Monday, 16 January 2017

Where Do Ideas Come From?

A question asked of every writer at some time is: where do you get your ideas?
Image credit:Pixabay
I usually have a flippant answer stored and ready to use. Ideas come through the plumbing in my house, because every time I climb into the shower the ideas flow, and of course this is the moment when I’m most separated from my notebook. So many times an idea has come while showering, only to be rubbed away in the towelling process soon after. I fixed that problem. I bought a waterproof notebook.

It’s a silly answer to the question of course, because ideas come at any time from any trigger. It is rare that I can even remember what triggered any single idea.

Deep Space Accountant is different, though. It’s one of the few story prompts I’ve had for which I can remember the exact thought process that gave rise to the idea. And no, I wasn’t in the shower.
For Deep Space Accountant I must thank the cartoonist, Gary Larson. I love Gary Larson’s cartoons and I have several books of his collected work. One cartoon in particular rang bells. It shows an accountant standing on a promontory with his briefcase. The caption reads Seymour Frishberg: Accountant of the Wild Frontier. (I’m not going to infringe copyright and post the image here, but here's a link.)

Straight away I wondered what a science fiction version of the Seymour Frishberg cartoon might look like. Pretty much the same layout except that he’d be in a spacesuit instead of a business suit. And maybe there’d be the odd ringed planet in the sky.

Then I started wondering about the accountant’s story. Why is an accountant in space? Deep space? And there it was. I even had my title - originally Nathaniel D Nicholson: Deep Space Accountant, I changed it to Elton D Philpotts midway through the first draft, then I dropped the name  part when I realised I’d have a tough time cramming it all onto the book cover.

You’d think, also, that my job as an accountant might have had an influence? Not true. The idea came to me in 1985, long before I ever considered accountancy as a career. Back then I earned my crust by compiling bus timetables and duty rosters.

So, I wrote a first draft, hand written on secretary’s spiral notepads. It was horrible. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t plot. I knew nothing about accountancy. I put it away in a drawer and carried on writing short stories.

Flash forward twenty-five years. I’d become an accountant. I’d started winning the odd award for my writing. I found Deep Space Accountant in a box.

It was still horrible.

I put it back in the box and buried it. And started again.
Different plot. Different characters. Different Result.

Want to know how it turned out? Find out here

Deep Space Accountant is the first book in the Sphere of Influence series, available in paperback and all major e-book formats.

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