Pages

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

India Grey: The Ideas Factory

I’m writing this at a desk that still buried under piles of books, paper, cups of unfinished tea in various stages of bacterial culture (so that’s why there are no mugs left in the kitchen) chocolate wrappers, and post-it notes bearing cryptic messages that must have made sense at one time. I pressed ‘send’ on my latest manuscript less than twenty-four hours ago, and feel like I’m just emerging from months of solitary confinement into the real world again.

This is the day I’ve been looking forward to for weeks: the morning when I’d wake up naturally rather than being catapulted violently out of sleep at about 5am by my brain shrieking ‘deadline’; when I’d actually have the time and the inclination to put on make-up and proper clothes (rather the grim jeans-and-several cardigans combo I wear to write), and when I’d eat something wholesome for breakfast instead of skipping it and eating Kit Kats at my desk all day. It’s also the day when I’d finally be able to clean the kitchen floor, meet up with friends, bake cakes with my children, talk to my husband and not obsess about fictional characters at all.

Except it never quite works out like that.

One of the things that seems to make otherwise ordinary people into writers (whether they’re published or not is immaterial) is the way their brains don’t really get the concept of ‘down time’. It’s like there’s a little Ideas Factory in there that never shuts.  Today, the manager of my ideas factory clearly is clearly concerned about letting productivity slide and has flagged up about ten things already this morning that would make potential starting points for a new book, and fill several scenes in it.  

There was the man on the radio as I drove back from the school run, talking about being a career poker player and earning a million dollars by the time he was 25. (hello, card-shark, bad boy hero who pulls himself out of his wrong-side-of-the-tracks background), and also the pregnant weather girl on our local news channel (clever girl heroine who made one stupid decision and risks everything she’s worked so hard for) There was the song ‘Warwick Avenue’ by Duffy playing in the supermarket when I went in to re-stock the empty fridge. Standing in front of an array of green vegetables trying to remember what to do with them, I decided there was definitely fifty thousand words-worth of love and loss and conflict in there, and began to wonder what that story might be…

Before I wrote my first book I worked in a marketing agency writing copy for brochures and radio ads and direct marketing shots. One day the Creative Director told me about an experiment in which three advertising gurus were sent to a client, where they were given a brief for the same advert. None of them were aware that certain things had been set up to occur along their route to the venue – an argumentative cyclist waving his fist at the taxi driver, a child letting go of a balloon and wailing, a man spilling his Starbucks coffee – things like that. They probably didn’t even consciously register them, but when they submitted their ideas for the ad, one or more of those events featured in all of them.

I often think about this when I’m writing a book. I think it probably shows that while the ideas factory is in constant production, we’re much more aware of its output at some times than others. I’ve must have seen that weather girl every day for months without noticing anything other than if she’s predicting sunshine or rain, but suddenly today I’m imagining all sorts of possible scenarios for the poor girl…

I think the kitchen floor might just have to wait.

India’s next Presents ‘The Secret She Can’t Hide’ is out in May. You can keep up do date with her news at: www.indiagrey.blogspot.com

13 comments:

marybelle said...

Please do let your kitchen floor wait. When you write, we read. Much more important.

marypres@gmail.com

India said...

Mary, I wrote that yesterday and it probably won't come as any surprise to you, but my kitchen floor is still in need of a good clean!

'When you write, we read' - it's lovely of you to put it like that. Thank you!

xx

Nas Dean said...

What a gorgeous cover of THE SECRET SHE CAN'T HIDE!

All the best for the latest release!

www.nas-dean.blogspot.com

Joanna St. James said...

Hey India,
Have you ever written a character based on you? See i read your posts and you get my idea factory ticking too. I alreday have two ideas for two heroines based on your post alone.

India said...

Hi Nas, I KNOW! (sorry, excited shouty capitals there...) The hero on the UK cover looked like a schoolboy, but this man is so hot I could weep for joy. And thanks to Lee for putting up such a lovely big pic on this post for us all to appreciate!

Joanna, the idea of a character based on me made me laugh out loud as I tried to picture what that would be like (and it's not pretty!) But then I realised that I do actually put bits of me in all my heroines, sometimes on purpose and sometimes without even noticing (until friends point it out.) The heroine in The Secret She Can't Hide (which was called 'Her Last Night of Innocence' in the UK) has a lot of my daft anxieties, which was very therapeutic to write!

I'm so glad your ideas factory is in production - make sure you write the ideas down before they slip away!

kaelee said...

I'm not a writer and have no desire to be one but every once in a while I see, hear or read about something and think I would love to see that in a book. Sometimes I wonder if I did see it in a book if I would believe it. Life can be pretty strange sometimes.

I love your idea factory working overtime.

I was curious so I looked up your M&B cover. I like the NA one better as well.

Christina Hollis said...

Another TWO votes for your Presents cover, India - I love it, and my OH just brought tea into Deadline Central and saw it over my shoulder. He loves the colour of her dress.
At least that's what he *said* he was admiring...

India said...

Kaelee, I completely agree - sometimes I come across stuff that I know I could never make plausible in a book. I felt a bit like that about the poker player guy. Who knew it was an actual job, and such a well paid one too?!

Thanks Christina - hugs on the deadline but how lovely to have a handsome man to bring you tea! And one with such a rare appreciation of fashion...! xx

kaelee said...

Snort ~ My husband watches poker tournaments on TV so I know all about it. There are woman participants as well. It's a bit like the poorer members of high society keeping themselves in funds by gambling in the regency period. Personally I wouldn't want to rely on it as a job but then i'm not a good poker player.

India said...

I have the worst poker face in the entire world, but I'm quite drawn to the idea of a man whose success lies partly in his ability to keep his emotions hidden. D'you know Kaelee, you're talking me into this...!

kaelee said...

India ~ the successful third and fourth sons in those Regency romances I used to love to read always invested some of their winnings. I see the poker tournaments and some of the players wear dark glasses. I know that locally there are tournaments to try and win your way up in the poker rankings. There was a 22 year old who did really well.

Michele L. said...

You are so funny India! Loved reading your blog and your answers above! I was chuckling at the mention of your kitchen floor having to wait. Hey, I put off chores for all kinds of reasons, haha! Hey, hope that idea factory is still purring. All of us readers can't wait to see what you write next!
Ooo...tanatalizing title too! Looks like a winner to me!

India said...

Sorry - my email server has been down all weekend, so I didn't see your comments Kaelee and Michele - so sorry to seem rude! Kaelee, those younger sons have such huge romantic potential, which has set a whole new train of inspiration in motion... Thank you for that!

Michele, I am an absolute genius at finding reasons to put off chores. Yesterday it was Mothers Day here in the UK, which I think we'd all agree is a perfect excuse not to go near a mop. The ideas factory is still in production (now coming up with lots of images of men in tight breeches now, thanks to Kaelee!)