It’s a question I’m often asked, especially where I have conjured up complex treasure hunts. I am always fascinated by the stories from other authors. For Ring of Conscience, the idea of an online treasure hunt spurned from games I played with the kids as they were growing into their tweens. It helped that they were all computer literate and we learned tricks from each other. I started by creating my own online treasure hunt and then built the book around that concept.
For A Parallel Trust it was different. In many ways the idea evolved from a combination of different factors. I had been unaware of geocaching until my eldest son returned from a holiday with friends in California and spoke of his adventures with his hosts. I wrote down an idea to use GPS to find treasure. I have a document on my computer with dozens of notes and ideas for books so this was added to the many. Five years later, when I had found the time to write again, I revisited these old ideas and this one stood out.
I had recently read John Green’s Paper Towns and felt the book didn’t make enough use of the hunt – focussing more on the personal journeys of the two protagonists to find themselves – and each other. I wanted to take the idea further and make the existential journey humanity’s own hunt to find itself. I wrote out the ideas for a story but needed some things to fall into place. This is where the book wrote itself.
Without going into too many spoilers, the idea for the mapping lines was accidental. I figured out a line from the south-east to north-west had an aggregate geocode value of 52 – which was the number of weeks in a year – but this was too obvious. Thus, I was more precise and by fluke realised the opposite aggregate geocode value started at the south-eastern tip of America. At that point the idea for the main plot took shape. I could have two separate treasure hunts on each side of the Atlantic. After this, everything flowed. I needed an observatory or space project on both lines. I found one in Britain immediately and it was perfect. On the American map, at first there appeared to be nothing until I followed the line off the mainland when the mother-of-all space centres was directly on the line.
After this, I couldn’t stop the inspiration flowing. I had a list of all the towns and cities on both lines and used these names for characters (both first and surnames) and some were perfect for the character’s personalities. There’s a nursery rhyme which is part of the major plot twist that I found which was perfect for the story. Many of the clues I wrote out had answers that fitted perfectly to places on the lines.
There’s a saying that if you are a writer, nothing you ever do or experience goes to waste. This is very true. I’ve drawn upon my own experiences to create stories and sub plots for characters in my writing and as I start writing my next book, I’m already drawing inspiration from my past. I am a hoarder of memories. I have boxes in my room with photographs, letters and souvenirs. Every person I’ve ever met plays their part in my writing.
I find that I’m subconsciously looking out for inspiration all the time and my advice to other writers would be to make memories, go places and draw on all the experiences you have. Your entire life is an unlimited source of inspiration.