Writers are asked this ALL the time. And the truth is, ideas come from everywhere, you just have to be receptive to them. Listen to conversations for the hidden under tones, read newspaper articles with a writer’s eye – ask:
at every possible situation. I find trying to force ideas quite hard but if I remain open, little seeds sow themselves and start to sprout. Today however, it was not so much a seed as a fully planted tree.
This was passed on to me this morning:
This book used to belong to my mother-in-law’s mother, Isabelle Keymer. Isabelle began training as a pharmacist at a time when young women were not encouraged to go out to work. Unfortunately for her, family circumstances meant she was not able to complete her training – when her mother died she was expected to stay home and look after her father and she did exactly that. I suspect she wasn’t given a great deal of choice. Male privilege held her back more than once in her life. I’m so glad I got to meet her, though it was just the once shortly before she died. Even then, post a leg amputation, she was a strong, kind, determined and interesting woman. It’s not hard to see where my daughter has inherited her academic brain and drive from.
Isabelle’s life is an interesting story in itself but then I opened the book and saw the first page:
Graffiti!!! Joy of joys, look at this page – not only is this a first edition published in 1864 (book swot alert) but someone, judging by the copperplate hand-writing possibly the first owner – has completely defaced it! Isabelle clearly wasn’t the first person to use this book – so who on earth was Rice Forsyth? Page after page is full of Rices’ amendments:
This is pure magic for a writer.
J. K. Rowling uses the device of a hand me down book with just these kind of amendments in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince! Oh, what a happy hour I’ve just spent looking through the book and wondering…What if?