot idea
Cassandra ClareIdeas come from everywhere. My problem is too many ideas and somehow
whittling them down into a reasonable number. The idea for City of Bones
came from a visit to a tattoo parlor that got me thinking about magical
tattoos, for instance.
SkippooJust real life, really. Things I see around me (I love people watching!) and my own experiences.
Catherine RichardsLife and people. I certainly enjoy reading books about situations I can relate to. Yes, writers always embellish experiences a bit, but I think itís easier for readers to empathise with characters if they can see a bit of someone they recognise.
Cathy GlassThe ideas for my Inspirational Memoirs (I have now sold five to HarperCollins) come from the children I foster. These children are so courageous and resourceful that they are an inspiration to us all. The ideas for articles come from anything that grabs my fancy, and my fiction is usually based on an incident that I have come across or heard about.
Christina Courtenay

All sorts of things can trigger ideas Ė a face, a picture, a snatch of conversation or a scent. It varies. My stories often start with the face of the hero though and they are usually real people, like actors, who Iíve seen and who trigger something in my mind. I give them a personality I think will fit them and the story takes off from there. My novel Trade Winds was triggered by two things Ė a sailing ship called ďGŲtheborgĒ which docked in London for a couple of weeks during the spring of 2007 and a music video featuring a mischievous young man who seemed to be great hero material. The ship was an exact replica of a vessel that had once sailed to the Far East on behalf of the Swedish East India Company (the SOIC), and I went on board to have a look. This made me curious about the kind of people who had once made such terrifying journeys and the story took shape in my mind.

Claire Allen'Rainy Days..' came from my own experiences with depression. I took the idea and ran with it, creating a wonderful character who had depression but who didn't spend her life moping in a corner. The modern woman can often be too busy to give into depression. I find that I get a clear a idea of the next project about half way through the first and I play with the ideas until they form. 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered' deals with the powers of secrets and female guilt.
Claire MossEverywhere, everything, all the time. I have so many that I've got at least four novels backed up in my head waiting to be written, along with countless short stories. It's not finding the ideas that's difficult, it's deciding which one to go with next.
Clare SambrookThey tend to come when Iím in a state of readiness ó alert and hungry, working hard. I have to be reading widely and deeply, exercising my curiosity, keeping a notebook, dreaming in a disciplined way.
Courttia NewlandI try not to ask that question. My gift horse is doing quite well and Iíd like to keep it that way!
Craig Baxter
Thereís no real pattern. Information goes into my brain from books, newspapers, tv programmes, sometimes even real-life and the brain somehow makes connections. Last year I was writing a character in a play who felt he was divinely inspired. Though I donít think he was, I can see why he might think that. Writing is a very mysterious process.
Dawn FinchAh Ė that old chestnut! I really donít know. I think that it comes back to inspiration. I donít look for ideas or inspiration - it just happens. The trick is to walk with your head up and your eyes and ears open and regard the world as if it were a giant endless performance and you donít want to miss anything. The ideas are all there, living and breathing around us, our job is to pay attention to them.
Diane SamuelsThe ether and the world.
Elizabeth BuchanI am now just finishing The Book of Hours which is about the search for a medieval manuscript. By chance, I happened to visit an exhibition of lost pages from just such a manuscript. I walked into the room in the museum and I was struck dumb by the beauty of the miniatures. I wanted to know why they existed and who painted them, and what with. Before I left, , I had a story tucked under my belt of a modern curator whose hunts for a lost books of hours and discovers the strange story of the women who commissioned it in fourteenth-century Umbria.. And that was that.
Elizabeth SpellerHistory mostly, and watching people react to things, and eavesdropping.
Eva SalzmanIdeas often have to simmer for years, until the appropriate image, metaphor or vehicle presents itself. Often one canít contrive to find these, especially if itís a good idea. I need to be caught unawares.
Fiona RobynYou tell me!
Gary DavisonFor Fat Tuesday I was standing in Asda, day dreaming, listening to the tills ringing, when I thought: how good would it feel to rob the place? And the story just grew from there. Any situation can lead to an idea, itís where it goes when youíre sat at the computer thatís the interesting part
George SzirtesThe charity shops of the personal imagination
Gillian Cross
I have no idea, but I hope they keep coming.
Gillian McClureIdeas: they come mysteriously and go equally mysteriously. Only a very few stick around and grow into something. So I wait for these valuable few, trying not to force them.
Gordon and WilliamsRG: Insomnia hours, the top decks of buses, or aimless walking in London streets.

