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Inside the Mind of an Author: Where Do I Get My Ideas?

“There ain’t no rules around here, we’re trying to accomplish something.” ~ Thomas Edison

My best ideas for stories come spontaneously. That’s not to say that I can’t sit down with my laptop and craft a story from scratch – those stories just don’t turn out as well. At least in my opinion.

All of my novels so far have started with a spontaneous, light bulb idea. Dreams can be a great source to spark the imagination. I have very vivid dreams, and I love it! The overall concept for my FIVE trilogy arrived in the middle of the night as I dreamt about a group of teenagers running from “bad-guys” in a dilapidated underground city. I just added magic and monsters and, voila!, my first publishable book was born.

I keep a notebook and pen next to my bed so I can write down the dreams I feel might make great stories. Warning: sometimes what sounds amazing in the darkness of night, sounds ridiculous in the light of day and wakefulness.

An idea can be sparked by a news article or a social media post. Such was the case for Myrikal, my YA Superhero/Dystopian novel. I saw a video of a young woman who was an abortion survivor – she’d survived an infusion of highly salinated fluid into the womb about seven months into her prenatal existence. It had caused burns to her skin, and she was born premature, but she was a fighter and lived to tell the tale. My mind immediately took me to a creative place – what if the saline had caused her skin to become tough, impermeable, impenetrable? Thus the concept of Myrikal arrived.

The Specials was spawned at a writer’s conference where I attended a panel about including people and children of differing abilities in your writing. I had the whole story idea penciled out in my notebook before the panel was over.

Now… my current work-in-progress is proof that ideas can hatch from seemingly insignificant things. Which is a good reason to pay attention to your surroundings. Many of my story concepts come about while I’m driving—I have a long commute. This particular day I was stopped at a red light and noticed the passenger in the vehicle in front of me raise up and tilt to the side a little, as one might do when, let’s just say, passing gas. She and the driver appeared to laugh. An outrageous story idea blossomed and grew the rest of the drive home. That’s all you’re getting about that one, since I don’t share my WIPs out in the wild.

I have notebooks full of story ideas that I’ve collected all over the place. An interesting word or phrase can spark my creative juices, like the Latin phrase ex talionis. Yes, I have a story brewing with that concept in mind. Don’t steal it!

So, keep your eyes, ears, and mind open. You never know when the next best-seller will come to you while eavesdropping on a crowd of teens, people-watching at the park, trying not to fall asleep during a work meeting, watching a YouTube video, listening to a hilarious six-year-old, taking a shower... The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Meet the Author:

Holli Anderson grew up in a small town in Utah where she read anything she could get her hands on--mostly from the scant selection offered by the BookMobile that came around once a week. Her love of books grew from there and often became a means of escape from the real world. During an especially difficult time in her life (it involved teenaged sons...), reading was no longer giving her the escape she longed for, so she decided to write her own stories in order to visit different worlds when the real world was in too much chaos.

Holli is the author of the FIVE trilogy, a young adult urban fantasy/paranormal; Saved, an adult romantic suspense; Myrikal, a YA dystopian/superhero, and The Specials a MG mystery. Her most recent release is NA suspense: Under The Viaduct

She has many other projects in the works. She is the Chief Editor for Immortal Works, a Registered Nurse, wife of a very supportive husband named Steve, and the mother of four boys.

What is your best piece of writing advice?

Write the story you want to write and stop worrying about what “others” will think. There is too much of the “cancel culture” out there in the publishing world today, making authors afraid to be anything but conforming. Let’s be bold. Let’s take our industry back. This new version of book-burning is robbing the world of some amazing stories.

When do you find time to write?

Now that my kids are grown, it’s a bit easier. I also have a day job that has some down time most days, so I can work on projects while there. When my boys were in high school I got writing time in whenever and wherever I could – including at wrestling tournaments while I waited for their turns to wrestle. Also, long car rides.

How do you feel about writing groups?

Writing groups are great! My former writing group was a huge help with my first several books. Their input was much appreciated and very helpful. It’s always a good idea to have others look at your stories because they can spot things in your writing that you miss. It’s also great to have a support system of people who know the ups and downs of being an author.

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