Asking authors from whence come their ideas is almost guaranteed to receive smart-alecky answers similar to “from my coffee cup.” And we might not even be lying. With a combination of caffeine and the funny quotes on our mugs, we truly can develop entire books.
In the case of THE BOYFRIEND FROM HELL and the Saturn’s Daughter series, the idea came from a cornfield. I kid you not. There is something transcendental about cruising hundreds of miles of highway and cornfields that is guaranteed to feed my subconscious. My brain consequently spews back rich idea manure. Mix in a few country songs from the radio and before long…I’m splatting alpha males into brick walls like bugs on the windshield.
It was taking an idea from smushed bugs to series concept that really required work. Obviously, killing the potential hero in the first chapter is not the opening for a good romance novel. But it works beautifully for urban fantasy. Where else could the heroine kill her cheating boyfriend and accidentally damn him to hell? Oops! And then the fun really starts when he comes back to haunt her in her mirror and swears he’s innocent.
But with urban fantasy, the worldbuilding is so fabulously detailed that one book simply isn’t enough. I needed enough detail to carry my idea through several books. So I dropped my boyfriend-killer concept into a brainstorming session with friends in Baltimore, where it exploded like a shrapnel bomb. We all grabbed pieces and raucously turned an industrial area along Baltimore’s harbor into blue neon buildings, warped characters, and chemical plants spewing elemental sewage. I swear the session was not alcohol fueled! At the same time we worked out the environmentally hazardous Zone, we came up with the notion that Tina’s obsession with justice is driven by Saturn, the god of justice. The planet guiding Capricorn was absolutely perfect for the character in my head. Tina is above all practical and cautious, ambitious and disciplined, with a strong pessimistic streak for good reason. And her sense of humor is downright dangerous.
It’s exciting and more than a little heady when a tiny bead of an idea snowballs into a monstrous concept that extends for books. But we know what happens to snowballs in hell, so I’m trying very hard not to send Tina there, although in this series, that’s a very real possibility!
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