Where do you get your ideas?

Well, in my case I have five box files full of them on a shelf in my study. That’s where I go when I need inspiration.

When I submitted Deep Water, my first novel in the Katie Flanagan series, to my publisher, I didn’t know that it was the first in a series, until my publisher asked me for a second. But where to get an idea for it and where to set it? I had to decide quickly.

Deep Water is set largely in Ely and Silicon Fen, the nearby biotech industry, but for the next novel I wanted to get Katie out of the lab and take her somewhere new and exciting. It was time for a browse through the box files. Some of the cuttings in there are about a crime or the progress of a police investigation, but fewer than you might expect.

A quick look through them just now has turned up articles on Friends Reunited (and its toll on marriages), the annual conference of obituary-writers, and
the bizarre items that turn up in the lost property department of the London Underground. And it is not just newspaper cuttings that have caught my magpie eye. There’s a gallery plan for the Pitt Rivers Museum, a map of Bridgnorth, and a flyer for the Sheffield to Edale Folk Train (runs every month on the fourth Tuesday).

Rummaging in the boxes is a bit like dowsing for water, waiting to feel that twitch. I am also reminded of Harry Potter and the wand: he didn’t choose it, it chose him. It is a bit like that with the subject of a book. There is a kind of mental and emotional tug. It’s not enough to think that something is a good idea, it should also exercise an indefinable attraction. Why for instance should I be so drawn to idea of Antarctica? Impossible to say, but I had squirrelled away several articles about remote research bases and interviews with people who had wintered over there. And by the time I had finished with the boxes, I knew that was where the next novel would be set.

The perfect title soon followed: Cold, Cold Heart.

Now all I had to do was write it . . .

Cold, Cold Heart is published by Lion Hudson

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