March 4, 2020

where do you get your story ideas and inspiration?

Blogger’s Note: For the next few weeks, I will run a series answering some of the frequently asked questions I receive from readers and fellow writers. If you have any questions of your own that you would like me to answer in future posts, please leave a comment.

Question: Where do you get your story ideas and inspiration?

This is probably my most frequently asked question (and the one I most like to know from fellow authors). The short answer: I get my story ideas and inspiration everywhere.

But that is too simple and boring of an answer, so here are three of the top ways I get story ideas.

1. Reality Inspiring Art Inspiring Reality

It’s totally cliche to say this, but it’s also true: I find inspiration all around me. I am often struck with ideas for new story ideas while traveling. Whether it’s a trip around the world to Australia or a drive through town, I get lots of ideas while in motion.

Example: I came up with the name for Everett in “Making Christmas” while thinking about the story on the morning commute to my day job. I drove past Everett Street and knew that was my guy.

And while none of my stories are truly autobiographical, some moments from my real life have made cameos in my story.

Example: I came up with the idea for the Queen of the League series during my first two seasons playing fantasy football. While I sadly did not fall head over heels for any of my fellow league-members (which is maybe a good thing, as most of them are married) I was halfway through my first draft when I realized this could make for a fun story.

I even worked in the story of how I sprained my ankle during a less-than-sober post-football night on the town into “First & Goal.” While researching homeopathic ways of fixing my super sprained ankle, I read up on RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate). And that little nugget went on to inspire multiple scenes in the story.

But, really, real-life inspiration can come from everywhere. Big and small.

2. Playing Twenty Questions . . . with Myself

For me, my story ideas often begin with a series of questions. As a former reporter (and someone who has both input and learner in her CliftonStrengths top five), my life pretty much revolves around asking questions and getting the answers. Or, in the case of being a romance writer, I make up the answers. It all starts with one question, which quickly turns into a whole series until the characters and stories take shape.

Example: “The Marrying Type.” After reading Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” I wondered: What would Anne Elliot be like in the twenty-first century?

The first idea that popped into my head: a perpetually single, second-generation wedding planner trying to save her family’s elite business. Also, her father would be trust fund rich, but he’s run through all of the money and now the family business is on the rocks.

That realization quickly answered the question of how Lady Russell would work into a modern story. She runs a swanky and famous bridal boutique like Lori Allen’s in “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.”

The next question: How would modern day Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth meet? I figured college was a safe bet. Maybe they met in a class, and he was a little older. Maybe he was a kid from the “wrong side of the tracks” and was headed for a career field that was too risky and below Elliot’s father.

Which led to the biggest question, and the one that ultimately took the longest to answer: Just what job exactly would a modern day Wentworth have that could be so upsetting to a snooty father? For about two weeks, he was an NFL football player. That seemed like a modern day war hero of sorts. Plus, I could see how a young man dropping out of college to enter the draft might be a difficult pill to swallow. But as I got into the second or third chapter, it just didn’t work.

For another few weeks, Captain Wentworth was a big-time author. That probably had more to do with the fact that I was watching “Castle” every week and going through a Nathan Fillion phase. That didn’t feel quite right either.

Then, I had the thought. When I was in college (which would have been about the right age for my characters) no parent would I knew would have supported their child dropping out to become an app developer or social network creator. They would’ve said “you’re crazy, go to class.” Once I imagined modern Wentworth as a big-time social media developer, everything else just kind of fell into place.

3. My Binge-Watching Habit Pays Off . . . Kind Of

A couple of winters ago, I was in the middle of a particularly toxic bout of writer self-loving when I found my muse. I was deep into a binge-watch of “The Crown” again when Netflix suggested I check out some other British programming. Seeing that as a perfectly valid vessel for procrastinating and prolonging my stretch of not writing, I clicked on a show called “Secrets of Great British Castles.” Halfway through learning about the Norman stronghold at Dover (spoiler alert: almost all of the castles on the show were apparently once Norman strongholds) I knew I had to write some fan fiction about the host, Dan Jones.

For those of you who haven’t met my muse, Dan Jones is a tattooed, leather-jacket wearing historian who writes books about the Tudors, the Plantagenets, and so on. He also hosts TV programs.

I was still early in the planning stages of “Counting on You,” the first book in my Amarillo Sour series. But I knew then that I had to add a minor character based on Dan Jones. I also knew I would help that bad boy historian find love in the next book.

And that’s how Dan Jones served as my inspiration for Professor James Mitchell, the hero of “Let It Be Me.”

Of course there are plenty of other ways to find inspiration for stories. Here are a few suggestions you might consider trying if you’re stuck:

  • Take an alternative route on your daily commute to see if a change of scenery stirs up ideas.
  • Re-read/re-watch a scene or two from some of your favorite books/shows and think about why you like them so much.
  • Get tickets to a concert, game, or some other experience.
  • On that same note, try watching a new movie or TV show. Try not to turn it into a full-fledged binge, but art creates more art.
  • Call a close friend to talk out ideas.
  • Flip through a magazine and imagine stories for the people you see in advertisements.
  • Eavesdrop on conversations when you’re out and about. I know that seems rude, but you can come up with some real gold.
  • Take a shower or bath. I come up with a lot of ideas in the bathroom. Which sounds weird, but there you go.
  • Go for a walk. People suggest fresh air to clear your head for a reason.

