How Does the Muse Strike You?


If you’re a writer of fiction, and you’ve gone as far as to put a couple of the stories you’ve written out in the public realm, it won’t be long before you’re faced with an awkward question. Someone is going to ask – where did this story come from?

People want to know why we wrote a particular story, where we got the idea. If you’re anything like me, when this inevitable question pops up, you’ll stand there with a blank look on your face while you’re mind races for an answer. It isn’t grade school anymore, and you won’t get away with saying, “I don’t know, I just thought it up.” Though there is certainly truth in that.

Lately, I’ve had two ideas for future novels. I know . . . two ideas! That doesn’t seem fair, does it? But lucky for us writers, the number of ideas out there is endless.

The first idea came about when I read a name somewhere – Renard. It stuck in my mind. I rolled it over my tongue again and again as I did my daily walk, and before I knew it, a second name came along. Renard Charbanneau. To be named is to become real. I could see this man, and I had a glimpse of his life.

I had been tossing around the idea of a novel set at a university. Renard found his way into that setting before the end of my walk. A few hours later I had a number of characters and the outline of a major conflict.

The second idea was two strands that came together in a flash. We had been invited out to dinner last week. Our host kindly offered to take us on a boat ride down to the end of the lake. I’m not a fan of boating and to be honest it isn’t boats as much as boat operators that make me nervous. But our host was a man who could be trusted behind the wheel of any moving vehicle.

We zipped around the small islands and coves and played lookie-lou as we came upon a dozen or so cabins tucked in here and there, some long deserted. We also stopped to stare in amazement at a couple of slides that have come down the mountain in recent years.

The next day I happened to listen to a podcast about survivor’s guilt on CBC radio. Something clicked. All of a sudden I had a setting, a background experience the main character was running away from, and a dramatic event.

I end up at the keyboard when the muse shows up the way it did for these two ideas. A few quick notes are usually all it takes. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better when I have a few story ideas hanging around. There is nothing like running out of “the juice”, as our old friend Ernest Hemingway used to say, to strike fear into a writer’s heart and soul.

The kind of experiences I’ve described above used to happen to me all the time. I’ve always played around with the juxtaposition of ideas. The only difference now is that I have wholly embraced the wild and crazy reality of being a writer, so I take note.


I’m big on garden walks and lake views when it comes to inspiration. Where do your story ideas come from? How do you play around with what the muse offers?

The Next Big Thing


I was recently tagged by Delancey Stewart  to complete the following questions related to my most recent work. I also read an excellent post on Cow Girl in New England  dealing with these same queries – she didn’t tag anyone specifically, but said consider yourself tagged if you want to answer these questions. So, I decided to go for it.

What is the title of your next book?

The title of my first book, which will be released on an unsuspecting world in the early spring of 2013, is Disappearing in Plain Sight.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I wish I totally understood the answer to that question, myself. I’ve always mulled over writing ideas while out walking. When the idea for the novel came to be, I was supposed to be writing my PhD candidacy papers. For some reason, all I could think of was these few fictional characters that had sprung up in my mind and what it might be like if they found themselves in certain situations. Soon the characters were letting me know what was going to happen next. Though it was a crazy thing at the time, all I could do was sit down and write the story that was forming in my mind.

What genre does your book fall under?

I have chosen the following Book Industry Shelving Codes: Fiction – Literary; Fiction – Romance/Contemporary, and Fiction – General. I described the first draft as a woman’s romance type of book. As the novel developed the genre shifted. A reviewer said I would be short-changing the book to limit it to such a description – this reviewer described the novel as Dramatic, Literary Fiction. I’ve also had a reader say that the book has appeal for men as well as women. I guess time will tell on that issue.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m going to skip over this question. A couple of times, within the novel, I gave way to the temptation to describe a character as looking like a well-known movie personality. I won’t do that in future writing because I think it cheats the reader out of their own visualization of what a character looks like.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m going to cheat a bit here and give you my book cover synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been packed off to spend the summer with her aunt on the isolated shores of Crater Lake. She is drawn to Izzy Montgomery, a gifted trauma counsellor who is struggling through personal and professional challenges. Lisa-Marie also befriends Liam Collins, a man who goes quietly about his life trying to deal with his own secrets and guilt. The arrival of a summer renter for Izzy’s guest cabin is the catalyst for change amongst Crater Lake’s tight knit community. People are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices – only shades of grey.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m self-publishing my novel with the help of Friesen Press

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft of the novel took about one summer to get down on paper – oddly the same amount of time and season that the main action of the story takes place. The first draft was shorter than the final version turned out to be – a sort of bare bones copy. Someday I think I’ll go back and read that first draft – I’m sure it would be quite an experience.

What other books of the same genre would you compare yours with?

I wouldn’t put Eden Robinson’s book, Monkey Beach, in the same categories that I’ve chosen for my novel. I also wouldn’t put myself in the same universe as Robinson in terms of writing talent. But for some reason, whenever I think about his question, Monkey Beach is the book that pops into my mind. Perhaps it’s the West Coast setting.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The geographical place where I live and the life experiences that I’ve had serve as my inspiration for fiction writing.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The novel deals with some hard-hitting topics – bullying, trauma issues, death and grieving, sexuality – but I think I’ve managed to place those topics within a realistic life framework that highlights the fact that people aren’t all one thing or the other. All of the characters in the novel have problems to deal with – but their lives are also light-hearted and funny at times.

I’m going to follow Cow Girl’s example. If you see a good post for yourself within this set of questions then consider yourself tagged. And feel free to link back to me if you decide to write on your next great thing.