Guest: Cindy Callaghan

NEWS FLASH: Andrea Lerum is the winner of Cindy’s book. Check your email, Andrea!

Edith here, happy to host Cindy Callaghan  today. Her tween mystery Sydney Sydney Mackenzie coverMacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead is an Agatha Award nominee for Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel this year. And she’s giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter here today!

Here’s the blurb:

Can inheriting a haunted cemetery be anything less than disastrous for California tween and actress wannabe Sydney MacKenzie?  Highly unlikely.  But, stranger things have happened in the cozy town of Buttermilk River Falls… Not only does she finally land a great groups of friends, she also solves an old town secret that’s been buried for decades and achieves her movie star aspirations.

Tales from the secret society of idea stealers

stealI recently made a list of the most frequent questions I get, and there’s one that you might not expect:  Are you afraid someone will steal your ideas?

Here’s the true story:  In the early ‘90s, I widely submitted a book to publishers that never sold.  A short time later, a similar concept became a book, TV, and movie series with merchandising.  I’m talking plush toys, stickers, lunch boxes, you name it.

Had my idea been stolen?  I’ll never know for sure.  Here’s the part that was hard for me to accept:  If it had been stolen from me, there’s nothing I could do about it, because an idea can’t be copyrighted.

Let’s take a minute to look in the casebook of the Idea Stealer

  • A woman I met at a writing meeting told me that she’d submitted ideas to a current popular TV show. She received a reply that the show doesn’t accept ideas from the general public.  However, she swears that one of the ideas she submitted was used in future episodes. How do you explain that?  I give this reputable TV network the benefit of the doubt and believe the idea wasn’t deliberately hijacked.

Side note:  It’s probably smart to submit to shows or publishers via agent representation who can best protect your interests.

  • I’ve personally received emails from writers noting the strange coincidence that one of my books is similar to theirs. These suggestions of impropriety miss that my book was published before theirs, and I don’t know these people and would have no way to have been exposed to their work.

How does this happen? Darwin

An idea whose time has come: If Darwin hadn’t written On the Origin of Species, would someone else have?

I’ve heard this referred to as “Railroad Time.”  This isn’t the time of day that the trains run, rather the concept that when the world needed a specific transportation infrastructure its invention inevitable.

Or, perhaps, the same idea coming to multiple people is a function of similar inputs, as one of my writing partners explained it.  In general, we’re exposed to the same news, books, movies, trends, world events, social evolutions making it natural that, with over seven billion other humans on the planet, someone will process this input in a similar way and birth the same ideas.  This is also called “Multiple Discovery.”

Both names are a little blah, and as creators, we can come up with something better. Callaghan puts on her red and white Seuss hat and exclaims, “Sameideaology!” I think sameideaology is a pretty good explanation of alleged “idea theft.”

Catching the trend: Writers often chase the market, meaning they see a trend and rush to join.  Usually this fails, because the writing-sale-publication cycle is too long for this strategy to work.  BUT, consider this: There were enough people writing about a topic/genre at the same time to make it a trend in the first place!  So, maybe some writers are better at “trend catching”, or “trend predicting,” than others.

The Re-fresh: Some will say there are no new ideas, just old ones reinvented.  I’m not sure where I sit on that argument, but I think this is a third alternative to idea stealing.  That is to say, it’s fair game to mix up an old idea.  Consider my Just Add Magic – potions aren’t new, a trio of gal pals isn’t new, a secret club isn’t new, but a Secret Cooking Club is  And consider Sydney MacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead – cemeteries aren’t new, hauntings aren’t new, family secrets aren’t new, but a California girl wanting nothing more than to be a movie star ending up haunted in southern Delaware in bitter January is new.  And, let’s face it, funny.

city countryMaybe I’m a “Refresher,” because my Lost In books are twists on the City Mouse/Country Mouse story.  But, with unique plot lines and twists told through fun, interesting, and unique characters, presto, the idea is new and fresh, not stolen.

 So, back to the question, Does the thought of someone stealing one of your wonderfully fabulous and amazing ideas fill you with dread and fear?

Yes, for sure.  But I think it’s pretty unlikely that someone would snatch something from the bowels of the secret Callaghan writing laboratory, write it to completion in the same way I would, pitch it, and sell it.

Bottom line:  The notion of an idea-stealer lurking in the shadows of the Callaghan Writing Cave doesn’t keep me up at night….. Hmmm, an “idea-stealer,” that’s an interesting idea for a novel.  (See how that works?)

