Readers often ask what inspires me to write, and I have to confess that I’m not really sure. Certain places capture my imagination – houses I visited as a child, favourite towns or country villages. But the setting isn’t enough in itself. Every story needs an idea at the heart of it, a “what if” question that the rest of the story has to answer. For instance, for a competition last year, the theme was “Road map” – a term that had been used a lot at the start of the pandemic, in the figurative sense of ‘a plan of action’.
I imagined a character who’s studying a real map as she heads for her holiday cottage, while a colleague back at the office is dealing with an administrative road map that might well lead to the narrator losing her job. Getting lost on the way to the cottage, the narrator and her partner bicker – as couples do in such situations – so when they arrive at last, it’s a relief to find it’s as remote and beautiful as she’d hoped. Remote but with WIFI, because she needs to keep in touch with her colleague, who’s giving an important presentation and might need her help. But what if it’s not quite that simple? What if the situation isn’t quite as it seems?
The theme of ‘Road map’ inspired me to think of it in both its figurative and literal senses. Memories of tortuous drives through narrow country lanes in search of some elusive destination filled in the rest! Ideas come from newspaper articles, anecdotes overheard on buses or in coffee shops and from my own memories. Take an idea, find the right setting, give it a twist – and create characters with whom the reader can identify – at least a little!