BW: Dead people talking on my radio.
Helen BlackMy legal work is obviously a deep fount and people often ask where Iíll continue to get my ideas now Iím writing full time. Well you only have to switch on the newsÖwhen HC asked for a prťcis of book three I had absolutely nothing, but the next morning I heard a radio interview with a young Asian woman who had escaped an honour killing. I knew immediately that I wanted to write about that.
Helen CastorGood question. Iím a great believer in starting from square one Ė the questions which often get missed out as Ďtoo basicí or Ďtoo obviousí. Often, in fact, if you look at a familiar historical situation from first principles you end up with interesting questions you hadnít considered before.
Helen McWilliamsDay to day life, something as simple as watching a fellow passenger on the bus can start off a cacophony of stories in my head.
Jae WatsonI am fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to travel extensively. I spent over four-months in India on one trip, which blew my mind and inspired the writing of Journey. Before that I played saxophone in an-all female indie-rock band in Liverpool. My day job is also a good source of material. I feel I have packed a lot into my life so far and I am now ready to draw on some of these experiences in my writing.
Jane ElmorThey always come in the first instance from people I come across and situations around me, although they never end up anything like the reality they springboarded from. The story I've woven in My Vintage Summer is completely fictitious, although I've drawn from what I remember of the 70s and 80s to hopefully make it come over in an authentic way. Like the central character's first boyfriend, who's a small town punk. He's not based on any one person I know, I just tried to make him up out of every bad and funny thing I could remember about small town punks.
JemCould be an overheard snatch of conversation or a chance meeting Iíve had with someone, a dream Ė I get whole stories from dreams, a dilemma. Absolutely anything. Once my twins shut the front door on me and locked me out Ė Iíd gone outside to put something in the bin and theyíd slammed the door shut. They were only two at the time. A workman was working on a house over the way and I persuaded him (bullied him, really!) to drive round to the school my older children were at to get a key from one of them. I got a story out of that, but in my story my workman was a hunk, of course. (Donít worry, I got back in the house and the toddlers suffered no trauma, as far as we can tell.)
Jenn AshworthThe ideas tree in my garden - although I can't tell you exactly where, for obvious reasons.
Jill Dawson

Usually ideas for a novel start with an image. This last one began with a picture of a jellyfish. No jellyfish occurs in the novel in the end, but it does have seahorsesÖ.
Jill McGiveringIíve been a foreign correspondent and full-time journalist for many years. None of the characters or stories in my novels are actually real Ė but the people and places and events Iíve witnessed in many years of travel and news reporting have informed and inspired me in a general sense.

John RitchieI usually use the Flash Fiction Challenge prompts, then I free associate around the theme or actual wording of the prompt. One such Challenge was to write a story about a Chocolate Frog. I thought about all the possible ideas that frogs stimulate and all the things I could think of associated with chocolate and How a Chocolate Frog Became a Prince was the result. If you can be bothered, see how many associations with each you can find in the story.

