Author Karen Harper on Inspiration and Discovering Great Ideas
by Karen Harper, author of Silent Scream
After writing more than 50 novels, I admit I get my inspiration (and then ideas) from everywhere and anywhere. I sometimes put it this way: I find my inspiration off the page and off the wall. By that I mean I find some stories through everyday reading and deliberate research on a topic that interests me—and sometimes ideas just hit me in the face.
For example, for Silent Scream, I stumbled on the scary setting of an archaeological dig in a Florida peat bog while flipping through one of my mother’s old Reader’s Digests. Although I have lived in SW Florida for 30 winters (and set books in the South Shores series there), I had never heard there were prehistoric bodies buried in and excavated from a peat bog near Disneyland. So I created another dig with some very unusual burials, then added a modern day murder for my detecting pair of Claire and Nick to dig into—pun intended.
Ah, the plot thickens. For all my novels in the South Shores series, I get a concept and then research it. I am now an amateur expert on butterflies, the Everglades, ancient burials…and especially forensic psychology, which is my heroine Claire’s specialty. Of course, it keeps getting her into trouble and getting me more ideas for plots and characters.
And as for inspiration to keep writing, it is, to use a common phrase, a labor of love. It isn’t easy to face a blank page, especially at the beginning of a novel, but soon the characters take over and begin to speak and interact. (I’m quite mentally sound, but I do hear voices.)
Settings are very important to me, so I always use places I know and love. These become characters in themselves, so I choose ones that are fascinating and inspirational to me: Naples, Florida; the Caribbean; Ohio Amish country; Denver; and in my historical novels, England.
My settings inspire me as do my characters, who manage to have trouble and terror come to them, but who survive and thrive. As for the inspiration for my characters, they seem to emerge fully formed, and though I don’t base them on people I know, they probably have elements of people I have seen or studied. I always have my eyes and ears wide open for unique personality traits whether for the leads, secondary characters or the walk-ons in my books.
Inspiration is tied to creativity. An elderly writer friend once told me, “You are born with that or you’re not.” How true for a fiction writer. I hope to be an inspired and inspiring author for years and books to come.
About Silent Scream:
When an old college roommate invites Claire Britten to join her on an archaeological dig at a Florida peat bog, it’s an offer the renowned forensic psychologist can’t refuse. Claire’s husband, criminal lawyer Nick Markwood, is comforted to see Claire working on a prehistoric burial site instead of an open grave for once. But Claire’s investigative instincts kick in when some of The Black Bog’s perfectly preserved corpses show signs of a grisly fate. What really happened to these people?
What started as an exploration of the past soon escalates into an all-too-current danger. Someone is watching—someone who really doesn’t want Claire digging into the past or Nick making connections to a current, violent murder case he’s investigating. The bog’s corpses may be long dead, but if Claire and Nick don’t figure out who’s gunning for a fresh kill, the next bodies to be discovered will be their own.