Friday, September 9, 2011

Idea Mosquitos

Today's post is brought to you by the lovely and talented Christine Johnson. Be sure to read through to the end to find out a) how Christine comes up with her amazing ideas and b) how you can win a set of signed books!

One of the questions I get asked most often is “Where do you get your ideas?” or “Where did you get the idea for CLAIRE DE LUNE/NOCTURNE/THE GATHERING DARK/INSERT NEW IDEA HERE.” I usually come up with some sort of answer, but here’s the real one. Finally. And then I may not answer this question ever again.

I DON’T FREAKING KNOW. I don’t *know* where the ideas come from. This is just the way I am. It’s the way my brain works. There are a thousand ideas in my head all the time. And it’s not like being in a floaty beautiful cloud of butterflies that turn the grey, bleak world into a living stained glass window. It’s much more like living with a constant halo of mosquitos who are so distracting and annoying that I miss my exit on the Interstate or forget to buy apple juice (again.) Once in awhile, one of those mosquitos stands out from the crowd and becomes so persistently infuriating that it simply MUST BE SQUASHED. Writing a novel or a story is how those idea mosquitos get the smack down.

This makes the whole process sound miserable. I understand that. But it’s not. Having the ideas can be sort of miserable, because the rest of the world tends not to understand why you’re so crazy or what could possibly be so interesting about that long-since boarded up building that suddenly has one open window on the second floor. I actually saw this on my way to the coffee shop where I write this morning. I stopped to take a picture and let the new idea-mosquitos get comfy in my head. At least two people looked at me like I had LOST MY MIND in the ten seconds this whole process took.

So, yes. The ideas, they are crazy-making.

But you know that feeling you get when you squish a mosquito? That hot-DAMN-I-got-you rush? And you know how, when you lift your hand and there’s no blood, so you know you got it before it got you which means you REALLY won and not just in a Pyrrhic way? Writing out an idea is like that. In slow-mo, obviously, since a novel generally takes months to draft. That rush is awesome. It’s not a miserable process.

I don’t think it’s a matter of needing ideas because I’m a writer. For me (and, to be fair, for a lot of other writers I know,) it’s mostly a matter of needing to write because of the ideas.

So the question of “where’d it come from?” Yeah. I’m just wired this way. Which is why I do what I do. It’s like asking an accountant why the numbers make sense to them. They’re going to look at you like you’ve grown an extra head. Or maybe they’d just count your heads and make a new entry in their spreadsheet. (Dude. Mosquitos. I wrote that and then immediately wondered what would happen if you dropped a really tightly-wound accountant into a zombie apocalypse. Only that doesn’t really require counting. What’s hard to count? Angels on the head of a pin. Hmmm. So if he made a deal with the Devil and then he had to count *that* . . . DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SAYING? THIS IS JUST THE WAY MY BRAIN WORKS.)

I genuinely don’t know if you can train yourself to be this way - it’s how I’ve always been. Maybe you can spend more time staring at clouds or imagining what might be on the other side of water-warped basement doors. Maybe you can practice it.

The idea mosquitos also like caffeine. If all else fails and you’re out of ideas, I’d drink a quad espresso and go sit in an abandoned house for awhile. If nothing else, it’ll make a good story, right?

Hey! What if someone did go drink coffee and sit in an abandoned house? What if they were waiting for someone? Like a secret meeting? And ooooh - what if the wrong person showed up? *THWAP* Idea mosquito. Dead.


Christine is offering a signed set of CLAIRE DE LUNE and NOCTURNE to one lucky commenter! The giveaway is for North America only and is open until 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 13th. Please make sure to leave your email in the comment trail if I can't immediately find it by clicking on your profile, and check back Wednesday to see the winner's name announced!

Good luck and happy reading!


  1. haha awesome! Its nice to know I'm not the only one who feels like that :)

  2. hmmm, I see that page doesn't exist for some reason, so here's my email address

  3. Haha boy I sure wish I had some of those awesome idea mosquitoes in MY head! But I'd more than happily settle for Claire de Lune and Nocturne! ;)

    Poisnivyred AT

  4. Nice post! Yes, ideas can come from anywhere and out of no where. I think you can sort of train yourself to do this. When you see something interesting, you can ask yourself, now how can I use this? Or how can I turn this around into something unique? Also sometimes it's the simplest ideas that make the best books. Thanks for the contest!

  5. Love this post! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  6. Love this post! I can't wait to read Nocturne.


  7. Mine usually come when I'm doing the 1/2 hour rural drive to the grocery store. Then I'm stuck chanting the idea like a mantra as I don't want to be pulling in and out of traffic to write them down. My mother tells me my first word was "whazat?" which is closely related to "what if". But don't get me even started on the "what if" 'cause then I'll spend the whole day playing that game instead of ... drat!

    catspane at greatnorthern dot net

  8. LOVED your post! Mosquitos=perfect. And here I've been describing it as 'whack a mole'. Here's to many happy hours of storytelling ahead.

  9. I LOVE this idea metaphor. Keep squashing!

    (writingonalimb at gmail)

  10. Please keep us updated on the suddenly open window, because the buzzing in my head is driving me crazy and I just realized I forgot to buy orange juice on the way home which really isn't your fault, but since you mentioned the crazy I thought I'd just add a little extra helping to your plate so mine looks more balanced. There. Pretty.

  11. "I don’t think it’s a matter of needing ideas because I’m a writer. For me (and, to be fair, for a lot of other writers I know,) it’s mostly a matter of needing to write because of the ideas."

    YES. That's exactly it.

    I started writing stories because I needed room in my head for my brain. I kept writing them because it hurt not to. I'M ADDICTED. Stupid mosquitos.

    RMHendershot at

  12. I enjoyed the analogy! It struck me as pretty accurate.

    It's such an individual process. I tend to like to relate it to a cultivation experience--the idea selecting, nurturing, pruning, harvesting... (Though I think you're definitely on to something with the flighty living creature concept.) The fruit to be harvested seems slippery, alive, and determined to evade me. Elusive mutant Idea fruit, if you will.
    ...but I digress massively. >.<

    redperil @

  13. Yay! I would love to win her books.

    writercherie @ gmail . com

  14. Lol, what a great post! You don't know how true. Thanks again!

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  15. Ah! I have the same thing, but I've been calling it by the wrong name. I've been saying I had STS... that's Shiny Thing Syndrome. I see shiny things everywhere and eventually one is so shiny that I have to tackle it or I'll drive off the road.

  16. I just bought Claire de Lune and looking forward to Nocturne too!
    Thanks for the giveaway!!


  17. Great interview! Thank you for the chance to find out about such an interesting author!



People who comment are made of awesomesauce with a side of WIN!

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