Wednesday, June 12, 2019

When Inspiration Strikes ~ by MJ Nightingale

People often ask me where I get my ideas for the stories I write.  They find it amazing that, as an author, I come up with crazy ideas and invent these complicated stories with lots of twists and turns.   The easy answer, but not completely accurate, is to say that the ideas just come to me.  Sometimes they do, but most often they don’t. I often task myself with the job of thinking of what to write next.  I have notebooks filled with ideas and always used to keep a small one in my purse to jot those ideas down Luckily, today, with modern technology, I have an app for that on my phone.

Sometimes inspiration does not just come to me, though, when I am looking to tackle a new, fresh project. What do I do then? Well, the world around me becomes my proverbial oyster.  When I want to get the juices flowing and come up with something fresh, I rely on three trusted tricks – I watch people, I go somewhere I have never been before, or I read a book, article, or watch the news.

One of my biggest sources of inspiration comes from people watching. Being a writer, I am an observer of people by nature.  I see couples and just random people on the street and try to imagine what may have brought them to this place and time.  I love the romantic suspense genre, and in my musings, I can imagine all sorts of crazy scenarios that took this couple walking past me in the mall to the where they are today.  But also, sometimes, stories in the news or shows or on television inspire me to come up with those scenarios. I saw a series on Netflix about serial killers, and it inspired me to invent my own monsters in two of my books.

Places inspire me, too.  I love to travel, and I am huge history buff.  A visit to Amsterdam inspired a scene in a story I wrote.  I was sitting in a park waiting for a tour of a museum with a group of other tourists when a very ill looking young man began to vomit. I wondered why. The story that took hold in my mind was of him possibly being poisoned. The truth that he had probably been out partying all night wasn’t enough for my overactive imagination.  Death by poison while walking through a park just seemed like such an incredible way to die. Why was he poisoned and by whom? 

After I started asking those questions, the story idea was born. A vacation I took to Tennessee with my sons became the setting for a novel I wrote about a young girl hiding in the mountains while trying to escape from the mob. A tour of the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, an incredibly small and isolated town in the middle of nowhere, became the setting for a pack of shape shifting dire wolves. I mean, they are shape shifters and dire wolves, so of course they would want to be in rural New York high up in the mountains. My home of Tampa, Florida, and the nearby military base became the setting for my Bounty Hunter series. A series I am currently writing was inspired by a stay in a casino.  I imagined what it must be like for the people who work and run the place, and then from there I just let my imagination soar to weave the tail of a Native American family who run the fictional Mystic Nights Casino in Connecticut.

Lastly, classic books have inspired me as well and the themes in them. My entire first series was inspired by the theme of miscommunication between people and how it can destroy relationships.  This theme was present in many of my favorite romances growing up such as The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, and Pride & Prejudice. Once I knew what I wanted to write about for that series, I then planned and plotted the conflicts and created characters based on strangers I met or came across. These characters would have scars from the past that they wished to keep secret from their new love interests. and using my imagination I created complicated backstories for them.  I had a guiding question that I kept in mind while planning: How would two different people each with their own scars and secrets meet and then eventually learn to trust another person enough to reveal those secrets? How and when would that happen in their growing relationship? And recently I have become more concerned and interested in dangers to our environment. So, my next series will focus on environmental concerns here in Florida while weaving in a conflict between my hero and heroine and tidying it all up with a happily ever after at the end. 

So, for me, from where does my inspiration come, I guess I could sum it up in three words – people, places and Ideas.  And, as I have said, I have tons of ideas. For aspiring writers, my biggest suggestion would be to watch people, travel and write about the ideas you love and want to share. Keep a notebook handy or use the notes feature on your phone to start stockpiling those creative ideas for when you are ready to start plotting and writing your own story.
MJ Nightingale is a USA Today Best-Selling author, and the author of The Bounty Hunters: The Marino Brothers. She has also written the Secrets & Seduction series, and the Mystic Nights series. She lives in Florida with her husband, two sons, and a sweet dog named Champ. Writing is her passion and escape, but she is also a teacher of 27 years. Her books are set in the places she has lived and traveled. Her heroes are men who will sweep you off your feet and save the day. You can always expect a wild ride, tons of action, an HEA, suspense, intrigue and super steamy scenes in an MJ Nightingale book. 

You can contact her on
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Listen to MJ's podcast episode here.

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