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    Musing about the Muse by Beth Kery
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  • Published: Aug 17th, 2009

paradise_romance_bookOne of the most common questions asked of a writer is: Where do you get your ideas from? Authors might reply with answers such as: everywhere—the news, overheard conversations, dreams, real life experiences. Creative ideas for stories arise from both within and without, blend together with the author’s unique life experiences and way of viewing the world. When she puts her words to the page, plot and characterization fuse with the writer’s voice to create a symphony unique to each author.

Have you ever wondered where an author got an idea for a favorite story? I asked five talented authors that very question—what was your inspiration for this story? For most, the end product of the book was the author’s unique creativity applied to a core real life experience. Interestingly, a career was the inspiration for authors Julie James, Cynthia Eden and Dakota Cassidy.

“Back in my lawyer days, when I worked at a large firm, there was a male associate in the same class as me,” says Julie James. “Both of us were well-respected and were considered to be on the right “track.”  My group, however, had never before made two associates partner in the same year, and I often wondered what would happen when this associate and I came up for partner at the same time.  I certainly considered him to be good competition: he’d gone to an Ivy League law school, put in as many hours as I did, and was even golf buddies with the head of our group.  Even though, in reality, this associate and I were friends (and continue to be friends to this day), from this set-up my imagination ran way, way wild, and the idea of PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT was born:  two associates who dislike each other who have to fight it out for the one partnership spot at their firm–and then find themselves falling in love along the way.”

Cynthia Eden explains that her muse perked up in interest over her friend’s career.

“When I began to write HOTTER AFTER MIDNIGHT (the first book in my paranormal Midnight trilogy for Kensington Brava), I knew that I wanted my heroine to be a psychologist. A very good friend of mine is a psychologist, and I’ve always found her career incredibly interesting. I mean, she gets to jump into people’s minds and explore their dark secrets—that’s exciting.  So when I started HOTTER AFTER MIDNIGHT I used the profession to inspire the story.  I wanted a psychologist, but I wanted the book to focus on paranormal characters…so with a little bending, some minor flexing…my monster doctor, Emily Drake, was born. Emily became the psychologist who primarily treated paranormal patients, and she also became the only person who could profile a paranormal killer. Once I had Emily’s occupation, the rest of the story just fell into place for me.  So sure, some authors are inspired by sexy men, some are inspired by sunsets, but a job inspired me!”

Dakota Cassidy got her inspiration from a group of very dedicated make-up saleswomen. “In July of 2004 I attended the RWA conference here in Dallas. The hotel where the con was located also had another convention going on: A Mary Kay convention. OMG–those women were a riot. I couldn’t take my eyes or ears off them. They wore different colored suits to indicate the level of their success in the company. They had sashes–and tiaras! I was fascinated by the inner workings, their  rabid dedication to cosmetics and helping you to find your mysterious  “color logic.”And I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if a woman in the height of her cosmetic selling career was accidentally bitten and turned into a  werewolf? Hence, THE ACCIDENTAL WEREWOLF was born and yes, I admit I  had a hoot making up my fictional cosmetics company dubbed Bobbie-Sue and poking a little fun at the “color logic” theory by renaming it a color wheel.”

Real life experiences were the source of inspiration for Jaci Burton and Larissa Ione. Burton says that her idea for the Wild Rider series came from being a biker and understanding the culture. “My husband and I love to ride. Sinking into that experience gave me so many creative ideas, one of which was the idea of a group of bad boy bikers who work undercover for the government. I created a group of incredible men who came from shattered backgrounds, all headed toward a life of crime, but cleaned up their lives and now work for the government. It’s sexy, fast paced, and I try to infuse a lot of the biker culture and attitude in every book in the series. The first book in the series is RIDING WILD and it’s about Mac, one of the Wild Riders, who inadvertently smacks right into his old flame, Lily, while he’s heisting a statue from a museum. But everything is not what it seems and Mac takes Lily on one wild ride as they take up where they left off all those years ago while on the run from people who will stop at nothing to get what Mac stole from that museum.”

Larissa Ione explains how her idea for one story—the book of her heart, as she described it—came from real life observations and a very personal experience.

“The idea for SNOWBOUND came to me back in 1996, when I was six months pregnant and spending Christmas with my family at an Oregon ski resort,” says author Larissa Ione. “I couldn’t ski, so I sat in the bar and watched all the skiers. Well, the skiers and the hot ski patrol guys.  So the idea formed, but it wasn’t until about 6 months later, when my son was three months old and my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer that the hero became solid for me. The hero would be a ski patroller who had battled cancer.  I named the hero after my nephew, an Army Ranger, who died tragically after a fall from a cliff a couple of years later.”

For my own part, my stories also often come from real-life experiences. When I was in Waikiki recently, I observed something briefly that struck a deep emotional chord. On the crowded, glitzy Kalakaua Avenue I saw a young, pre-adolescent girl singing to a rapt audience of tourists. Her voice was amazing, but I was filled with so much sadness and concern at her sober, weary expression. And when she tried to indicate to her father she didn’t want to perform for another song, he insisted. And the coins and dollar bills in the proffered container mounted.

