How do you get new story ideas?
Sometimes the best ideas are the old ones.
Berk and I have been asked many times to say what inspired us to write our first book, Pitch Green, our scary young-adult novel about two teenagers hunted by a fearsome creature that lives in an immense and bizarre old mansion, located in the teens' desolate, desert hometown. This is a hard question. Where does inspiration come from? I sometimes feel that the most inspiring thing I come across anymore is a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, accompanied by a tall glass of cold milk.
Not the stuff of novels, scary or otherwise. We have reached this point in our lives where we have seen and done, well, not it all, but all of it that we have wanted to see and do. It is not so much that we are beyond inspiration, but that the new ideas have started to recycle, so they’re not really new anymore. Everything comes now with a sense of déjà vu. Totally out-of-the-box inspiration has moved on to influence younger, better-looking people than us.
|We first told the story of the|
Green Rat in this house in
Perhaps that is the secret of Pitch Green. The initial late-night, scary story was first told by us as small children while we were living in Whittier, California, in a tiny residential neighborhood that is completely surrounded by the Rose Hills Memorial Park, one of the largest commercial cemeteries in the world. Later, our family moved to Trona, California, a little mining town, deep in the Mojave Desert. There the tale took on a new life of its own. Trona is the town of our youthful adventures. We grew up on the doorstep of Death Valley, and as we tell the story now, it takes place in the Searles Mansion in Trona.
Variations of the story have been told by us in about every conceivable situation. We told it at church activities and on scout outings, even on dates. We told it to our friends, girlfriends, siblings and cousins. To be fair, we weren't above telling it to complete strangers and even to people we didn’t like. We told it around campfires, on road trips and in school classes when we could get away with it. This was a story we loved to tell. And, we loved to use it to scare the crap out of anyone who would listen.
So, while inspiration may evade us now in our white-hair days, we were able reach back (way freaking back) to those days of yore (I think it is a federal law that says you are not allowed to have “days of yore” until you reach at least 50 years of age) when inspiration was an everyday event--back when inspiration came in a box of cereal; when inspiration needed only a blue sky dotted with puffy, white clouds; when inspiration was always just around the corner. Inspiration was found then in the last book I read, in the latest episode of Star Trek or Lost in Space, or in the simple smile of the pretty girl next door. Oh, to be so easily inspired again!
But, I wax sickenly philosophic. Sorry. I guess we really were inspired to write that first book in the Dimensions in Death series, but it just so happens that the inspiration came to us a very long time ago--over fifty years ago. It has been sitting, smoldering inside us, waiting to burst into flame when we were all done growing up (if that’s possible), when we could look back and see more clearly. Some things do get better with age. In a way, that is kind of inspiring in and of itself.