*This is the extended, personalized version of a blog post I created for Quick & Dirty Romance Podcast. Be sure to check out our 1st episode for the rest of the story!*
Authors often get asked about their inspiration. It’s probably the question I’ve fielded most as a debut author: “What inspired you to write?”
The simple answer is, nothing. I wasn’t inspired to write. Writing has always been a part of me. It was a natural extension of voracious reading when I was younger. I tried keeping one of those diaries from Sanrio with the little lock on it. At my most consistent, I probably averaged three entries every six months; shockingly, recording the events of my middle school life just didn’t compel me. Can’t imagine why, as there was so much going on in the drowsy little Nashville suburb for a bookish 12-year-old who knew more about the Beatles than the latest boy band. (Yes, read this with sarcasm!)
But where diaries didn’t work, writing stories did. By 9th grade I was sitting up late at night, penning an epic saga into spiral notebooks while Delilah kept me in soft rock and gently judgmental relationship advice from my bedside clock radio. I got the idea of a huge story about lots of people from special edition Sweet Valley High novels I’d read, but this saga was very much my own.
These notebooks are gone. I threw them away in 2011 when my parents moved to a new house and requested I weed out my old stuff. (I also threw away all my high school photographs and trophies. Some of y’alls jaws have dropped, I know.) While those rambling, juvenile tales no longer exist, what has remained are seeds of ideas. Whispers of characters have grown up and morphed into a cast of friends and family that populate my Anti-Belle series.
Amid all my ideas was one about a girl (a teen when I first conceived it) who moves home to a small town in the South from NYC. She was furious and bitter to be dragged away from her life. When she’s partnered with a boy on a school project, her prickly demeanor is meant to keep him away. He doesn’t care. He isn’t fazed by it, sees more in her than the anger she shows, and his laid-back acceptance of whatever she needs to be helps Celeste take her walls down and embrace something new.
When he first sees her, the book he’s reading falls out of his hand and hits the floor. There’s a scene where she loses her temper and tries to hit him, but he restrains her, building heavy sexual tension.
Sound familiar, Not Suitable for Work fans??
But I digress. Inspiration. Where did I get my inspiration for Not Suitable for Work? Simply put, this story was born from the idea of an empty room with two desks in it. These once-childish characters grew up, their reasons and motives changed, their back stories became way more adult, and there we go. NSFW.
It’s often said that there are no original stories in this world, simply combinations of tropes and archetypes in varying forms. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but I’m very sure that what makes a story shine are the details, the inspiration, that the writer has to make her story unique. Case in point: my podcasting partner Sarah Smith and I have written office place, enemies-to-lovers romance novels. Both feature strong women trying to prove their place on the job. Both have quiet, athletic love interests who are hot ;). We have the tension builds, the steamy scenes, the “black moments,” and the happily ever after. They’re fun, they’re hot, they’ll make you laugh and pull at your heart.
Despite all the parallels, I guarantee these books do not substitute one another. You will not have a “been there, done that” mentality as you read Not Suitable for Work and Faker. (Go read them, then tell me what you think!)
Tropes are simply the building blocks we use to create the plot. Inspiration is the heart, and the details a writer is inspired to include give the book its personality. Sarah wanted a love interest who was the complete opposite of her tall, dark, and handsome brothers; she found inspiration in Finnish fitness pro Eero Westerberg. Her climactic dark moment between Emmie and Tate is sourced from her own personal reactions to a situation (shh, no spoilers!). For me, my hometown of Nashville, TN, was a huge inspiration. When Celeste reminisces about her high school days down on 2nd Avenue, she’s telling my high school stories. And when her colleague Joe tells her to “Watch out for girls who drink whiskey,” her WTF response was precisely how I felt when a coworker of mine said those very words to me!
So many things inspire a writer. To us, the world is details and sparks of stories. So if anyone has ever dissed your favorite genre as “you’ve read one, you’ve read them all,” may I suggest you handle it as southerners do: Smile, tilt your head, and say, “Aww. Bless your heart.”*
Then go and lose yourself in your latest read.
*This phrase means anything you want it to, so I’ll leave it to your imagination how to fill it in!
Skye McDonald is my pen name for the series of novels I’ve written. Each of the books features its own protagonists, and can be read as a standalone novel; however, this seven-book-and-growing series is the world of a group of friends and family, and you will meet your favorite characters again in supporting roles as you progress through the books.