Hi, Ellen here! I e-met Jacqueline Vick through Dana Kaye’s Your Breakout Book and we became fast friends – to the point where I have to remind myself we have yet to meet in person! I love her post on where writers find unexpected idea inspiration…
Where Writers Get Their Ideas. It May Surprise You.
One of the questions I’m most often asked about writing is Where do you get your ideas? Many of my fellow authors would agree that simply walking through the mall or dropping by the coffee shop can present the creative mind with a bounty of odd behaviors, frustrating situations, and bizarre-looking human beings, plenty to supply starting material for any novel. I must confess that, sometimes, instead of mining the antics of strangers, I find my source material closer to home. Yes, I think it’s only fair to warn family and friends. I can’t help myself. Everything you do or say is fodder for my books. Everything.
Finding Humor in Tragedy… My family’s sense of humor is, well, if you’ve read about the Barbie Death Ritual on my website, you understand. Andrea and I were the exception to the rule that girls weren’t fond of “low” humor. We adored The Three Stooges.
However, I’m not without compassion. I waited until my sister was walking again before creating the character of Vanessa, also the victim of a drunk driver. I made my character extra cranky for humor. At least that’s what I told Andrea. Fortunately, my sister thought her role in my book was hysterical.
Adding a Deadly Twist… If you haven’t suffered a misfortune worthy of a book, you’re still not safe. I’ll add my own macabre twist. Take my sweet parents. When they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, they were silly enough to invite me on the cruise. Since they know me better than most, mom and dad shouldn’t have been surprised to see a cruise featured in An Almost Purrfect Murder. Instead of an anniversary, I changed the event to a wedding, but I think they caught the similarities.
Animals beware… Human beings aren’t my only source. Before Barking Mad at Murder existed, there was Buster, my ninety pound, troubled, rescue mutt. Though he was smart as a whip, he had self-control issues. He behaved perfectly for the trainers I hired to work with him, so maybe I was problem. Working him through his issues had a cost: a displaced hanging rib, torn bicep muscles, and arthritis in my knee and shoulders. The big lug was worth it, and without his issues, I wouldn’t have my pet psychic series.
This time, the blame belongs to a neighbor. She suggested a different solution to Buster’s fear-based aggression, suggesting I call in a pet psychic. I called two and sold an article detailing the experience to Fido Friendly Magazine. Buster’s issues didn’t go away, but the information I gathered at his appointments was too good to waste, and the pet psychic mysteries were born. Buster became Chauncey, and my sister’s late cat became Frankie’s feline, Emily. The cockatoo at the local pet store terrified me, especially after I heard about the time he loped after customer’s three-year-old. The chase came to a stop before the bird’s intentions were made clear, but I assumed the worst. Ozzie became Petey in A Bird’s Eye View of Murder.
No shame… When it comes to research, the usual filters that keep me polite take a break. I shamelessly approached one woman I knew for details about her social disorder. The doctors and nurses in my family regularly receive and answer my queries, such as if I can deliver a hallucinogenic through glaucoma drops, and can they suggest the perfect drug? They may start requiring me to schedule an appointment.
A note to those who think they might be safe if we never meet in person: Think again. When one cousin casually mentioned chickens will eat anything while chatting with me on the telephone, my morbid curiosity might have caused her some discomfort. After several probing questions, she probably regretted taking my call. I thanked her for providing me with the perfect body disposal method and used it in What the Cluck? It’s Murder.
Even my locations come from personal experience. At least, the personal experiences of others. My mother, though born in Schenectady, New York, grew up in San Diego, California. I placed the Harlow Brothers at the northern end of the county.
Inglenook Resort is located in Northern Illinois, just past the orchard where I used to pick apples as a child. And Frankie? Her fictitious home of Wolf Creek, Arizona, is strategically squeezed into some spare land adjacent to the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation near where my parents live. Many minor characters in my books share surnames with my elementary school chums. Even the Harlow Brothers were named after ancestors on my mother’s side, though I didn’t know it until a second cousin texted me, thrilled that I had included members of the family tree in my books.
I know I’m not the only author to mine her family history for story ideas. Chicks on the Case’s own Ellen Byron shared on her website how her extended family inspired The Catering Hall Mysteries. Hmm. That makes me wonder what dark secrets inspired the other Chick’s mysteries.
I’m currently working on a new series that’s based on my cousin, Jonathon. That’s all I’ll say except, “Jonathon? If you read this and change your phone number, I know where you live.”
Readers, can you think of an unexpected source for fresh ideas?
BIO: Jacqueline Vick spent her childhood plotting ways to murder her Barbie doll. Writing provided a more productive outlet. She is the author of over twenty humorous novels and short stories. Her mystery series characters include Frankie Chandler, Pet Psychic and the Harlow Brothers. Her mysteries are known for satirical humor and characters who are desperate to keep their secrets. You can find out more at www.jacquelinevick.com.
SYNOPSIS: Frankie Chandler is finally at peace with life. She’s engaged to Detective Martin Bowers, her pet psychic business is booming, and she’s overcome the emotional residue of a past relationship that destroyed her self-respect. Just when everything’s going swell, Jeffrey Ross, the ex-boyfriend who betrayed her, walks through her door, bringing trouble. When Frankie discovers his latest girlfriend face down in a Jacuzzi, murdered in front of her Fiji crested iguana, the pet psychic springs into action. Unfortunately, the cranky iguana refuses to help tag the murderer.
When Frankie’s entanglement in the investigation threatens to ruin Bowers’ chances for promotion, she calls an uneasy truce with Jeff. The two form a crime-solving team that will either solve the mystery or bring an end to everything she’s worked for.