top of page

Top 10 Places I go for Ideas

Guest post by C J Carver

The most common question I get asked at writer’s events is “where do you get your ideas?” so I thought I’d get my top ten down on paper.  That said, it’s not an exact science!  I’m always in the middle of writing a book when I’m searching for the theme or controlling idea for the next, and the next book after that, which means my ideas folder is usually bulging with notes and clippings.  Pretty much anything can go into my subconscious soup.



  • Newspapers are my best source.  Snippets like “Australian police have launched an investigation after a man’s head was found inside a giant cod,” really got me thinking: what happened there?!


  • Science magazines.  The headline “Scientists find drug to banish bad memories” kick-started me into researching memory erasing drugs further, and this became the controlling idea for first book in the Dan Forrester series.


  • The movies.  I like to see what’s out there, what’s new, what’s popular and what’s not.  It doesn’t matter if it’s sci-fi, drama or a thriller.  It all seeps into my creative consciousness.


  • Newspaper colour supplements are stuffed with good things, from psychological advice for tortured souls to the latest drone gizmo.  Personally, I have to write about something I truly care about – my hate for human trafficking being one example, my fear of drowning another – or the story falls flat.  I need to feel passionate about my theme.


  • Books, books, books.  I read voraciously.  Again, everything goes into my subconscious creative soup.


  • Travel.  It doesn’t mean going abroad either.  Timbuktu or Torquay, both might become the place where I set my next book, or have a character from there.  I holidayed in Scotland last year and was inspired to set Know Me Now in the Highlands because of its atmosphere and plethora of great characters.


  • Friends and strangers.  I’m fascinated by people.  I listen a lot.  I ask questions a lot.  I love learning about people’s lives, their relationships.  It was talking to a woman on a train one day, about her troubled relationship with her sister that created the sisterly rivalry in Beneath the Snow.


  • Eavesdrop.  I’ve heard the most wonderful things in bus queues, café’s and bars.  For example, the couple next to me in a brasserie where the woman asked the man she was with: ‘Does your wife know about me yet?’  His response (which was a convoluted and very long story which meant ‘no’ by the way) gave me the background to my character Abby’s tormented love life in Beneath the Snow.


  • Art galleries.  My favourite place is the Portrait Gallery which is full of fantastic and inspirational paintings.  I find going to a contemporary art show immensely stimulating too, it fires up my artist’s brain and opens it up for creative thought.


  • Sometimes, coming up with the perfect name for a character or a place (especially the book title) can give me the impetus to find a story.  I like for truly random names.  I also use for creating city and town names, not just in the UK but around the globe. 


As I said, it’s not an exact science, but I find the more I get out there, talking to people, going to new places, seeing new things, the more material I have to call on for the next book.




About C J Carver


C J Carver is a half-English, half-kiwi, author living just outside Bath. She lived in Australia for ten years before taking up long-distance rally driving – she has driven London to Saigon, London to Cape Town, and completed 14,500 miles on the Inca Trail.

Since then she has written nine critically acclaimed novels that have been published in the UK, USA and translated into several languages.  CJ’s first novel Blood Junction won the CWA Debut Dagger and was short listed for the USA Barry Award for Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year.  Spare Me the Truth, the first in the Forrester and Davies series, was shortlisted for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Best Crime Novel Award.



bottom of page