I often get asked, “Where do your ideas come from?” The short answer is of course “Life”, yet I find myself launching into anecdotal evidence of how I arrived at a particular idea.
It is true that life is where writers get their inspiration and witnessing or experiencing something helps an author get into a storyline. Never the less writers all over the world have explored concepts and realities that are not theirs. How can this be? Can a character’s voice be believable if the creator of this has no first hand experience of their character’s context? Well that is exactly where the wonderful creative mind of a writer kicks in and breathes life into possibilities.
My current collaboration with Sydney graphic designer Bronte Goodieson explores the idea of community support. In my book Dinner on the Doorstep (due out early 2017) the reader follows a family over the course of a stressful time where the mother is in hospital. Rather than being a sad tale of illness, it is a celebration of community spirit. The family is given strength during their time of need by neighbours and friends who provide dinner on the doorstep each night. The young narrator’s excitement and delight at these offerings and the surprise element each evening of “What’s on the doorstep tonight?” culminates with a heart-warming ending that aims to give joy and hope to its readers.
Certainly without being didactic, there is an element of ‘pay it forward’ in the underlying message of the story and that is where the inspiration came from. A few years back, having had a knee operation, I was taken by surprise when a new friend dropped off a beautiful Lamb Tagine to my doorstep. Having only recently moved the area I was feeling fairly isolated and sorry for myself. The small gesture of kindness is one that I will never forget and the sense that someone actually cared enough to cook something and bring it to me was in itself enough to make me start to feel better and more positive. This book project’s roots lie in that small gesture and I wish that the message and sense of hope from this story will continue to grow as the book comes to its fruition.
The story though based on a mother’s long term illness is certainly one that would elicit empathy from people. Furthermore, although I haven’t been the young child in the situation described in my book, my own experience of the kindness of others gave me a way into this context. It is my job as a writer to capture this value in a narrative that is not only accessible to its young audience but also one that maintains integrity with its adult readers who will be sharing the reading with their children and students. It is this guiding principle that drives me as a writer forward with developing my ideas and new story lines for my readers.