Where do ideas come from? Ambeth was inspired, as I’ve said before, by something that happened to me when I was a child. But it has grown and evolved, the characters telling me things and taking me down paths I didn’t realise were there and I’ve learnt to sit back and let them tell the story, my fingers mere conduits on the keyboard for what they wish to say. I’ve a few other ideas floating around – a house full of leaks, a glimpse of something in the Thames, a porcelain cap for my tooth, a dead woman – they are all jumping off points for other stories that are still percolating in my brain, waiting to come out.
I’ve heard the feeling of finishing a story being described as ‘entering open water’ – heading out to sea. But for me the analogy that rang true immediately came from the great Stephen King. He described finding a story as ‘unearthing a fossil,’ and as soon as I read those words I could see mine. Can still see them, poking out from the forest floor, delicate carapaces of bone or polished wood, it’s hard to tell as I unearth even more of them. One is almost clear of the ground, the story complete, just a bit of polishing required. The others are still offering up new discoveries, new aspects every time I look at them, whether it is a change of only a few words or a whole new idea. But the important thing is that I keep looking at them, keep exploring the angles, the nooks and crevices, until the job is done, the story told.
Perhaps it is something to do with the way a writer’s brain works. That we can take a single small event, or notice something strange while out for a walk and spin from them a story. Ideas are everywhere, if you care to look for them.