When I tell people I write books, one of the first questions I get is ‘Where do you get your ideas?’. I usually answer with ‘They always say to write what you know.’ People who’ve read some of my books may screw up their faces in confusion or outright surprise. Most of my books are set in the Nineteenth Century and deal with Prostitution. Others are set in a Louisiana bayou with witches and ghosts. What would I know about any of that?
I think all writers put a bit of who they are into every book they write. Their main characters usually are reflections of them in some way and their antagonists reflect people in their lives who have done them harm or antagonized them in some way.
My main characters are always women. Duh … I’m a woman. I have male hero counterparts, of course and do my best to try and write from a man’s point of view. Luckily I have a husband, who is a man, to read my rough drafts and give me pointers, such as, No man would do that. or What kind of man would put up with that crap?. It helps and I always thank him in my Acknowledgements.
I grew up on a small farm and gardened, canned the produce, milked a cow, and made butter. There tends to be a lot of that referenced in my books set in the Old West. I like to cook, so I have my gals cooking a lot, though I’ve never cooked on a cast iron, wood burning cookstove. Some things must come from the imagination!
I started making my own clothes when I was quite young. My mom had an old Singer and taught me. It was a 1960s Singer that ran on electricity. As an adult I studied Historic Costume and I’ve always loved the lavish frill of the Nineteenth Century. My female characters had to sew and I tend to go into a good bit of detail about their clothing. It’s something I know.
One of the reviews I received for Escape: Tansy Granger Book 1 said it was depraved. It is and I meant it to be. Unfortunately, sex trafficking of young women isn’t anything new. We see news stories about young women and girls being kidnapped and taken to truck stops where they are forced to prostitute themselves or face beatings–or worse. This is nothing new! In the Old West there were Cat Wagons that traveled from one military encampment to another. Those wagons were filled with young women chained naked and forced to prostitute themselves. It was the lowest form of the business. Old prostitutes who no longer attracted business in brothels ended up on the wagons of their own accord, but the young women and girls there were usually stolen along the way somewhere or sold to the wagon owner by a relative who no longer wanted the responsibility of a useless girl. I write about it because it isn’t something new and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Men have had unusual sexual desires since the beginning of man and there have always been enterprising individuals out there who found a way to profit from it. In my Work In Progress, I reference places in the Old West where wealthy men could go to watch or participate in the beating, rape, and even murder of a woman on stage. This stuff isn’t just for Criminal Minds of today. The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries aren’t the only producers of serial killer, serial rapists, and serial abusers of women.
So, you see, there is plenty of fodder out there for an author to find ideas. We read and watch television. The seed for my Soiled Doves Sagas came from watching a documentary on the History Channel about prostitutes in the gold fields as well as the HBO series Deadwood. Then I did a lot of research on the subject. Did you know there’s a website that lists 19th Century slang? You can find almost anything with Google!
Some ideas spring from dreams. The basic idea for Dreams of Molly came from a disturbing dream I had and wrote about while a senior in high school. My literature teacher told me to never forget that dream because it would make a good book some day. I didn’t and it did. I woke one morning last winter with the idea for my novella Tale for a Long Winter’s Night, got out of bed, typed up the basic plot, and wrote the story in a few days.
Ideas come from everywhere, so Until the Next Time: Write On!