A lot of people have been asking me where my ideas for certain books come from. Some of these people are members of my family, some are friends, and some are readers. The first two groups seem to think I have some covert life wherein I go out and meet Navy SEALs and DEA members and get classified information.

I’m afraid I can’t comment on that. :smoke:

Or they say things like, you must have a great imagination.

Well, yeah. I definitely do , always have. But really, there’s no one easy answer to that question. So the short answer is, I have no clue.

The long answer? Everywhere. A book’s storyline, for me at least, doesn’t spring from one particular thing. It’s usually a million different things I’ve seen or heard or dreamed about that all come together at the same time and whack my brain until I go, huh, this might work out to be something. Like, for Risking It All, I knew I wanted to keep with the surfer theme, and I’d already decided, while writing Coming Undone, that Cash would be the next hero. But Cash was conceived a month or so before that, while I was watching the movie, Walk The Line, and thought, Cash would be a good name for a hero.

It happens with every book that way, in a similarly, scattered manner. Which is what makes it fun, like putting puzzle pieces together.

But what I can tell you is that every story for me starts with the character. I can’t create a story and find a character to fit, I need to know the character and then they kind of clue me in on their deal and that’s where their story comes from. If they’re not real to me, then they’re not real on the page, then they’re not going to seem real to anyone else. Which is why I get annoyed at books that have great stories but so-so characters.

There are two schools of thought about authors who think their characters tell them their own stories. Meg Cabot does not really appreciate this sentiment:

The truth is, authors, characters cannot act and think independently of you because they are FIGMENTS OF YOUR IMAGINATION. When your character says or does something, it is because YOU MADE THEM DO IT. Your characters DO NOT ACTUALLY EXIST except on paper and in your head.

On the other hand, Linda Howard says:

This is going to sound totally schizoid, but I don’t create these stories so much as I stumble across a story and then tell them the way the characters tell me. I don’t have that much control over it. I just tell the story that is fascinating me at the time.

In another AAR interview, she talks about channeling her characters, which I also kind of think that I do, so I totally get what she’s talking about…so obviously, I’m one of those, my characters are real to me, types.

So I’m not saying that I go shopping for my characters or sit at the dinner table with Zoo and say, do you know what Jake did todayÒ€¦

Okay, well, I might say that, but trust me, I know he’s not re-

Okay, bad example.

But seriously, for me, I just know that there are things certain characters will and won’t do. I will find myself saying to Larissa or to one of my editors, but Remy/Ender/Justin/Nick wouldn’t do that. And somehow, they wouldn’t. Maybe Creed or Cash or Carly would do that (oh, seems I like C names, huh?) but that’s why I’m a character-driven writer. They lead, I follow.

So, where did the idea for this story or that story come about?

My new answer: Jake made me do it. And he seems pretty happy with that answer.

Not that I talk to him about it or anything.


Steph T.