Thursday, February 28, 2008

Roots of An Idea

People often ask writers where they get their ideas. I try to simplify the answer wherever possible because, honestly, it’s a complicated business. Take for instance my upcoming release, A KNIGHT MOST WICKED. I started out with a couple of very general concepts that I wanted to weave into a backdrop of a story. I didn’t have a couple in mind. No conflict in mind. I had a setting. An ambiance. A mood. I wanted to write a book set in Bohemia.

I made decisions very quickly from there. If you’ve ever picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK, you’ve heard about his ideas of “thin slicing” and the rapid cognition processes our brains go through when we’re making judgments or—in my case—brainstorming. I think I came up with Bohemia for a setting because I wanted to write a bohemian character. I believe this because, honestly, I had no idea when or exactly where Bohemia existed. But I quickly oriented myself and discovered Bohemia was a historical country located in what is current Czechoslovakia. The historical country existed from the eleventh century to World War I.

Futhermore, in thinking I wanted a bohemian character, I actually didn’t do a bad job in searching for the physical region of Bohemia. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, bohemian means “’a gypsy of society,’ 1848, from Fr. bohemién (1559), from the country name, from M.Fr. Boheme "Bohemia." Aha! And as luck would have it, my bohemian heroine would have secret gypsy roots, so I’d come to the right place.

I believe I knew all of this in the back of my mind. The knowledge wasn’t certain or accessible, but I’d no doubt been exposed to it at some point and it surfaced when I needed it. I think some of my creative processes support some of Gladwell’s BLINK ideas. Once I had my gypsy heroine and my Bohemia setting, the rest of the story came together in a flash. I searched for an intriguing time in history and came up with 1380, when Princess Anne of Bohemia gathered a huge retinue to accompany her to England to wed Richard II. The retinue had to be impressive since her dowry was not. And that’s how I worked my heroine with an unusual background into the glittering royal company.

*** I’ll be giving away copies of A KNIGHT MOST WICKED at my website starting this weekend. Please do drop by for a chance to win!


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading the comments. I would like to visit your website but when I click there nothing comes up. What is your website addy?

Joanne Rock said...

Hi Joye! Sorry about that. I'll go back and play with the link to see if I can get it in working order. My website is

If you click on the Bookshelf page, you can access a list of my releases-- both current and backlist-- and I've got excerpts and blurbs up for all my stories.

Thanks for the note!