Where do books come from, Mummy?


Where do you get your ideas from?

It’s a common question. Some authors get annoyed and fire back snappy answers. I buy mine on eBay! I order them up, one adventure story with a strong female lead and side of elves!

I don’t find it annoying, just puzzling. Every month since I was seven, at least one idea has popped into my mind like a soap bubble. Some I forget. Some I write down, then abandon. Some grow into books. I have no more idea where they come from than I know what keeps the stars apart. Perhaps they are piped in, like the BFG’s lovely dreams.

It strikes me that this is a question that should be answered with the same delicacy as, ‘Where do babies come from?’ One way to answer is : well, honey, when an author loves their work idea very much, they spend a lot of time wrestling with it, and an idea is conceived. They’ll gestate it for nine months, and then there’ll be some screaming and crying and God, it gets messy! The sheets that are ruined! The scarring! But usually it was all worth it.

Another way to answer either questions is, we have no real earthly idea. No one really knows, despite science and tiny cameras that can look inside and millennia of learning. We don’t know. But somehow, there’s a brand new book (or person) in the world! Amazing!

If you ever go on baby forums, you will find a lot of similarities with book forums. Everyone swapping ideas to get what they desperately want – try cutting out exposition from your diet, and write every day, then put your legs in the air for twenty minutes. It’s full of strange acronyms, like WIP, MC, TTC, BD. Trying to find a science, an method to conjure the magic. Trying to make it not magic at all, but something that comes in a box or a syringe.  Yet really, no one knows why it happens for some and not for others. The books arrive, like babies, out of some ether we might call love, or the subconscious, or heaven. Or they don’t arrive, and it’s like staring all day at your empty hand, willing it to fill.

For me, the books came easy enough. I was lucky. The babies, not so much. One friend said of babies, ‘I now think it’s just something that happens to other people’ and I know what she means. I’m sure some feel this about books. Some get neither. Some get both. I don’t know why this should be. But I know both involve work, yes, and love, but more so some kind of spark that comes from outside ourselves.

This is the best way I can answer the question, where do you get your ideas from? Magic. Luck. Inspiration. The ideas shop. I wish you all book dust, and baby dust, or whatever-you-most -desire dust. There’s magic in it.

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