By Juliet Blackwell
People often ask writers: “Where do you get your ideas?”
For me, the more pertinent question is: “Where DON’T I get my ideas?”
I find inspiration everywhere, from articles in the newspaper (yes, I still read actual papers!) to the behavior of people on public transportation; from friends’ tales of their days in the office to overheard snippets of conversations in restaurants.
Hey…maybe that’s why I became a writer!
For my Haunted Home Renovation books, the inspiration usually comes from one of my true loves: old houses, ghost stories, or San Francisco. And often, from all three!
One of the seeds for the main plotline in Give Up the Ghost (out Dec 1, 2015) is based in the true story of eighteen-year-old Flora Summerton. According to legend, in 1876 Flora fled a grand betrothal ball given by her wealthy parents. They searched for her for many years, offering a huge reward, but with no luck. Decades later, in 1926, a housekeeper who called herself Mrs. Butler passed away in Butte, Montana. In her room were numerous newspaper clippings about Flora Summerton’s disappearance, and a fine white 19th century ball gown embroidered with tiny crystal beads. The Summerton family was convinced this was their Flora, so they had her body transported back to California and buried in the family plot.
Ever since then, a young woman in a fine white ball gown has been spotted roaming up and down California Street in San Francisco, looking for her way home. (Just search her name and you’ll find lots of info on Flora Summerton– here’s a short version: http://www.weirdca.com/location.php?location=28)
How’s that for a ghost story? Of course, I may have changed a few of the pertinent details to flesh out the ghosts in Give Up the Ghost…and it’s possible I envisioned a different life for Flora. But after all, re-writing the endings of sad stories is one of the joys of being a novelist.
Another inspiration for Give Up the Ghost was the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park in Richmond, California. If you’re ever in the Bay Area, the urban park is well worth a visit to learn about the stateside war effort in World War II, with a special emphasis on women entering the work force in droves http://www.rosietheriveter.org/. I had the idea of a woman from the era facing difficult circumstances and losing her grip on reality…but who is then so conflicted she is still hard at work baking pies even decades after her death. I even put on World War II-era music while I wrote her scenes, just to get in the mood.
So how about you? Don’t you occasionally read or witness something and think: “that would make a great story”? Maybe next time you should try to write it up – or better yet, send me an email! I’ll take all the ideas I can get!