Guest Post: Where Do Ideas Come From?

This is a guest post by Lynn McPherson.

Authors are often asked about inspiration. Where does it come from? How do ideas form? Answers may vary, ranging from reading the newspaper to watching a documentary to finding an old sock in a field. Today, I thought I’d share my own story, giving a little more insight into the process of how an idea can transform from a spark to a novel, complete with characters, setting, and (in my case) a mystery.

There are three books in The Izzy Walsh Mystery Series. Before there was a book, there was a baby. No, this is not a metaphor. I had a baby. My first child. It was an incredible time in my life and I couldn’t have been more grateful. Or more overwhelmed. My daughter was born less than a year after the collapse of my business. I’d been trying to figure out what to do next with my professional life when I found out I was pregnant. I worked temp office jobs until my daughter was born, still uncertain of where my career would land.

In the meantime, my husband was facing a different challenge. He was the first hire in a start-up tech business, and things had taken off. That meant he was gone for long stretches in the first few months of our daughter’s life. It soon dawned on me I’d gone from an entrepreneur to a stay-at-home mom. The idea confounded me. My identity had changed overnight. I grappled at the notion I’d become someone I didn’t know, someone I’d never planned to be.

And this is where my story begins.

My husband and I had just moved into our new home. It was a renovated century home in a trendy urban neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario. As I struggled with sleepless nights and a newborn baby, my mind began to wander. I felt akin to a 1950s homemaker. A truly bizarre notion. But I still had opinions, intelligence, and a knack for trouble. And it made me think: wouldn’t that historical homemaker be a fun amateur sleuth?

It took no time for me to come up with my protagonist. Lucille Ball meets Jessica Fletcher. It was a no-brainer. What about a premise? A story? Easy peasy. I’d been daydreaming about a girls’ weekend away. A fun escape from the realities of taking care of a newborn. I loved my baby but a night without crying? Trading in a bottle of milk for a bottle of wine? Yes, please.

Next on the list was a setting. Where would we go? I googled vacation homes. The one that appealed the most was a gorgeous Victorian mansion overlooking the ocean. It would have a long driveway and a beautiful garden. Maybe a housekeeper to make us snacks and chill the wine.

All that was left was a victim. Easiest target? A husband. Maybe one with some dark secrets. That would provide a suspect for the murder and a reason for my amateur detective to get involved. My protagonist’s friend, the hostess, must be accused of killing her husband. The accused’s gal pals would have to rally together and find the truth to save their friend.

When I had it all thought out, I wrote the book. A historical cozy mystery. At last, The Girls’ Weekend Murder was born. Best described as Murder, She Wrote meets I Love Lucy. Two more books followed: The Girls Whispered Murder and The Girls Dressed For Murder. Each story is a complete novel. I often recommend readers read the third one first. By then I had a better handle on the subtleties of writing and plotting and pacing.

So there you have it, folks. A detailed look at where an idea came from and how it went from an idea to a completed book, and the start of a mystery series. 

Lynn McPherson is a cozy mysteries author and the Toronto/Southwest Ontario representative for Crime Writers of Canada, as well as a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters In Crime. 

She has three books out in the Izzy Walsh Mystery Series. Her latest, The Girls Dressed For Murder, came out in August 2019.

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