Every novel is created in a unique way. Even when an author approaches a new novel in the same way -- plots extensively, plots loosely or doesn't plot at all -- that actual art of creation is different. It has to be. Each novel is itself different from any other one. Or it should be. If an author is simply repeating the same novel over and over, then perhaps it's time for that person to retire.

But where does a novel come from? What well do ideas spring from and how do you keep that well fresh and full of new ideas? It's like an artesian well. When the pressure builds up some of what's in there (ideas or water) has to be released. And the water is always replenished and kept fresh by a constant influx of new water.

I never know when an idea will hit me. They often come out of left field. My latest work in progress came about from watching a History Channel show on their series called Underworld Cities. I turned it on because the blurb said it was about the Manson Family, which I have a deep fascination with. But instead of being about the Mansons, the show was more about how underground tunnels were common all over Los Angeles in the first part of the 20th century. At one point L.A. had a world class subway/train system, which was essentially shut down by a conglomerate of Goodyear, California Oil and other concerns who bought up the lines and dismantled them over the years, encouraging Angelenos to use cars over public transportation. But what intrigued me was that in the Prohibition years some of these tunnels became speakeasies. And in Los Angeles the criminal underworld was not run by organized gangsters like the east coast was. Instead it was the LAPD and the mayor's office that ran the gambling, bootleggers and brothels in Los Angeles.

That made such a powerful impact on me I immediately started looking into it more. And the more I studied L.A. in the 1920s, the more I saw millions of story potential. My mind started whirling and I began researching in earnest. I picked up a few books on the subject of L.A. in that time period and started inundating myself in 1920s culture. I'll confess when I become involved in a project I tend to go overboard in immersing myself in it. This was my first historical novel and I wanted to know all the minutiae of the day. Not only what cars they drove, but what they wore, down to their underwear, what songs they listened to, what they ate and where. What kind of makeup did women wear, what kind of cigarettes did they smoke. When I started writing I found a radio station that played 1920s music and would play it while I wrote, to enhance the mood.

I don't know if other historical authors go to these lengths, but I find the experience exciting. I'm learning so much and in the process expanding my boundaries into unknown territory. Who knows what's next. I don't, but I'm eager to find out.


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