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How do I come up with a story idea? Is it something I see at work or on the street, or does it just pop into my head?

ideas

I have to be honest, story ideas are awful to come by – for me, anyway. I know a lot of authors who have so many ideas that they trip over the bastards and have to box them up and store them in the attic. Is it because I’m picky? No, it’s because I’m useless at thinking them up.

I admit that The Death of Jessica Ripley was sparked by a real life event – but that event fuelled only the first chapter. Usually I’ll spot something that’s of interest to me: I mistakenly saw a woman’s head under the canal water in Woodlesford that gave me one of the scenes in Ledston Luck, and for some strange reason I pictured a naked female rocking in an old wooden chair in a farmhouse kitchen, a shotgun by her side. That was another for Ledston Luck.

I remember working a robbery scene in a tea-shop in Leeds. It had a cash machine in it, and someone had come back at night with an angle grinder and all sorts of juicy equipment to try and get inside it. That scene ended up inside Black by Rose.

It’s very rare that I use real life scene as inspiration in my books – very rare. Obviously I have to be careful not to tread on toes and not to break the law, so I usually keep away from all work stuff, and only use ideas like those about if they can be found in the press.

Grunt

So, I’m very very bad at coming up with stories, right? Well, for the last few months – it might even be years – I’ve been imagining an old guy sitting alone in an old folks’ home, feeling bitter about a wasted life. In fact, hold on, I think I started writing it – let me check when that was. Found it! I created a document called Grunt in December 2017, and I hope this will be the basis for my next stand-alone novel.

This thing had been circling inside my head for eighteen months and only last week something almost miraculous happened: the entire story fell out of the sky and into my head as I was listening to an old Elton John track while I loaded the dishwasher. I couldn’t get my tablet fired up quick enough! I have an appalling short-term memory and was desperate to scribble this thing down before it took flight again. I did, and now I’m playing with it inside my head again till I can find the time to begin typing it. 

I have a kind of wish list, a chronological way in which I want to do things. And in front of Grunt, shouldering him quite aggressively out of the way is a new Eddie Collins short story. I have no idea what the hell it’s about yet, but I’m conscious I need to write it. All I need to do is wait for the damned thing to fall out of the sky. Sigh… I’ll go and load the dishwasher again!

Hold on, hold on!

I wrote this blog post a while ago, and I was getting ready to upload it, when I realised it’s not altogether true anymore. I began the Eddie Collins short story and then had a pang of guilt concerning a new Eddie Collins novel. So I now have two stories on the back burner while I make inroads into the new novel (I wish there were another couple of me so I could get my writing projects up to date!).

In a recent newsletter, I asked my readers if anyone could spare any time. One kind gentleman offered two weeks, and I snatched his hand off. Of course, it only took me a few days to use up those two weeks, and now I’m back to square one, begging for more time.

The new Eddie novel – we’ll call it Juniper Hill for the time being – is rolling along quite nicely just now. I’m about to crest 20,000 words and I feel it might be a very intense thriller. Already there are a couple of deaths in it that made me shudder, and they also made me wonder if I might be a tiny bit sick in the head too. I’ll let you decide. I’ll post up more details of Juniper Hill when I have something more substantial to share.

8 Comments

  1. Sandy M

    Hello Andy

    It looks as if you have a lot going round and round in your head and I shall look forward to reading the outcome, both the Eddies and the standalone novel. Don’t forget Roger when you can find some space for him in your head. Would like to know how he is getting on as a widower.
    My eldest granddaughter, who has just chosen her subjects for the 6th form, tells me that she will be doing sociology and a BTech in Forensic Science. She is very excited about both and maybe one day will be a CSI. Hope I am still around when that day comes. I have always been fascinated by what can be discovered from blood spatters etc. by the likes of yourself.
    Good luck with all your writing and although it’s really too early to say it, I’m going to anyway. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Reply
    • Andy

      Hi Sandy, thanks for getting in touch. I do have a lot going on – there always is. I’ve never in my life been bored sitting in front of my computer; always lots to do. I won’t forget about Roger, I know a lot of people really enjoy his books and so it’s on my list to explore ways to see how he’s doing again. CSI is an excellent career, though available places are not exactly plentiful, I’m afraid. It might seem like black magic, but it’s largely common sense – which is why I’m no good at it, hehe. Hope you enjoy the new one when it’s fully baked 🙂

      Reply
  2. Gail M. Ferguson

    I completely enjoyed this post. An inside peek at your writing thought process. I haven’t a clue how you find time for writing, blog posts, work and family! Reminds me of raising my two special needs boys, working full time and managing my household alone. Always felt like a one armed paper hanger! I could never catch up. There literally was no time to engage in even reading a book much less writing one!
    I have a lot of admiration for you and always love being on your ARC team. Reading your books always make me happy because I still believe you are one of the best authors in your genre.
    Keep up the wonderful work!

    Reply
    • Andy

      Hi Gail, it’s great to hear from you again. Yep, there’s no room for slacking off if you want to provide for your family – I know where you’re coming from. And that’s a wonderful compliment, Gail, thank you. I do try, and I’m trying even harder with the new one. Soon as it’s ready, I’ll give you a nudge 😉

      Reply
  3. Sue

    I have lots of time. I’m retired! I also have an AA in Criminal Justice and a Certificate in Crime Scene Investigation. That being said, I’ve never worked in either field, not for lack of trying.. instead I worked for a Defence Attorney. I’m not sure what I could offer, but if you think I could help, I’m more than willing. By the way, I speak fluent grammar! Lol

    Reply
    • Andy

      Hi Sue, thank you very much for getting in touch with me on the website! Sounds like you’re as involved with crime as much as I am – even more so. It’s so kind of you to offer to help, thank you! I know you’re in the ARC group for future releases and you left a review for Ripley, so aside from everything you do already, I’m not sure there’s a lot left. ARC members are important to me: they keep me nailed to the ground and kick any grandiose ideas out of the way; they provide valuable corrections so far spelling and grammar errors are concerned, and keep me on a tight leash as far continuity and authenticity are concerned. I can’t thank them – and you – enough. I’m just happy you’re on the ARC team; that, and leaving reviews is all I can ask. Oh, I meant ask how you got along with the audio version of The End of Lies? No problem if you didn’t enjoy it – just thought I’d ask. Take care, Andy

      Reply
    • Dawn

      Andy you know me I love your books right now I am in the Er for my son! He is running a fever and in pain and will probably be admitted and be given dialysis.

      Reply
      • Andy

        Hi Dawn, I wish your son a speedy recovery, and some ‘me’ time for you too. Take good care!

        Reply

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