Monday, March 18, 2013

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

Late in 2008 I needed a break from what I was currently working on, so for the next two years I labored on a new story. I began writing The Sanctum. Once finished, I briefly tried to sell it, but then put it away. Suddenly, Televenge needed my full attention. I had signed a contract with my publisher in 2011 and the ball was rolling to put Televenge on the map. Well. We're still in the midst of traveling, speaking, and putting Televenge into the laps of our readers. It's doing well, thank you very much. One thing we know, the book promotion process is a marathon, not a sprint. But like a ghost in the closet, The Sanctum has been calling my name. To the point it has woke from a sound sleep on more than one occasion lately.

Although the above picture is not the official book cover, it represents my antagonist, Neeley McPhearson. Yesterday, someone asked me how I came up with the idea for this story, and so I thought I'd blog about it today.

Many of my stories are based on people I’ve known and places I’ve been. History also plays a great part in my work. As a writer it is my desire to transport a reader’s mind—but my deepest passion is to pierce your heart. As a little girl, my father told me in all sincerity that I was related to the great Martin Luther King, since after all, my maiden name is King. He taught me respect for all people. But I soon discovered blatant prejudice in other branches of my family. My southern grandparents believed wholeheartedly in segregation.

Working for nearly ten years on Televenge, I needed to go in another direction on a new story. I knew I wanted to write a novel that included the possibility of the paranormal and spirituality from different points of view. began a story focused on a young girl with fuzzy red hair who wore thick eyeglasses. (I have a niece with red hair, whom I dearly love.)
For a while all I saw was an image of Neeley, a skinny, lonely, parentless girl who lived on a tobacco farm. Placing my little redheaded white girl in the caring hands of a seventy-year-old African-American male, a rugged individual who wasn’t afraid of his gentle side, I quickly fell in love with them, and the novel slowly wrote itself.

For over ten years, I lived near Summerfield, North Carolina, located northwest of Greensboro. This area is historically saturated with horse and tobacco farms, which today still dot the landscape. By chance I discovered James W. Cole (1924-1967) was ordained into the ministry in Summerfield at the Wayside Baptist Church in 1958. He toured as a tent evangelist and broadcast a Sunday morning radio program, becoming an active member of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and eventually the Grand Dragon of North and South Carolina. The man intrigued and appalled me, and since the first third of The Sanctum takes place in Summerfield during that time period, I decided to write him into the story.

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is located in the recently restored Woolworth’s building in downtown Greensboro, a Woolworth’s that also found its way into my story. As I further studied the civil rights movement, I thought of it in terms of rights for all people. My great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee, according to my father, our family’s historian. So I then researched the Trail of Tears.

And finally the wolf appeared. An animal that has fascinated me all my life, the wolf is about family and order. It is a subtle character, but a voice to be reckoned with. I studied wolves carefully, and found people who loved the animal enough to create sanctuaries for them. I spent time on a wolf sanctuary near the town of Bakersville in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a five-hour drive from my home. When I arrived, I saw a sign that read The Wolf Sanctum. From that moment, I called my novel The Sanctum.

Ideas for your stories can be gathered from many sources, but my suggestion is to dig deep within your own family history. There is a movement today that says, "write what you don't know." While that is admirable, causing you many months of research, writing what you do know about, I find, lends to a richer tale. In short, they're stories you CARE about. Although, research is needed with every book you write, it's what you've experienced and how you show it on the page that remains with the reader. And that, my friend, is my ultimate goal.

The Sanctum will be launched in April, available as an e-book, and also in trade paperback. Stay tuned ... I'll be blogging more on this process ... and offering excerpts.

Blessings to you and yours.

1 comment:

Kim said...

It sounds very intriguing! As a Social Studies and Language Arts teacher I love when my two favorite things collide: history and literature. Can't wait to read it!