That brief observation is the tiny, central core of my upcoming Berkley Heat book, PARADISE RULES.

I found it telling and fascinating to hear these stories. These brief scenarios highlight the individuality of each author and the one of a kind quality of her work. Its fun, for instance, to try and imagine what author/attorney Julie James would come up with if writing about a bunch of bikers who fight crime or to wonder what paranormal author Cynthia Eden would create if she penned a story about a fast-paced urban law office.

Talk about a good way to prod the muse.

25 Responses to “Musing about the Muse by Beth Kery”

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  1. Stacy ~
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 6:08 am

    Great post Beth! I visit your blog and have already read about some of these ideas, but it was fun re-visiting. I guess that’s what makes writers so interesting; they can find a story in the most common of places and turn it into something much more by putting their own spin on it.

    Your story, Wicked Burn, is one of my favorites. It’s incredibly moving and emotional. Can you tell us what inspired you to write Niall’s story, and bring into her a life a force of nature like Vic?

  2. Marisa
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 6:30 am

    HI Beth! So glad you could be here today and thanks so much for a great post. It goes to show that you don’t have to wait for the muse, the muse is always around if you give a good listen.

    You are all such talented but such different authors, it’s so interesting to read how the ‘muse’ visited each of you. I think it would be fun to get you all in the same room and give you all the same ‘idea’ and see how differently each of you flesh it out.

  3. Buffie
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 8:20 am

    Fabulous blog Beth!! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is so interesting to see how each author receives the idea of the book.

  4. KatiDancy
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 8:29 am

    Hi Beth! Welcome back to RNTV!

    Like Stacy, Wicked Burn is my favorite of your books, although I read and enjoyed Daring Time as well (verra, verra steamy!).

    It’s always been fascinating to me to hear about how authors come up with their stories. It’s so funny for me as a layperson, because I do sometimes see something and think “that would make an interesting book”, but it would never occur to me to actually write it. LOL!

    Welcome back, it’s always such a pleasure to have you visiting!

  5. Sunny
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 9:57 am

    Hi Beth, big fan here and I’m fascinated by where authors come up with their ideas. I’m looking forward to your new book.

    I’m curious. Since a few of your books are set in Chicago, and I’m orginally from there, do you find that city an inspiration? I love that town and every time I go home to visit my family I feel like there’s just no place like it.

  6. SallyR.
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 10:03 am

    Wow Beth, some great stories from some of my favorite authors. Thanks for putting this together. Do you work with these authors in a critique group, or do you see each other at conventions? Do compare how the muse strikes you?

    Just finished Wicked Burn last month and loved it. You’re a new author for me and I’m glad I found you. Looking forward to reading Daring Time and Paradise Rules.

  7. Inspiration, anyone? - Cynthia Eden
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 10:16 am

    […] wonder where authors get their inspiration? Well, Beth Kery has a  great post on inspiration up at Romance Novel TV. Beth interviewed several authors (including me) to get the scoop on […]

  8. Mary G
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 10:31 am

    Hi Beth. That’s so interesting. In some cases the reason the book was written is also the hook for me buying the book e.g. Snowbound, Practice Makes Perfect & Riding Wild. With your books – you just have to have your name on it.

  9. Jeannie
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 11:04 am

    Hi Beth, like Mary G. I read Jaci Burton’s series because my husband introduced me to the art of motorcycle riding when we were dating. Reading Jaci’s books always brings a smile to my face.

  10. Edie
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 12:15 pm

    Great blog! I’m here from Cynthia Eden’s blog. I read your excerpt, and it’s terrific!

  11. Lea
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 12:35 pm

    Hi Beth:

    What a wonderful well thought out post including all my favorite authors. 🙂

    I always find it facinating learning where an author’s muse comes from and having read each of these author’s work I think certainly having a personal experience that is the seed that gets the creative juices flowing certainly shows at the end of the day.

    Thank you so much to you and the other author’s mentioned for taking time and sharing. It was delightful to read and informative.


  12. bethkery
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 2:08 pm

    Hi all! Thanks for the wonderful responses! I know I really enjoyed reading these ladies answers to my question as well.

    Stacy–Wicked Burn came to me from a variety of sources. Since I live in the city, I’m fascinated by the idea of so many people living in such close proximity to the other–the idea of so many lives separated by a feet and some thin walls. It’s very symbolic, to me, of our mental barriers. We think we’re so far apart from strangers, but given the right circumstances and emotional pressure, we could so easily be hurtled into another’s life.
    I’d also wanted to do something about a character with PTSD, someone who was essentially one of the ‘walking dead.’ So I came up with a story about two people who crashed through the barriers that keep us separate and safe in our own separate words and how that explosion that seemingly came out of nowhere really ended up being a need to connect and heal.

    Hi Marisa! So true, about the muse being all around to those with the ear to hear it. I asked authors for this post who I admire, of course, but I also liked the contrast in their chosen genres and styles. Made for an interesting mix. 🙂

    Hey there Buffie! Glad you enjoyed these authors’ stories as much as I did.

