Friday, April 21, 2017

Guest Nancy Northcott Talks About The Idea Box @NancyNorthcott

The Idea Box

“Where do you get your ideas?”

That’s one of the most common questions posed to writers and, for me, one of the most difficult to answer in a way that will make sense to the questioner.  Like most writers I know, I always have ideas. It’s hard to put myself in the shoes of someone who needs to ask that question.

I generally say something like, “I see a story on the news or hear about something or someone interesting and ask myself what if….”  But that’s only part of it.  I think everything we experience has the potential to bubble up later as an idea.  It’s as though all our memories are jumbled in a big box that generates ideas when the right what if comes along.

I set my Light Mage Wars contemporary paranormal romances in south Georgia near the Okefenokee Swamp because of a trip my family took when I was about seven.  We used to go to Florida every year to visit relatives, and my parents stopped at the Okefenokee on our way back to North Carolina one summer.  I remember almost nothing about that trip except the swamp’s name and the fact that we didn’t take a boat ride because my mom was afraid a snake would fall out of a tree into the boat.

Yet that memory surfaced years later, when I was trying to form the Light Mages’ world.  I’m a native Southerner, so I wanted to set the series in the South, but I didn’t want to use Atlanta.  I mentioned that trip to my brainstorming group, and one woman said, “Energy is different in a swamp.”  And we were off to the races with lots of ways I could use that. 

There isn’t much of the swamp in my first book, Renegade, because I wasn’t able to go there and, dependent on the internet for research, was afraid I might make a mistake out of ignorance.  After the book sold, though, my husband and our son and I visited the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.  I remember saying as we drove into the refuge, “I hope this is as cool as I think it is because I’m stuck with it now.”

It was truly amazing--wild, beautiful, and completely different from anything I’d ever seen before.  The Okefenokee is really a blackwater peat blog, not a swamp, and when the water is still, it’s perfectly reflective.  The place is magical. Not to mention spooky at night. With one exception, Sentinel, I’ve used it more as the series progressed and I was able to go there more often.

Will Davis, the hero of the latest book in the series, Warrior, is a good example of how things bubble up and blend.  I’m a geek, having grown up loving fairy tales and comic books and history.  When I was very young, I was interested in archaeology--until I found out about the whole digging up bones thing.  At age nine, I wasn’t keen on that, so I shifted to other things.  But I’m still interested in archaeology.  My husband and I watch a lot of TV programs about it.

So Will is an archaeologist and a geek.  He has two Ph.Ds., one in history and one in archaeology, and he’s into comics, science fiction, fantasy, and gaming.  But he’s also into martial arts and can more than hold his own in a fight. Unfortunately, Will doesn’t trust women.  They never like him for the right reason, he figures, so he’s into serial monogamous dating with no plans to ever change that.

Since I was writing a romance about him, though, I had to change that.  I needed a woman he couldn’t avoid and would never see coming as a threat to his independence.  I came up with Audra Grayson, an archaeologist who was excavating an island in the Okefenokee and was finding Bronze Age European artifacts--an idea that bubbled up from long ago, when I heard that the Americas didn’t have a Bronze Age in the European sense because Native Americans did not smelt metal.

Will is assigned as a consulting archaeologist to figure out what’s going on with this project and its weird finds.  He’s attracted to Audra, but she’s not the bright, flirty type he favors.  Meanwhile, Audra has no interest in a guy she sees as a player, no matter how attracted they are to each other.  She’s more interested in saving her career.  If the artifacts she’s finding are fraudulent, no one will ever believe she didn’t plant them. 

The site of her excavation was inspired by one of my research trips to the swamp, to a place called Billy’s Island.  It has a Native American burial mound on it, one of seventy-some known to be in the Okefenokee.  So that seemed a perfect place to have Audra dig, investigating the legend of an advanced civilization deep in the swamp, something that snagged my interest when I was reading the journal of a man who surveyed the Okefenokee.  That legend is going to pop up through the series because I knew when I read it that this was something my world could use.

With ghouls and possibly a demon from the Void between worlds taking an interest in the excavation, Will and Audra have a fight on their hands, and danger has a way of influencing people’s perceptions.

When I look at the way my books have developed, I see a blend of inspiration from the past and new ideas.  All of it came out of that imaginary box, and it was fun to mix the two.

Thank you, Paranormal Romantics, for having me today!  I appreciate it.


A Woman Tormented by Darkness
Archaeologist Audra Grayson hopes this dig will save her career. But that hope is dashed when she finds strange relics and a brilliant, sexy consultant comes to investigate her for fraud. Worse, the evil shadow that has haunted her for years is growing stronger.
A Mage Sworn to Oppose It At All Costs
Will Davis senses the darkness in Audra. Worried she’s allied with the enemy, he vows to ignore his attraction to her. Then deadly ghouls target the dig, seeking the ancient relics to open a portal for demons. If they succeed, everything on Earth is doomed.
The Fate Of The World At Stake
With ghoul attacks escalating, time is running out for Will to stop the portal from opening. The chemistry between him and Audra threatens to combust, but the darkness within her may give the enemy its chance. Will he be forced to choose between the fate of the world and the woman he loves?
Chapter one is posted on Nancy’s website:
Buy links:

Nancy’s Bio

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy and YA romance.  A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the magic, romance and high stakes she loves in the books she writes.

Her debut novel, Renegade, received a starred review from Library Journal.  The reviewer called it “genre fiction at its best.”  Nancy is a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist and has won the Maggie, the Molly, the Emerald City Opener, and Put Your Heart in a Book.

Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.

Nancy’s social media links:

Twitter: @NancyNorthcott


Diane Burton said...

I answer the question about where ideas come from the same way you do. But in reality who knows where they come from? They just come. Thank goodness.

Nancy Northcott said...

Yes, thank goodness. I like hearing about wild ideas people had for their lives that then worked out well.

Maureen said...

Great post, Nancy! I think all authors get this question and I don't know if anyone believes our answer, lol. I'm tempted to reply with, "You, I get them all from watching you."- just to totally freak them out, lol. Just kidding.

Nancy Northcott said...

Thanks, Maureen! That's an answer I've never thought of. And it's accurate--but as you say, not what people want to hear.

CJ Burright said...

Thanks for the great post, Nancy! I think it's so awesome how a swamp was such an inspiration to your stories. :)

Nancy Northcott said...

Thanks, CJ! I'm kind of jonesing to get back there.