So…where do you get your ideas from? Stock author question. My stock answer is that I get them in the bath and that’s true a lot of the time. With my new book, however, it all started in a hammock. Or rather, that’s where it came together.
Books, you see, come together a bit like patchwork – or at least, mine do. A fragment of conversation here, a person spied in passing there. And no, I am not going to put you in one of my books. Not unless you’re a walking, talking composite of the kind I like to write, dark secrets and all.
In this case, I spotted the prototype for my protagonist screeching on the courthouse steps in Dobrich, a provincial town in North Eastern Bulgaria that expats fondly refer to as ‘Beirut’ on account of its brutal post-Communist veneer. Poke beneath the surface and you find a place simmering with possibilities which is exactly how I stumbled across this agitated Bulgarian-American lesbian in full flood.
How do I know about the lesbian part and why do I even care? Because a couple of Bulgarian guys I know ran into her later that evening in a bar, draped across her girlfriend. They simply could not compute how she could choose a sultry blonde over the vast array of xy chromosomes on offer. But I digress. What I liked about her was the spitting fury she was directing at the bored security guard who refused to let her in the building simply because she was wearing a denim mini skirt. And so a character was born.
I took that spark and infused it into my Bulgarian-American protagonist, Kat Malone, an ex-FBI agent who is hell bent on saving the (male) love of her life while simultaneously busting one of the most evil Russian Mafiosi on the planet. Believe me, there’s a lot of competition for that accolade. Bulgaria has its Mafiosi, or mutra, too – you see them all the time emerging from blacked out SUVs with tell-tale number plates, lovingly stroking their bellies.
But it’s not all mutra and mayhem. There’s a rich seam of superstition and folklore that runs through this land and the blood of almost every Bulgarian. I hear that pagan drumbeat every time I go there, the pounding heart of a proud nation that is still emerging from the Stalinist yoke. So, as I rocked in my hammock, I started to infuse my story with the essence of Bulgaria. I then mixed in a dollop of local legend, a soupcon of insider knowledge and sprinkled the whole with my favourite question: what if?
And that’s all it takes – a ‘what if’ plus a hammock. A sultry summer’s day helps, as does a background chorus of cicadas. But ideas can and do strike anywhere. It’s catching them in the butterfly net of your mind and then letting them fly once more that’s the real art.