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March 13, 2015

I’ve let this blog lie fallow too long. It’s time to start cultivating it again. It is, after all, almost Ellis Vidlerspring.

My good friend, Ellis Vidler, very kindly agreed to help me get things started by sharing her ideas on a topic writers find endlessly fascinating, but often elusive.

 Inspiration comes from many places, often when you least expect it—a face in a crowd, a news article, an issue, sometimes a vivid scene. Looking through Flickr one evening, I stumbled across a photograph, not related to anything in particular, and the idea for VIDLER-Prime TargetPrime Target was born.

It suggests a refuge, a place of peace to me. I dreamed about it, thought what had to happen, what kind of people would live there. And most important to me, why they would live there.

Not far from my home is a large apple-growing area around Hendersonville, North Carolina, so I set my novel there. It made research convenient, and it’s a beautiful area, so it was fun to visit. I met some gracious apple farmers who shared some of their experiences and took time to answer my questions. We did eat a lot of apples that autumn, and I sampled many varieties I wasn’t familiar with. The apple farms always offer a slice if you want to try something different. Aside from just eating apples, we made apple pie, apple cake, apple butter, fried apples. My favorites are Mutsus and the tangy Pink Ladies, which we’re eating now.

For a novel though, I need more. I wanted a character with a contrasting life style, so Madeleine Schier, a sophisticated New Yorker, was born. A smart, knowledgeable advertising executive, she has a comfortable life with her accountant husband, no worries. Then one afternoon, her husband, in a panic, calls her to come home. She rushes to their West End condo with no idea what’s wrong, only to witness his murder. Now she’s the killer’s target. When the police are unable to protect her, she believes her only choice is to disappear.

Then came the second picture, but it wasn’t an accident. During a search for victims of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), I found a photograph of an actor made up to have shrapnel damage. He was portraying one of the crew in the movie Master and Commander. My character is badly damaged, both physically and mentally, but the tied-back black hair and general look suggested Charlie Dance, the other main character, someone quite different from Madeleine but still compatible. Even though they’d be unlikely to ever meet during normal times, the events directing their current lives put them on a collision course, which is what makes the story.

The deer with apples picture is by a photographer who uses the pseudonym Jan Tik; so many people VIDLER-Deer-72-4x6wanted to use it, he graciously put it in the public domain. is a site where people upload all kinds of photos, amateur and professional. It’s an excellent source of information and inspiration. But be warned—most are copyrighted and you can’t just snag them to use publicly. I’ve written to several photographers for permission to use a particular picture. Some people say yes, others don’t.

Thank you, Ellis. I appreciate your taking time to share your ideas about writing. As always, I’m encouraged – even inspired – to hear from a fellow writer.

Readers, if you’d like to know more about Ellis and her books, here’s a link to her website: 

Here’s a link to Prime

18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2015 8:46 AM

    Sandy, thanks so much for having me here today. I’ve been offline way too much, and this is a good way to get back on track. I’m interested to see what you have coming next. I love your mysteries.

    • March 13, 2015 10:37 AM

      The pleasure is mine, Ellis. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on inspiration – and for the good words about my mysteries.

  2. March 13, 2015 9:34 AM

    Sandra, I enjoyed Ellis’s comments about how she gets inspiration. It’s amazing to me to remember where and when an idea for a book came to me and I love to hear how other authors get their ideas. Thanks for reviving your blog.

    • March 13, 2015 10:06 AM

      Fran, I love to hear how others do it too, always hoping for a new idea. I don’t always remember, but these photos really stood out for me.

    • March 13, 2015 10:40 AM

      You just made my day, Fran. After neglecting the blog for so long, I was afraid nobody would come to my party. I, too, am always interested in learning how other writers are inspired. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. March 13, 2015 10:05 PM

    I was fortunate to have gone through Ellis’s process while she was creating Prime Target. If anyone reading this blog post hasn’t read it, do yourself a favor and purchase it. You won’t be disappointed. Great post on inspiration, Ellis.

    • March 14, 2015 6:30 AM

      Thanks, Polly. Without your encouragement and ability to keep me on track, I’d never have finished it. Now I’m waiting to see your next one!

      • March 14, 2015 7:23 AM

        This is one of the reasons I love being part of the writing community. Our common love of storytelling is an instant bond and a source of encouragement in a sometimes discouraging business. Did I just call writing a business!?!

  4. March 14, 2015 4:02 AM

    A great post, Ellis and Sandy! I often find inspiration in the people around me – the way they behave or react, which is sometimes quite incredible – and funny!

    • March 14, 2015 6:39 AM

      Yes, Beate, me too! An early morning trip to the grocery provides an entirely different set of characters than, say, the crowd who shows up after work.Or if you’re really brave, go to a Walmart sale. 🙂 Such diversity!

      • March 14, 2015 7:24 AM

        I think I just discovered the reason both of you create such memorable characters.

      • March 14, 2015 7:51 AM

        You do too, Sandy. I always think if I sat next to one of them on a park bench, I’d know immediately who it is. Now I’ll have to look for one of Beate’s and see. Fran, how about you? I know Polly’s fascinating characters and recommend them for a bit darker suspense/thrillers. This is a good group. What fun to find new people and ideas!

  5. Sydell Voeller permalink
    March 14, 2015 10:03 AM

    Ellis and Sandy, I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for making it available. I always find it intriguing to learn about what inspires fellow writers.

    • March 14, 2015 10:28 AM

      Sydell, nice of you to stop by. Sources of inspiration are always interesting to see. I get so many ideas from others, and I love to see how other writers develop characters and plot lines.

  6. March 14, 2015 10:12 AM

    Thanks for stopping by, Sydell. You’re another who writes recognizable characters, plus there’s the added bonus of the beautiful northwest setting.

  7. March 16, 2015 10:57 PM

    Ellis, it was fun to read about the inspiration behind Prime Target. That book was impossible to put down, danger at every turn. Thanks for sharing.

    • March 17, 2015 7:42 AM

      Leslie, thanks for adding your two cents. I think one of the reasons Ellis’s books are so hard to put down is that we care so much about her characters.

    • March 17, 2015 7:46 AM

      Thank you, Leslie. It’s so nice to hear that you enjoyed it. It’s hard to keep the suspense going, but we do try. 🙂

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