Jon Haylett
Largely from experience, so one of the principles I have is that I avoid research. I become very nervous on the rare occasions when I allow myself to write outside my knowledge envelope. A good example occurs in Black Mongoose, where a particular and very specialised rifle is used. In such circumstances I do my utmost to obtain advice from those who have immediate, first hand experience.
Josa YoungMy head. Years of compulsive reading has put ideas into it. Rather disapproved of when I was a gel.
Judith JohnsonI canít believe you asked that question.
Kal BonnerMy ideas seem to have a life of their own in my head, so I couldn't honestly say where they come from, they're just there - spooky.
Kate LongThere are stories begging to be taken up and developed everywhere you look; in magazines, reality tv, on websites, and often in oneís own family history. Whether or not youíre a writer itís worth interviewing your parents and grandparents because they often have amazing anecdotes to record.
Kia AbdullahThe first thing I would tell a new writer is to find out whether they are good; get as much honest feedback as possible from as many different sources you can find. If people say you are good and you know you are good, then the second thing I would say is donít give up. Persevere and have faith that it will happen.
Laura WatsonSo many things, books, films, stories I read in the paper or get told in the pub, things that happen in the news that have an impact on me, things that have happened in my life or to people I know.
Lee JacksonGenerally from reading odd pieces of Victoriana Ė see my website.
Lola JayeTube stations and television talk shows, clearly! Actually, ideas can sometimes just pop into my head.
A L BerridgeI have no idea. I do believe in the Jungian theory of the Collective Unconscious and suspect Iím only dipping into that vast well thatís available to all of us - but if I knew exactly how it was done and could do it at will then my life would be a lot easier. Iíd probably also be a lot richer.
Lucy McCarraherReal life Ė the one that happens off the page! Wishful thinking, perhaps, in some ways. Iíd love to be able to get back into the past like some of my characters can.
Luisa PlajaLiving. Sorry, I realise that's a very broad answer! I also thought of answering, "My head!", so, er... I should add that I'm a 'bash it out and see' writer, and not a planner, especially for the first part of a book. When I started The Book Now Known As Split by a Kiss, I had no intention of splitting my character into two girls and sending them down different paths. I'd read an article about the influence of national sport in different countries, basically suggesting that men's dating habits were influenced by whether they grew up playing baseball or soccer. This was my starting point for the book, which I thought would be about US/UK culture shock, featuring a baseball-playing boy. Then I reached a certain point in the first draft and my character suddenly ran off to live two parallel lives. Of course, I have seen the film Sliding Doors but I'd say that Her Living Image by Jane Rogers was a bigger influence than any Gwyneth film. Lah-dee-dar. Am I pretentious or quoi?
Malcolm BurgessIf I knew Iíd get it cloned for the bad days.
Maria McCarthyThe ups and downs of my own life, chatting with my friends and random strangers, people-watching.
Mark BoothI have a knack for taking moderately interesting events and caricaturing them beyond recognition. I also travel a lot in my job and Iíve created several stories from my experiences abroad. Every day life offers so many (dare I say, absurd) opportunities for dramatic writing Ė you just have to read the BBC news website to find dozens of potential story ideas every day.
Mark Liam PiggottI just walk down the street.
Matt Lynn
I draw on things that are happening in the world, so ĎShadow Forceí for example, is set amongst the Somali pirates. And through the ghost-writing I got to know a lot of special forces guys who now work for private military corporations. You hear lots of wild stories from them, and that is an endless source of stories.
Meg PeacockeI donít get ideas: that is, I never start from an idea. Iím an observer, and words rise from the observation and a poem begins via the words. The task is to find out where it wants to go, what it wants to say. I donít understand the process.
Michael RidpathWhen I am thinking about what to write about, I jot down several possible ideas and see which one strikes a chord. These possibilities seem to me to be obvious, the key is to select the one I am most excited about and develop it. What this really means, I suppose, is that I am drawing on my experiences and what I have read and using my sub-conscious to select what is interesting.
Michelle HarrisonMany of my ideas are sparked from real places, legends and objects. Much of the fairy lore in The 13 Treasures is based upon beliefs people used to hold in the past, such as that wearing red will protect you from fairies.

The thirteen treasures is an old legend linked to King Arthur and Merlin, although I first read about it in a fairy book. The list of thirteen items is never quite the same wherever Iíve seen it referenced, so I took the liberty of inventing my own list and the back story that goes with it.

