Where do you get your ideas from?
Sometimes out of the mouths, well hands, of babes and sucklings it seems…
It’s a question many writers dread and I think it’s because it’s so hard to give any sort of concrete answer. Mostly. I mean, they come from anywhere and everywhere. They pop into your head unbidden (inspired by something you’ve seen or heard whether consciously or not, most likely) and then refuse to budge until you’ve examined whether they have legs or not.
But when it comes to Heart of Granite, it so happens I can tell you exactly where I got the idea from. It was 2010 and I was in a hotel in Switzerland. We’d come away skiing and my son, Oscar, who was three at the time had woken early. Bless ’im. So while we waited for the sun to rise, and while his mother slept on unawares, we played some games.
One involved an airport map and various figures and vehicles that we’d brought to keep him busy on the flight. We set up the cars and the baggage truck and all that stuff and then had the plane, complete with sound effects, do take-offs and landings. Now Oscar, being a child with a low boredom threshold, strayed from the original game before long. Looking about him, he saw one of his other play figures, a dragon, picked it up and landed it on the runway. Gawd love children and their unfettered, unabashed creativity. They should be considered a critical part of the writer’s toolkit.
‘Oooh,’ thought I. ‘Commercial dragon flights.’
And thus was Heart of Granite conceived.
It was a long time in the tank, mind you. Oscar is nine now. The years passed and the idea evolved. Plots, characters, themes, settings, structures…all came and went, came back again (sometimes) and grew into something that could be written, was written, was written again (and again) and went through the most detailed editing process I, personally, have ever undertaken. Sometimes that editing process was truly painful but worth every reluctant deletion.
The point is, I suppose, that it pays not to rush. Allowing an idea room to grow organically gives you the freedom to select and discard as many directions as you wish before settling not on the one that looks as if it might be the best but the one you know to be so.
Heart of Granite grew from ‘oh, commercial dragon flights’ to a war-weary world upon which great behemoths walk to disgorge war on every continent; from a vague notion involving dragons in a contemporary setting to a book of adventure, betrayal, the lust for power and wealth, love, honour, courage and sacrifice; from a single inspiring idea into the best book I’ve written so far.
Y’know, I reckon a much better question than the titular one is ‘when you get an idea, what happens to it next?’
Now there’s a convention panel for you. Any takers?
Heart Of Granite is available now online and from all good bookshops. Having read it, I’d advise you to think of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, cross them with Battlestar Galactica, add the crew from the Alien movies, add a dash of Barclay-ness and you won’t be too far off!