I thought this week I’d regale you with the answer to another question I get fairly often:
“How do you come up with these wild story ideas?”
Well, muchachos, it ain’t easy having an imagination as fertile as mine. I mean, really, Inspiration is constantly striking me–or smacking me upside the head when I’m a little too obtuse to pay attention to her 24/7. Yup, she keeps me busy. About the only time there’s not story ideas or “what if” questions floating around in my head is when I’m sleeping (and even then, dreams sometimes work their way through my subconscious to become story ideas filed “for later”).
Alea Jacta Est, for instance, was inspired by the blackout that hit New York City and New England back in…2003 I think it was. I wouldn’t have paid overly-much attention to it except for two things I heard repeated in the Press:
(1) The near-immediate protestations by city government in NYC that the blackout was not the result of an act of terrorism–but they were unequivocal in also stating in the same breath that they weren’t sure what caused the sudden, catastrophic, regional-wide power loss. My instant response to the TV was “Well, if y’all don’t know what caused this mess (understandable since it was only an hour into the crisis), how the hell can you say what didn’t cause it? But not a single reporter asked that question, then or later, that I ever saw. (Turns out the mayor was right–a squirrel chewed through a line or a branch fell on a line or some other innocuous event caused all the trouble)
(2) the media began explaining how a single outage somewhere in Upstate New York caused a ripple effect that overloaded transformers and continued the train of power outages along the New England Grid. They even had some cool graphics showing the different regional power grids in the country and how Texas was relatively insulated if one or all of the other grids collapse.
I can still remember sitting there on the couch, cold Diet Coke in hand, watching the news through half-closed eyelids when I saw that graphic on the screen. My eyes snapped open–Lady Inspiration had slapped me in the face!
Then she spoke to me: “What if a terrorist was sitting out there somewhere watching this same show…would the info that Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and the other alphabet soup channels were broadcasting give them an idea on how to attack our national power grids? I mean, come on–that reporter just smugly announced that if one grid were to completely fail (as it came close to doing that night in 2003) it would in theory take down all the others, except for Texas (remember how I mentioned it was separate from the rest of the nation?). ”
The reporter continued to explain how the chaos that didn’t happen in NYC would surely happen if the entire country went dark….
And in my mind, right then and there, Hakim was born, sitting in front of the TV watching the news, drinking beer and formulating a plan to cripple the United States…
Or, take for example my new book, the soon-to-be-released, Apache Dawn. This time, I envisioned something more sinister and far reaching than a mere power outage (even if it does affect the entire country): bio-warfare. What made me think of a story revolving around that?
What got the ball rolling actually happened a handful of years ago. I had decided one night to write a short story. Well, that afternoon, I heard on the news how a scientist in Denmark had been getting in hot water because he was monkeying with the bird flu virus and wanted to publish his results (ostensibly to help other virologists recognize how the bird flu could mutate in the future) in some international medical journal. Well, the U.S. government wasn’t too keen about that–what if, they said (there’s that what if again!) some terrorist organization like, I don’t know…Al Qaeda…got a hold of that info and managed to turn bird flu into some sort of bio-terror weapon? Which is more important, protecting (maybe) the population of the world against a mutation that might take place, or preventing an attack that will take place (if they have the right materials)?
Yeah, I sat up and took note of that. A story started to spin in my mind…and Chad Huntley was born, burying–well, I don’t want to give it all away now, do I?
And now for the Apache Dawn update: The final chapter of AD has been edited and finished. Formatting is now complete. I’m tweaking a few story-arcs for consistency and some added realism (read this as: “I saw some real scary sh*t about Ebola on the news that had Inspiration tickling my brain…”)–and then it’s ready for publishing! The countdown can begin…