    Hi Katie! Thanks. 🙂 I love to hear where authors got their stories too. It’s true that art comes from life, the things you see everyday and how they interact with your past experiences, etc. I often think–one person would make that scenario and make it into a comedy, one a drama. It’s the experience, but the observer, as well, that make that original spark so unique.

    Sunny–hi, thanks so much. Yes, Chicago is a big inspiration for me. I’ve lived downtown for–gulp–seventeen years now, and I love walking the neighborhoods, learning about the history, and soaking up the energy of this city. It’s not only a great setting, but also swells to the importance of a character at times in my books. Thanks for noticing and asking!

    Hey there, Sally, thanks for the nice comment. I actually know these authors from various places, conventions, online, through a common agent, and in the case of Julie James, because she’s a Chicagoan like I am. Glad you enjoyed WB!

  13. bethkery
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 2:16 pm

    Aw, Mary, thanks!

    Right, Mary and Jennie, knowing that an author really ‘knows’ her subject matter makes the concept that much more intrigueing.

    Hey, Edie. Cindy is a hoot. I wish I had her accent. Thanks for reading the excerpt for Paradise Rules!

    Lea–right. The more it means on a personal level, the more it comes out in the story, whether that be tickling a funny bone, experiencing something unique or something traumatic…the more the author owns the experience and claims it as her own, the richer the story.

  14. P.I. Barrington
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 2:44 pm

    After reading this, I’m convinced: I gotta get out more!

  15. Mary G
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 4:39 pm

    HI Again Beth.
    I realized that I always say I love your books but not always why which might enlighten readers who don’t know you yet. You have your beautiful way with words. There is always deep emotion & wonderful love scenes. Yet your books are all different – not cookie cutter. For a non-writer that the biggest deal for me – the thing that impresses me the most. A writer who has a style that I love but the books are not formulaic.

  16. Julie James
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 5:30 pm

    Hi Beth!

    I’m always so interested in hearing about where other authors get their ideas. Ever since you told me your inspiration for Paradise Rules, that story of the young girl singing has stuck with me. Can’t wait to see how you use it in the book. Plus, Hawaii is such a fantastic location. 🙂


  17. bethkery
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 5:54 pm

    P.I.–I hear you about getting out. Sometimes when I’m working really hard or meeting a deadline, I think–you gotta get out of here! Just being around people, socializing or observing really helps the muse.

    Mary–thanks so much! I appreciate that–it’s nice to find an author, but a bit of a let down if they write the same thing over and over.

    Hi Julie–it’s a sauna out there, huh? I’m so glad you participated in this–thanks! I’m still curious about that attorneys on motorcycles story…

  18. Where writers get their ideas | Romance Novel TV | Partner Connection
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 6:15 pm

    […] rest is here: Where writers get their ideas | Romance Novel TV 17th August, […]

  19. Dee
    on Aug 17th, 2009
    @ 8:43 pm

    I’m always intrigued by how writers are inspired and where their ideas come from. Whenever I hear a writer say the characters speak to them, I wonder how they keep it all together.

    I love the writers who have the “what if” ideas. I remember being in high school and having my hockey player crushes and the what if ideas popping in and out of my head.

  20. WHERE WRITERS GET THEIR IDEAS | Open Society Book Club Discussions and Reviews
    on Aug 18th, 2009
    @ 12:01 am

    […] Read more here. […]

  21. PJ
    on Aug 18th, 2009
    @ 3:26 am

    Hi Beth! Thanks for a terrific blog. I’m always interested to learn where writers get their ideas and fascinated by how creative minds can take flight from hearing or viewing what most of us wouldn’t even notice.

  22. Liz Kreger
    on Aug 18th, 2009
    @ 3:27 pm

    Terrific blog, Beth. This is my first time visit and enjoyed reading the stories of inspiration. I love playing “what if” when trying to come up with a story idea. But its amazing what little things will trigger an idea.

  23. bethkery
    on Aug 18th, 2009
    @ 11:57 pm

    Hi, PJ–well, we’re either creative or a little, er, special, the way we can zone out the surrounding stuff and focus on a potential scenario for romance. I’ll probably get hit by a car someday while zoning out about something I saw at the side of the road that could potentially turn into a torrid tale. lol. Thanks for stopping by, PJ. 🙂

    Liz–howdy! It’s it amazing the goofy things? ‘I picked up another person’s dry cleaning. OMG–there could be something earth shattering in the pocket!’ LOL.
    Thanks, Liz.

  24. Angelo Crapanzano
    on Aug 19th, 2009
    @ 5:08 pm

    Writing instructors always tell authors to write from experience. That is true for most writers. But some times it comes from the romance you missed or the one that got away. I like to write from my own desires. In my books I can go to exotic places. Make love to the most beautiful woman. Have to adventures I couldn’t have other wise. I live my stories.

  25. As The Story Spins | Jaci Burton's Muse
    on Feb 28th, 2011
    @ 11:04 am

    […] Note: Go check out author Beth Kery’s post today over at Romance Novel TV. She talks about where authors get their ideas for books. I gave my input as well and so did […]

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