Saturday, April 7, 2007


It's one of the things people always ask me - Where do you get your ideas? I don't have one of those great stock answers like other writers, like I get them at Office Depot or I get them in Kaslo.

But in some ways, both those answers are true for me. I get ideas just about everywhere. Here's a list of the few places I've got ideas for stories or books in the last little while:

  • a deserted drive-in (LAST NIGHT AT THE HALFMOON)
  • a glimpse of a neon sign in a rain-wet alley on a dark February night (AWAKENING)
  • a walk on the beach on a day when there were great blue herons everywhere (DRAGONFLIES AND DINOSAURS)
  • a friend's story about a Second World War pilot (ORION)
  • a phrase of graffiti on a wall as I walked home from work (NAKED FOR JESUS)
  • a tiger (yes, a real tiger) in a downtown parking lot (THE FINE SIBERIAN PARKING LOT TIGER)
  • a title, A Charmed Life, that got changed to THE SUNSHINE COAST NEWS
  • a thrown-off phrase in The Sunshine Coast News (THE GOSSIP QUEENS)
  • a story from a stranger about a group of men who called themselves the losers' club (THE LOSERS' CLUB)
  • the name on a store as I traveled by on a bus (FAR-FETCHED)
  • a story by a friend's mother about the t-shirts she and her friends wore on a trip to Disneyworld (THE TWISTED SISTERS)
  • another story by another friend about a small mountain town (HEARTSTONE)

Every story, every book, every poem comes from something very simple. A phrase, an image, a single line in a story. I never start a book with an idea or a concept, always with something that feels tangible to me. I almost never start a book with a character, but the character comes very quickly once I have that tiny thing, that tiny glimmer of something, that nugget of - I don't even know what to call it - but I guess it's inspiration.

It's something that gets stuck in my mind and rattles around in there, sometimes for a few minutes and I find myself walking down the street writing on an ATM slip or a receipt as I'm hurrying to an appointment. Sometimes for months or weeks, occasionally, though rarely, for years.

It's as if that something, that phrase or line from a story or image, has to stay locked inside, rolling around in my brain, accumulating weight and warmth and texture until it's solid enough to be plucked from the vast dizziness of that universe and locked down into the real world of words.

The other question people often ask is Do you run out of ideas? Sometimes I wish I did. No, what I run out of is time - time to get all the wonderful ideas out of my head and onto the page. I could live forever and still not have world enough and time.


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