So, readers, tell me: Are you a refresher? Can you think of examples of “sameideaology”? And what do you think might be the next big trend?

I’ll give away a copy of the book to one commenter here today!Callaghan-55retouched

Cindy Callaghan is a business professional and ‘tween writer. Her books: Just Add Magic (2010), Lost in London (2013), Lucky Me (2014)/Lost In Ireland (2016), Lost in Paris (2015), Lost in Rome (2015), Lost in Hollywood (2016), and Sydney MacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead (2017), Just Add Magic: Potion Problems (2018) and Saltwater Summers (2019) magically capture the tween voice and experience.

Cindy’s first book, the much-loved Just Add Magic, is now a breakout Amazon Original live-action series. Cindy lives in Wilmington, Delaware.

31 Thoughts

  1. Cindy Callaghan is a fun addition to our Malice family. So glad readers of this blog are getting to know her and her well-written ‘tween books. She knows I am a fan!

      1. Soon we’ll meet in person. Finding more MG and YA authors who are Guppies by reading draft of First Draft. I have an interview of Kellye Garrett. Talk soon!

  2. *waves at Cindy from Delaware*
    I never worry about anyone stealing my ideas but your explanations make perfect sense. I love sameidealogy! Soon we will all be writing about a disgraced FBI chief who goes on a book tour and …well, I’ll stop there so no one will steal my idea!

  3. I think we are all refresher to an extent aren’t we? Ideas are like fashion – give it time and it will come back around and be popular. Guess I’ve been around long enough to see things circle a time or two both in fashions and ideas. Being somewhat of a thrifty person, I don’t know if I’m in style with my thinking and clothes or if I’m just so far behind that I’m now hip again. 🙂

    “Sydney Mackenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead” sounds like a great book, a wonderful storyline, and has an adorable cover. I’d very much love the opportunity to read it. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. Your post was very interesting a nd enjoyable. Really interested in reading you book. Ideas, especially for stories are sometimes so similar that a rash of books appear at the same time. Thank you

  5. Similar ideas are out there all the time. Sometimes, I’ll see a very similar idea on two different shows within a week or two of each other. Pretty amazing when that happens.

  6. Mysteries & murders are always going to be similar but the characters, plots & clues are always different. No two books are exactly alike!

  7. Welcome to the Wickeds, Cindy. I’ve always thought that some ideas are just out there in the air. But the execution is rarely similar. I remember Alafair Burke telling a story about how she and Linda Fairstein wrote books inspired the same real-life trial. They’re both lawyers, had different publishers and didn’t find this out until late in the game, when the books were in galleys. But of course, when they read each other’s books, they were entirely different. They had taken the same story and gone in utterly different directions.

  8. The only way I am a refresher is while I am in a book event refreshing the page lol. Copies are all pretty much the same but a good writer gives it an individuality thru the characters… I love them all.

  9. Similar ideas are everywhere. The execution is different, and that — to me — is the key.

    And no, I don’t stay up at night worrying that someone will steal my ideas.

    See you next week!

  10. Hello Cindy!

    I’ve read your tween “Lost in….” series and really enjoyed them. As a librarian, I think a lot of publishing is sameideaology and if you look at library shelves, you can tell the trends of publishing in YA. (I’m thinking vampires, fantasy animals and “Harry Potter” types of series. I always hope publishers keep an.open mind and try to find new and exciting writers for the YA crowd. We’re in such a wonderful time for YA writing, that I just marvel at all the terrific books that are constantly coming out. I’m a big believer in needing “girly girl” fiction and that’s why your “Lost….” series has always appealed to me. I’m excited to read about Sydney’s adventure! Thanks for a great post!

  11. I’m not a writer, but I love cemeteries – the older and spookier the better. And I love young sleuths. Thanks for the discussion on idea stealing. Very interesting.

  12. I missed this when first published. Really interesting! I have known people who have not only never submitted writing but were terrified that someone would steal it. (Cynical me, I thought they were overestimating how good the ideas were ) Husband is a publishing/intellectual property attorney. I’ve been well educated on this issues.Again and again, it’s the right idea at the right time, though there have also been some famous theft cases. Finally, FWIW- someone ( Alfred Russel Wallace) WAS working on evolution theory when Darwin was – they ended up with an agreement.

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