In the summer of 2009, I was house sitting for a professor and his family in Statesboro while attending a summer class at Georgia Southern University. The family lived at the end of a mile-long road, which lead into a mile-long driveway in the woods. One of my duties was to walk the two family dogs to the end of the street and back. I realize I am exaggerating, but in the July heat of Georgia, that walk sure felt like two miles. One day, after reaching the end of the road, I stooped to give myself and the dogs a break and thought “If i didn’t know what was at the end of this road, I would swear it lead to some place mysterious and interesting.” At the same time, I was reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
This was the embryonic beginning of my first completed novel, Ice.
I once compared the process of a story being born to that of a baby growing in the womb. But you can also compare it to making stew in a crock pot, You add “ingredients,” and let them “simmer” until the work comes out as you like it.
The ingredients of a good story are inspiration from different sources. In the case of Ice, I was first inspired by the long road in Satesboro (a life experience), then by Garcia Marquez’ work (another novel), a horrific dream where i saw a girl tied to the steps of a swimming pool and screaming, an October Saw marathon, a documentary about Griselda Blanco, and many other sources that I just kept adding to the stew. The idea for The Minter can from Stephen King’s TommyKnockers, In this novel, the digging up a long-buried alien vessel causes the residents of a small town to behave in strange manners, and makes them broadcast their thoughts to everyone else in town.
All of my characters, from the main protagonists to the barely-mentioned minor characters, are based VERY loosely on real people. The “real” Tom Watson, whom I only met once, was an upstanding citizen. He was sheriff and during his election campaign, he and his family were subject to threats suspected to have come from his opponent. He was never involved, in any shape, form, or fashion, in the drug trade.
The setting, the idyllic but fictional Minterville, Georgia, was modeled after Argyle. Texas, where I grew up. When I lived there, Argyle had a crime rate of virtually zero, and there were no secrets; everyone knew what everyone else was doing (I moved away in 1994 and I hear Argyle’s changed quite a bit, and not all for the good).
All these ingredients just came together in the crockpot of my mind, until it simmered to perfection and made the perfect “stew” (or, at least one that was ready).
Notice that the first stirrings for Ice started in 2009, yet the final product was not published until 2014. Why did it take me so long? Because, to continue to use my soup analogy,you can’t just mix up a bunch of ingredients and call it soup. It has to simmer so the flavors can meld. Some stories take longer to “cook” than others, and for that, you have to trust your instincts as writer. Also, it takes the right combination of ingredients. To make a vegetable soup, I wouldn’t add peanut butter. To get the correct inspiration, you have to find sources that add to your desired idea or product. In other words, you have to read and educate yourself. Throwing together random things is going to make your work sloppy. You have to do your research. I had to learn about the drug trade, criminal procedures, first-aid procedures, and different aspects of government (don’t want to reveal specifically what I studied, or it might give away the plot).
The bottom line is that creating story takes time, patience, willingness to research and study, and most importantly, inspiration. But now, I have to go check on my soup, so until next time… Jessica
To read Ice, go to http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413664141&sr=1-2&keywords=ice