The forest in the story, Hangmanís Wood, with its deneholes, is based upon an area of woodland of the same name in Grays, where I grew up. Similarly, the servantsí staircase (a half blocked off stairwell) is inspired by one that I saw in an Essex pub.
Milly JohnsonAnything and everything! It can be a newspaper story I read, an overheard comment, a situation I find myself in. My head seems to highlight things and says Ďooh thatís interesting, letís save that.í It sounds nuts but Iíve learned not to excuse how it is and just accept it.
Neil ForsythIím still in the freelancerís frame of mind, scouring the media for interesting stories to follow up. And Iím also a product of the information age. Itís probably not too sociable to spend long hours pissing about on the Internet, but doing so has given me the majority of my material.
Neil J HartUsually from films, books or dreams. I tend to amalgamate visual snapshots from these things and associate my own meanings to them. Iíll normally find something that I like or a concept that sounds interesting and then research it further to see if there is anything else that inspires me. I can then use these ideas, concepts and images to create character backstories and histories which make them unique.
Neil NixonI just get them. Turning them off would be impossible. Iím married to a psychotherapist so if this flow of ideas was a diagnosable problem I think sheíd have spotted it by now.
Nick GriffithsBy walking aimlessly or riding buses, from thin air. Or by sitting at this desk, muscles tautened in frustration, as occasionally happens when one is on the toilet.
Nicky SingerI look and I listen. Occasionally I see and I hear (which is different). Then I write. More usefully perhaps Ė see below.
Nik PerringIím not too sure. If I knew I think Iíd mark the spot with a big X. It must be somewhere in my office though.
Patrick DillonIf Iím writing for children, I imagine myself telling stories to my own children. Thatís how The Story of Britain started and it never fails to get a story flowing.
Paul ReedThe scheme. Real life around where I stay is usually stranger than fiction! My own life has been pretty strange too, it's worth writing about and seems to strike a chord with my readers.
Peter RobertsonYou mean for literary translation? I spend hours trawling the Internet in order to find talent and then I make a personal overture. While many of the writers I translate are already well known, I find the process of discovering a writer, who may have abundant talent but is not necessarily well-known even in his or her own country, exhilarating. I get literary hunches; an inner voice alerts me to the fact that I can be instrumental in launching the career of this new writer in Anglophone markets.
Preethi NairI have the most amazing family stories, from life and from ideas that come to me quite randomly.
Rebecca StrongPartly from my own experiences Ė people I observe, encounters Iíve had Ė and mostly from my imagination. Itís the best place, because it has no limits
Ron MorgansPictures and past experiences. Even fractions within a picture can stir me up. Put me in front of Turnerís Sun Setting Over A Lake in the Tate and I gibber with ideas. My readers most used comment on my books is ďitís so cinematic.Ē

Music, too, can get me there. A whiff of Johnny Hodges playing Body & Soul puts me into Right Brain mode. Then the ideas come.
Rosy BarnesI see myself as a kind of coffee filter. Or maybe, more accurately, a kind of juicer. Everything I see or hear Ė huge amounts of useless material Ė snippets of conversations in cafes, on buses, incongruous details, anecdotes Ė anything at all that reveals how people think or behave - all of it goes into the machine to be crushed and churned and squeezedÖuntil eventually a few dribbles of something else comes out.

Itís awfully wasteful.

(Sorry, that's a really horrible image, I realise all of a sudden. Quite put me off my tea and crumpets.)
Sally ZigmondI could be glib and mention the ideas tree at the top of my garden but the truth is that ideas are everywhere, like dust.
Sarah SalwayOften from walking round London or sitting in cafes looking at people, and wondering about the tension between what their dreams are and what they are going home to.
Sarah StovellI usually hunt out my first idea from some other story. I like to delve into myths and fairy tales and Bible stories, or cases from history, and then when Iíve found something that excites me, I start planning a novel around it. That very first idea will probably become a minor feature of the finished work, but itís a springboard.
Shahrukh HusainOh, everywhere. As I said in a story in Women who Wear the Breeches ĎThey come from here, there and everywhereÖí My problem sometimes, is to stop the ideas coming and get the time to write them.
Shelley WeinerIím curious Ė insatiably nosy Ė and if I donít know something I just make it up! I do think that the budding of ideas, creativity, is cyclical. When Iím in a creative phase, everything seems interesting and ripe for development into some kind of literary form; when Iím low, nothing is. It took me a few years to recognise the pattern and, when I was devoid of ideas, not to despair but to wait.
ShikaSome are real life events that I embellish; sometimes I write to redress a wrong or give another perspective on something. For example, I wrote a short story about Botswana after I discovered that forty percent of the population are HIV positive.
Sion Scott-WilsonI look at what's going on, decide what I don't like, then write about
it. The thing is, I make jokes about it, which means I'm taken less
Sol B RiverArticles, news, music, overheard conversation, the face of a person, history and situations that interest me and hopefully an audience.
Stella DuffyMe. You. TV. Movies. Other books. Newspapers. The Ideas Shop.
Steve FeaseyI like to start out with the kernel of the book, and work outwards from there. With Changeling I had the idea for a scene where Trey Laporte (the teenage protagonist) is forced to change into a werewolf for the first time. That was all I had, but I knew it was enough for me to work on. I went back and found a beginning, and then worked my way towards an end. That all sounds a bit haphazard, but thatís the way it works for me. I donít plot Ė I think that would take some of the fun of it away for me.
Steven HagueI get my ideas from anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes from real life events, sometimes from thoughts Iíve been kicking around in my head (like the one regarding criminal defence lawyers that sparked Justice For All), and sometimes from my desire to learn about a specific subject. A good example of how this works would be the follow-up to Justice For All, entitled Blood Law, where I initially wanted to learn more about L.A. gangland culture, and in the course of the research, plot ideas began to emerge.
Sue MoorcroftSometimes, it comes from the heroineís quest, sometimes from something someone has told me or even from a personal trait, which I amplify and expand. Ideas also come from research. In All That Mullarkey I created a scenario where someone had a grudge against someone else and a nuisance campaign developed. This was going to be a sub plot. But I researched it with a friend who was a Detective Superintendent of Police and then asked on an online forum for stories about what people had done for revenge etc. I got so much material the nuisance campaign escalated and became a hate campaign and it became pivotal to the book.

