by Julie, springing in Somerville
I am delighted to welcome Molly MacRae to the blog today. The first time I met Molly was when she was doing a Malice-Go-Round, pitching her book Last Wool and Testament: A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery. She made me laugh, which not only sold me her book, but added a person I’m always happy to see at conferences online and at conferences. I also love hearing about her new books, and am delighted she’s back on the blog today so that we can celebrate Argyles and Arsenic.
Where Do Your Ideas Go?
Writers are often asked where their ideas come from. The answers vary, but ideas tend to come from newspapers, conversations, eavesdropping, and out of thin air. Some of my favorite ideas are the ones friends bring me. These ideas are like the shiny trinkets a crow might bring, or like the mouse a cat leaves on your pillow (fun, and possibly endearing, but not always useful).
I’m enjoying an unusual break, between the end of one manuscript and the start of another, so I cleaned my writing space this weekend. My desk feels ten pounds lighter. As I sorted through clutter, it occurred to me that another question for writers might be where do our ideas go?
The best place for them, when they’re shiny and new, is straight into our stories. For instance, a friend at the library told me about The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning; How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. She knew I’d get a kick out of the book. I did, and I combined its premise with a tidbit from another friend about downsizing. From those two ideas came the setup for my latest book, Argyles and Arsenic.
But what about the ideas that don’t immediately find their place in a story? Tell me, do you know a single quilter or knitter who doesn’t have a stash of fabric or yarn? A painter who doesn’t have canvasses in every corner and boatloads of brushes and paints? I bet most writers have their stash of ideas, too. Depending on how long they’ve been writing and how they’ve recorded their ideas, they might have quite a few stashes.
I have notebooks and blank books (no longer blank) full of them. Shoeboxes. Old stationary boxes. There’s usually a note in my pants pocket. My bathrobe pocket, too. And that’s just the tip of the idea-berg. My computer files bristle with ideas. Ideas for stories, characters, titles, ways to kill someone and ways to discover who killed someone.
The great thing about having a big stash of ideas is that the ones toward the bottom of your archaeological midden heap are new all over again when you excavate.
And that’s why you have a stash. You write your ideas down because your brain—my brain—won’t retain all of them. Some leak out your ears and others just wither away because you had to remember to buy bread. It’s heartbreaking. What scintillating, fabulous ideas are gone?
Ideas are still gone, though, if you don’t take an occasional expedition into your stash.* That’s how I came across four gems when I was cleaning. For some reason, between January and August in 2008, there was a spate of international rat articles in the local paper, and for some other reason I cut each one out. I haven’t used them. Yet.
Now, here’s my present to you—if four articles about rats spark an idea and you can’t live without these articles in your stash, let me know and I’ll send you scans.
*Sad to say, some ideas are gone even if you did stash them. You scribbled them in the middle of the night or they’re too cryptic to make sense five years (or two weeks) later. That’s okay. Don’t fret. You’ll have more.
Writers, what’s your favorite way to stash ideas? Readers, what do you stash? I’ll send one US commenter a signed copy of Argyles and Arsenic.
About the Book
About Argyles and Arsenic – book 5 in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries:
After 93 well-lived years, Violet MacAskill is ready to simplify her life. Her eccentric solution? She’ll throw a decanting and decluttering party at her family home—a Scottish Baronial manor near the seaside town of Inversgail, Scotland. Violet sets aside everything she wants or needs, then invites her many friends in to sip sherry and help themselves to whatever they want from all that’s left.
But a murder during Violet’s party leads to a poisonous game of cat and mouse—with the women of Yon Bonnie Books playing to win.
About Molly MacRae
The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the author of the Highland Bookshop and Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and she won the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Find Molly at mollymacrae.com.