Where do authors get their ideas?

With my recent announcement of digging back into my second book – 700 Main – I’ve received some questions on how authors get the inspiration behind a book’s premise.

Now it obviously varies greatly from author to author.

The idea for Twilight appeared to Stephenie Meyer in a dream.

Nicholas Spark’s bestseller Dear John is loosely based on his cousin Todd’s story.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert claims that the idea for Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder was transferred by a kiss.

For me, I have drawn my ideas from personal experience, observation and the world around me. Then I just jeuje it up a bit.

That being said, I am going to tell you the story behind 700 Main and how the idea grew to become my current work in progress…


In November of 1995 – when I was three years old – my family moved to Marble Falls, Texas. First founded in 1887, the small town about an hour northwest of Austin was mainly known for supplying the pink granite used to build the Texas capitol (pictured to the right) and as Texas’ contribution to the Washington monument in D.C.

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Marble Falls, Texas

Once we settled in to small town life, my parents decided to purchase a historical yet beaten down house and open a restaurant. What was the address of said house? You guessed it… 700 Main St.

Throughout the renovation process and in the first weeks of opening, strange things began to occur around the restaurant. All the salt shakers would be empty after just filling them the prior night. All of the forks would be stuck into the tables when we arrived to open for business. And after confirming that the large stain on the storeroom floor was in fact blood, we discovered that this hundred year old house used to belong to four sisters. We even had a picture to prove it – the four girls standing in front of 700 Main, posing with the recently removed scalps of Indians.

The house – our restaurant – was rumored to be haunted by one of the girls. Left behind and distraught after her sister ran off with her fiance, she killed herself in the upstairs bedroom and remained ever since.

Sounds like a great story, right?

When I started brainstorming ideas for my second book, I just couldn’t quite kick the feeling that this was my next move. The idea buzzed in the back of my head and pinched me any time my attention started to stray, like a needy toddler.

I was intrigued, but not yet committed.

A few months ago, I returned to Marble Falls, hoping that the sight of 700 Main – long since sold and abandoned – would ignite some deeper commitment. But it had been torn down years ago…

I visited some of the other spots – the Bluebonnet Cafe, the old schoolhouse library, the visitor’s center – but it seemed the history of the house and the girls had disappeared along with it. And after the tenant of the house next door earnestly denied any type of haunting and shuffled me away without another word, that was it. I was hooked.

This was my next story.

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From then on, everything seemed to fall in place. If I was going to set my story in a town steeped with secrets, I needed a protagonist with secrets of her own. Check.

In order to promote the uniqueness of the story, I needed to ensure industry relevance, and magical realism just happens to be at the top of agents’ wishlists this year. Check.

Sometimes ideas slip in and out of your mind like water running through your fingers.  But sometimes, the stars align perfectly to take root and create not only an abstract idea but a tangible plan. Now all you have to do is start writing…

Stay tuned later this week for a great method to kickstart your novel!

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