Ideas just grow in my imagination but sometimes things pan out differently than Iíd first imagined. One of the characters in Love and Freedom I had assumed would be nice is actually coming out self-orientated. Logically, this has an effect on the plot and on other characters. Iím a great one for logic in fiction.

Tania HershmanI don't know. I hear voices in my head, first lines, that sort of thing. I don't understand the process and I think it's best left rather mysterious. Suffice it to say, I don't write about myself in a conscious way at all, although if you dig deeper I am sure I am in there. None of my stories are set here, in Israel. Some are set in places I have never been Ė the South Pole, Las Vegas, 1950s Ireland. I am a great believer in the imagination and writing what you don't know.
Tara HylandThatís tricky. For Daughters of Fortune, I read another authorís book and didnít like what sheíd done with her initial idea, so I decided to have a go at writing the story Iíd been hoping to read. I seem to start with one idea and then find it develops as I plan more
Tibor FischerA small shop in North London.
Tim LottA god I donít believe in.
Tony McGowanMost of my books are a combination of whatever Iím reading now, and my old memories of schooldays. I find that that combination always generates something new.
Tracy BuchananI watched an interesting talk by author Meg Rosoff at the Oxford Literary Festival this year where she said so often, we authors feel like an idea comes fully formed. But actually, those ideas have been brewing in our heads for years, bits and pieces picked up over time until one day, an idea appears fully formed. I think that's what happened with THE ATLAS OF US, an accumulation of little bits I've picked up here and there.
Trilby KentPeople, things I hear, things I read, things I see. My favourite periods in history: the 1930s, the 1950s, the fin de siŤcle.
Vanessa CurtisTelevision documentaries, research that Iíve already done for non-fiction books, personal experience, topical news stories, journeys.
Vanessa GebbieSomewhere inside I guess. And also, from surreal artists, painters like Salvador Dali. Not direct ideas, but he has certainly given me permission to see things differently.
William ColesThe Alwych All-Weather notepad. I could not recommend them more highly.
Along with a cheap pen, I have an Alwych note-pad on me at all times, tucked away into my hip-pocket.
Every conceivable idea goes into them. Much better than those showy Moleskine notepads, where you feel that every you word you write has to be somehow measured and weighed up.
But with my trusty £4 Alwych, everything goes in. There is no filter. If I'm with mates in the pub, or talking to friends, or just musing in the supermarket, if an idea strikes me, then in it goes. I write down the lot. And there it mulches for months or years. And most of these ideas are never going to see the light of day.
Every so often though, maybe 2 per cent of the time, you get something that might just be worth working on. Putting a little bit of graft into.
If you're not writing the ideas down, then they're lost into the ether. Especially if you like your red wine.
William SuttonFrom a small mail-order company in Clackmannanshire.
Zoe LambertFrom experiences, from people, from my life. Some of my recent stories stem from work I did as a teaching assistant in special needs schools, some from volunteer work I have done with women asylum seekers, one from some photographs in a museum in Lithuania. A lot of emotions in the stories stem from childhood memories and things Iíve been through, like illness in my family. And buses. Every time I get on a bus, there is a strange and funny bus moment that wants to be a story.
Zoe WilliamsThe rest of the media, mainly.