27 Mar

How do we get inspired to write a story? What is it that sets off that first flash of inspiration?

For some it might be an incident in your own life or that of a friend or relative. Perhaps the atmosphere of a particular setting might sow a seed.  For others it could be a photograph, a snatch of overheard conversation or a newspaper headline. For me, however, it often starts with posing the question; what if?

This was certainly the case with my first novel, Dying on the Inside.

A few years ago I went to an event called 'How to Get Published.' As well as useful tips on how to present your manuscript and secure an agent, there was a huge amount of information about how to promote yourself on social media and the importance of self-marketing.

At the end of the seminar, attendees were asked if they had any questions. An elderly man, who I had noticed earlier, shuffling in with what looked like a manuscript in a plastic bag, tentatively put up his hand. In a soft voice he posed a question.

'What if you're shy?'

There was a lengthy silence. The three presenters fidgeted in their seats until the publisher finally answered him.

'I'm afraid there's little room for shyness in the modern day publishing industry. The days of reclusive authors like Salinger and Harper Lee are long gone.'

As the panel took further questions, the elderly man gathered his belongings and left. He cast a tragic figure; a man out of place in this modern world of putting yourself out there and endless self promotion. 

First, it made me wonder if the world had lost a literary treasure that would forever remain hidden in a Tesco's carrier bag. But then it got me thinking - what if? What if someone had written a fantastic novel but was extremely shy?

From this question I conjured a scenario where a cripplingly shy young woman who has written a first novel persuades her extrovert brother to masquerade as its writer. The novel goes on to become a huge bestseller.  This formed the kernel of the idea that went on to become my first novel.

With the question, what if?, the possibilities are endless. 

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