Monday, August 5, 2019

Where my ideas come from ~ by Maryann Jordan

“Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear.” Lucas, Empire Records, written by Carol Heikkinen.


This is a favorite movie quote of mine and is so true of authors. With over 50 books, I am often asked where my stories/characters/scenes/series come from, and I want to quote Lucas and say, “They just appear!”

But the truth is that they come from so many places.

I had a scene in my mind for years and always said that if I were to ever write a book, it would begin with that scene…one of good friends sitting in a small-town bar, all enjoying each other’s company. From that one scene, I began my writing journey.

And I call it a writing journey, because just like traveling down a road with twist and turns, I have learned a lot, experienced a lot, and met a lot of people as I became a writer.
My first series takes place in a fictional town, Fairfield, based off my hometown in Virginia. My first heroine was a high school counselor, also my previous career. In fact, I use counselors, social workers, and teachers in many of my books. It’s easy to draw from my own life experiences to create believable characters.

It was going to be a contemporary romantic book, but with a high school counselor and a detective as my lead characters, I quickly discovered that I loved adding suspense into the story to move their relationship forward.

In my second series, I had one heroine work as a veterinarian and another as a computer software engineer. These are the careers of my two daughters, and I interviewed them to make the characters accurate. Sticking to the suspense genre, I continued to learn more about policework, detectives, and crimes.

Many of my story ideas come from the news combined with my imagination, and sometimes I find that the news comes after my idea! I once wrote of a hurricane that hit the west coast of Mexico (which happens rarely in real life). Soon after my book was written, the west coast of Mexico did experience a hurricane!

The Eastern Shore of Virginia was plagued by a serial arsonist and I used that concept in one of my series. I find that small town newspapers are a fabulous source of inspiration, especially when I am writing my small-town romantic suspense.

Even drawing on familiar topics, I have to do a lot of research in my writing career. I search the internet to learn about jobs that I have no experience with (firefighters, detectives, paramedics, military careers, business owners, nurses and many more). I watched you-tube videos on Coast Guard rescues at sea, military medical helicopters, fire-fighters, drug-dog training, military transport mechanics, and many more to get a feel for the scenes I would include in my novels.

I studied maps and topography of different states, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. When I write, I want my descriptions to be accurate and to give the reader the feel that they are in the place along with my characters. When writing about the west coast of Mexico, I discovered it is more arid mountains and not the jungles I had previously assumed. Google Earth and Google Maps is an excellent resource for writers who desire accuracy in describing places.
Because I write different series, I am able to draw upon different places and jobs. The Baytown Boys takes place in a small, coastal town in Virginia and many of my characters have lived there for their entire lives. The Saints Protection & Investigation series and the Lighthouse Security series deal with national and international cases, therefore those characters can be drawn from multiple places. My military romantic series are not just SEALs but are a combination of men and women from all walks of military life.

My series are usually spin-offs from previous series, which means I can carry my readers along, but they become interested in my other characters as well.

With so many books, am I running out of ideas? No, not at all! I believe that the more I write, the more ideas I have! So, where do my thoughts come from? Sometimes, they just appear!

Listen to Mayann Jordan's podcast here.

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