What are some of the ways you find inspiration for your stories?

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 27, 2020

my interview with the stars of 'playing house'

Blogger's Note: This post originally appeared on the Playing House blog tour. It is no longer published online, but since it was so much fun, I wanted to make it available to you readers. The prompt for this post was: You and some of your characters meet for dinner. Describe the evening. Would personalities clash? Who would attend? I hope you'll enjoy reading my imaginary dinner with Bailey and Wilder.

I can’t believe I landed what might be the greatest interview of my journalism career. Forget that I quit being a journalist years ago to go into public relations, because I am officially back tonight.

After another busy week of filming their hit TV show on the Design Network, the stars of Playing House with Wilder and Waverly have agreed to meet me for dinner. We’re dining at a bar and grill on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, which happens to be one of my favorite towns and where they’re filming this season. I’m so excited I arrive at the designated restaurant a few minutes early. I don’t mind the wait because it gives me ample opportunity to watch two of my favorite on-screen personalities arrive. I hope they’re as quirky and funny—not to mention, talented—in person as they are when I binge-watch episodes of their show.

About ten minutes after the appointed time, I spot Wilder walking through the door first. Oh, he’s good looking. Maybe not in the same way as Ryan Reynolds or Chris Pine, but definitely in an “I would totally be tempted, even though he’s taken” way. He’s wearing his trademark five o’clock shadow and a flannel shirt over his broad shoulders. Yeah. I’m tempted. I strain my eyes to find Waverly, but instead he guides another woman toward our table. Clad in a complimentary plaid shirt—did they plan this?—and jeans, her honey blonde hair is pulled away from her face in a messy ponytail.

“Hey, sorry we’re late,” Wilder says, shaking my hand as I rise to greet them. “Filming ran long today. I can’t say much more until the episodes air, but we’ve had a major setback with one of our houses.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Hope everyone is okay.”

“We’re fine.”

I wait, exchanging a nervous grin with the unknown woman and hoping Wilder takes a hint and introduces us. It only takes a moment—and a light nudge in the ribs from his guest—for him to catch on.

“Forgot my manners. Laura this is Bailey. She’s a local designer working with us this season. She’s . . . helping Waverly out.”

“Nice to meet you.” We shake hands and I glance at the door again. “Will Waverly be able to join us too?”

“No, she’s in New York this weekend. Working on her new book.”

“That sounds exciting.”

“Yeah, well . . . Bailey has been a Godsend. Helping us figure out what to do and how to do it right. I don’t know what we would do without her.”

We take our seats and place our orders with a server. Once we’re settled, I turn on my recorder and pull out a notebook and pen.

“So Wilder,” I begin. “How has it been working in your home state after all these years away?”

“Great. I love the experiences I’ve had in New York, Toronto, and everywhere else we’ve been. But my heart is here in Texas—more than ever now.” He clears his throat and tugs at his collar. “I mean, it’s been nice to see my parents. Especially for Virginia. They’re having a lot of fun spoiling her.”

“And how is your daughter?”

“She’s a pistol. Like usual.”

“She must keep you and Waverly busy.”

“Yep. But we’re enjoying it. She’ll be going to school, soon, and we won’t see her around set as much.”

“Wow. I can’t believe how fast she’s growing up. It seems like she was a baby five minutes ago. Where will she go to school? Will you film around it?”

Wilder sighs and shakes his head. “We’re still figuring it out. I never dreamed we’d still be doing this after so many years.”

“Gotcha.” I scribble down a few more notes then turn my attention to Bailey. “Tell me about yourself. How did you end up on the crew?”

“The usual way. I saw an ad. Applied for a job. Got it.”

“Okay . . . and what has it been like joining the team?”

“It’s a lot of fun. They’re a talented group and I’m learning a lot.”

“And what’s it like working with Waverly?”

“Great. She’s so talented.”

Hmm. This interview isn’t going how I planned. First, Waverly is a no-show and her sub isn’t much of a talker. Actually, Wilder isn’t either. I haven’t worked this hard to get sources to talk since I was in journalism school. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Our food arrives giving us a short reprieve from the awkward Q&A session. My tuna melt looks and smells mouth-watering, as does Bailey’s cheeseburger platter. Wilder’s cobb salad—sans bacon and dressing—looks . . . edible.

He catches my stare. “The camera adds ten pounds, so . . .”

Bailey rolls her eyes, which is the most reaction I’ve had from her since the interview began. “He worries way too much about his weight. So vain.”

“You look good,” I add.

“Yeah, well . . .” he trails off and peeks at Bailey.

We both notice a bit of ketchup on her chin. I’m about to tell her when Wilder reaches over and wipes it off. Then he strokes her chin in a gesture way too intimate for co-workers.

Wait a minute. Oh. My. God. “Are you guys—”

They face me in unison. Bailey’s jaw falls open, but she remains silent. Stricken. Wilder recovers first and narrows his eyes.

“We’re going to have to go off the record or you need to change the subject. Fast.”

Off the record. That would mean no more inside scoop for you, dear reader. No big interview or scoop for me. No return to journalism. But going off the record means satisfying my own curiosity.

Decisions. Decisions.

“Okay.” I close my notebook and turn off the recorder. “We’re off the record.

About 'Playing House' 
She's a work in progress . . .
Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true.

He's a fixer upper . . .
Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her.

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about are either of them willing to risk it all for love?

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***