By Lois Winston
Ask any fiction author, no matter the genre, the most frequently asked question readers ask her, and she’ll answer, “Where do you get your ideas?” Ask any fiction author, no matter the genre, what advice she’s heard most often, and she’ll answer it’s to write what you know.
Some may wonder how the two can be compatible. What about authors who write about zombies or stories which take place on distant planets or back in ancient times? Zombies aren’t real, and no writer has ever traveled to a distant planet or hitched a ride in a DeLorean to go back in time.
“Write what you know” doesn’t mean write only what you’ve personally experienced. Once you research a topic, you know about it. And research can take many different forms, including reading books by other authors who write the kind of books you want to write. Once an author immerses herself in the world of zombies or interstellar travel or life in medieval England, she can put her own unique spin on the genre.
Since I’m often asked where I get the ideas for my stories, I thought I’d write a series of posts in the coming months on how the ideas for each of my books came about. I've also invited some of my fellow authors who write in a variety of genres to join me. Today I begin the series. Look for more posts on the topic in the weeks and months to come.
I get most of my ideas for both my characters and my plots from the world around me. I’m a die-hard news junkie who has always believed that truth is stranger than fiction. That belief is reaffirmed every time I pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news. I’ll hear a news story or read an article, then give the event a “what if” spin. The voices in my head take over from there, and the next thing I know, I’ve got a plot, a subplot, a scene, a protagonist, or a secondary character.
When the writing bug first bit me, I started penning a sweet romance, a story that came to me one night in a dream. Prior to that, I hadn’t written any fiction since Freshman Comp in college. I called my romance Spilled Coffee because of the way the heroine and hero meet at the beginning of the book.
At the time I was living in a Philadelphia suburb. While I was writing this romance, a shocking murder occurred in a nearby town. Each day the news was filled with more and more gruesome details of this horrific crime. To my surprise, the murder began influencing my writing.
Eventually my sweet romance morphed into a story about secrets and revenge and the lengths some people will go in order to bury the former and achieve the latter. The plot is ripe with scandal. Drugs, violence, blackmail political machinations, and attempted murder. My heroine is a wealthy young widow whose abusive, cocaine-snorting, deceased husband was about as low as a low-life can get.
A decade after I first sat down to write a romance, Spilled Coffee became the award-winning romantic suspense Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold. The novel is by no means a fictionalized retelling of the murder and attempted cover-up perpetrated by Main Line Murderer, Craig Rabinowitz, but elements of the crime played a huge role in how the story developed.
Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception
Life has delivered one sucker punch after another to Emma Wadsworth. As a matter of fact, you could say the poor little rich girl is the ultimate poster child for Money Can’t Buy Happiness — even if she is no longer a child.
Billionaire real estate stud Logan Crawford is as famous for his less-than-platinum reputation as he is his business empire. In thirty-eight years he’s never fallen in love, and that’s just fine with him — until he meets Emma.
But Emma’s not buying into Logan’s seductive ways. Well, maybe just a little, but she’s definitely going into the affair with her eyes wide open. She’s no fool. At least not any more. Her deceased husband saw to that. Besides, she knows Logan will catch the first jet out of Philadelphia once he learns her secrets.
Except things don’t go exactly as Emma has predicted, and when Philadelphia’s most beloved citizen becomes the city’s most notorious criminal, she needs to do a lot more than clear her name if she wants to save her budding romance with the billionaire hunk someone is willing to kill for.