Where 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
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
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 . . .