No one has ever asked me this question--at least not that I remember, but it shows up all the time on lists of questions people do ask authors. So, seemed like a decent topic to me. :)
My ideas come from a wide variety of places. In fact each book is kind of a collage of ideas that I snipped from many unrelated sources. My most go-to-sources are:
- Real life - Yes, ideas come from real life. This most true for my first two published books and my first (unpublished) manuscript. Mainly because they were set in places I used to live. The manuscript even featured a real life character--my Alaskan malamute, Kiska. One of the romantic comedies did too--a man who made a living wheeling and dealing in antiques. He had a hook for one hand and a stub for the other. He used to come to our house and drink coffee out of a cup--not a mug. He'd pour the coffee into the saucer first, then drink it. And he managed it all with no help from anyone. He made quite an impression on me. (Note here: When I say he was in the book, it is just this bit, not what the character did or his personality. Honestly I was too young to have a real knowledge of this man's personality.)
- TV--mainly reality for me. My second book had a female auctioneer who had a string of pearls. The pearls symbolized what she thought she wanted and her denial of her past. I got the idea from a show called "Starting Over." There was a woman on there who wanted to become an auctioneer and someone from Sotheby's, I believe, gave her pearls. Miami Ink also had a role in my upcoming urban fantasy, Amazon Ink--and not just for the title. I was really struck by Kat Von D--the "men only" club mentality and Kat's love of art. This stuck with me when I started writing, and actually gave me the idea to make my Amazon a tattoo artist.
- Books--authors love books. We read a lot. Even though I can't peg down an idea I got from another book, I know this has influenced what I write. It has too.
- Research--this is kind of a cold way to come up with an idea, but sometimes you just know you need something special and you have to work for it. This is how I came up with the idea for my Unbound series and hellhounds. I sat down with a book on mythical creatures looking for something that would be sexy and unique. I came up with hellhounds.
- Dreams---Before, last night I would not have put this on my list, but this morning I woke up with close to a full novel plot in my head. I've heard other authors claim this happens, but it had never happened to me. Unfortunately, it was in no way related to anything I am writing or will be writing soon. But I have the idea now, scribbled out on a piece of paper.
So, that's my list. There are probably some I've missed. But honestly, I don't think the source of the idea is what's important. It's how the author puts it all together.
How about you, if you write, where do you get your ideas? If you read, what are some of the best, most unique ideas you've seen lately?