Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Yesterday, I was writing at Panera Bread and bumped into a former Borders employee who I've seen there from time to time. She said she'd brought my newest book with her while on vacation and loved it. After thanking her, she asked, "Don't take this the wrong way, but how do you come up with such twisted villains?"

This is the deviation of "Where do you get your ideas?" the most common question, I believe, that all writers get.

I had a reporter once ask, "How do you think this stuff up? You're so perky." (Yes, perky. My mom liked that one, she keeps repeating it to me, LOL.)

Another reporter said, "Why do you write such scary books? You seem so nice." ("Seem" being the operative word! What does she think, I'm not what I appear to be? Yikes!)

The truth is: I don't know. I can point to my childhood being raised on mysteries and police procedurals with a dose of romance; I can point to my fascination and admiration of Stephen King; or glance at my bookshelf and realize that 80% of my books are suspense/thrillers/mysteries and romantic suspense. It's what I like to read, why wouldn't I write it?

But I think the biggest reason is that I've always been fascinated with WHY. Why do bad things happen? How? What kind of person can kill? What kind of person can stop killers? What makes people do what they do, good or bad? So I get into their heads and find out WHY.

So it's Q&A day . . . what question have you always wanted to ask a writer? Fire away! And writers, what question have you been asked that you think is unique or different?

A bit of self-promo :) . . . SEE NO EVIL, the second book in my trilogy, is out this week! It's a Top Pick from Romantic Times who calls it, "Haunting and mesmerizing." If you have any questions about this book or the trilogy, fire away!


Nancy Morse said...

A lady who is about my age asked me once if I think I'll be writing romances when I'm in my 70's. At the time, I was almost 3 decades away from 70, so I mumbled something about it being hard to know exactly what I'll be doing in 25 years, but that I certainly hope so. Then I asked her if she thought she'd be reading romances when she's in her 70's, and she said she didn't know, after all, 70 is kind of old for that. My first impulse was to slap some sense into her, but all that would have gotten me was an assault charge. So now here I am one decade away from 70, still writing romances. I haven't seen her in a long time, but I'll bet she's still reading them. Hey, at least she didn't ask me when I'm going to write a real book.

Sierra said...

A friend recently hit me with an interesting variation on "Where do you get your ideas?" She'd read a quote from Stephen King, saying he doesn't feel like he makes up his stories – they're "out there" somewhere in the ether, and he just catches them and writes 'em down. She asked: "Do you feel like that?"

My answer was an immediate "No." Of course I think up my characters and stories all on my own! But then ...

There's that story hook that seems to materialize out of the middle of nowhere. The character who walks into the room nearly full-blown. The "a-ha!" that provides the plot twist I need, when I'm not even looking for one. Okay, I think, but if there IS a Muse, she's MY muse and nobody else's! But then ...

Is there just something "in the air" at times? Is that why a spate of similar movies will come out -- underwater thrillers, magician thrillers, animated rodents -- too close together to be copying each other? Why musicians like Mike Nesmith and Gram Parsons were both working on their own versions of country rock in the mid-to-late '60s, apparently without ever crossing paths?

I dunno. But it's funky to think about.

Sierra Donovan

Allison Brennan said...

Nancy, I've wondered how long I'll be writing. I want to say forever :) . . . then I fear the ideas will dry up. I hope to be writing for as long as people want to read my books.

Sierra, you're right--King says that stories are "found things" like fossils in the ground, and you need different tools to unearth the fossil. Sometimes those dang fossils are hard to see, other times they just pop up without much effort. SEE NO EVIL was one of those digging around kind of stories--it needed a lot of work even after I was done, just to clean it up. FEAR NO EVIL popped out of the ground, my characters right there, not wanting to wait around for me to unearth them!

JoAnn Ross said...

I've always gotten my ideas from Nordstroms, because of their generous return policy. :)

Nancy Morse said...

Allison, don't worry that the ideas will dry up. Look at Law and Order. Their scripts are ripped from the headlines. As long as there's real life out there and people falling in love, there will always be ideas and stories to write. My worry is that I will tire of this business. I love writing. It's in my blood. It's what I do and a big part of who I am. But this business isn't, so it's just a matter of how long I want to go on with it. I've been at it since 1980 and it does get tiresome.

Allison Brennan said...

Yep, Nancy, and if that fails I'll head over to JoAnn's Nordstroms . . .