Rachel McLean

– Thrillers That Make You Think

Inspiration for my #novelinaweek – Where Do The Ideas Come From?

Something people often ask me when I tell them about all the stories swirling around inside my head is, “Where do you get your ideas from?”

The quick answer is ‘from my imagination’.

But that isn’t good enough, is it? Whenever I tell someone ‘I just made it up’, I’m always reminded of that scene in Working Girl where Melanie Griffith accosts the potential client in the elevator and tells him how she came up with the idea for him to invest in radio (how antediluvian). He then steps out of the elevator to find Sigourney Weaver (who thinks she’s beaten our heroine) outside. When he asks her how she came up with the idea that she is passing off as her own, she has no answer.

And that’s me. Sigourney Weaver, when I should be Melanie Griffith (well, normally I’d rather be Sigourney Weaver, but then Melanie Griffith does get to snog Harrison Ford so…)

So this post is me attempting to be Melanie Griffith. If you’ve never seen Working Girl and have no idea what I’m on about, I apologise. And I urge you to watch it – it’s very good.

There are two aspects of inspiration for a novel: one is the ‘what if?’ wanderings that take place in my head most of the time, and the other is books I’ve read and films I’ve seen.

With this series the thought process was something like this:

  1. I want to write a series, with a strong but sometimes disaster-prone protagonist. Something lighter than my other novels.
  2. I want this character to be able to travel to different places and/or times (at first this was going to be a time travel series).
  3. I know very little about History, so time travel is out.
  4. If I write about parallel universes, I can come up with my own imaginary worlds which are twisted versions of the real world we live in.
  5. Why would this character need to travel to parallel worlds? Maybe she’s an amateur detective.
  6. Hmm, I’m not much into Cosy Mystery (a whole genre featuring people like Miss Marple), so I think she should be a policewoman.
  7. Why would the police travel to alternate realities to solve crimes?
  8. Bingo!

At least, I think that was it.

Once I’d gone through that process, I started researching. What other books were out there that explored these sorts of ideas? What nonfiction could I read that would help me with some of the science?

And here’s my list of books that inspired me, nudged me in the direction the series is going, and were also damn fun to read:

  • Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Terry Pratchett is a genius, imho. So when I discovered he’d co-authored a series that hops between parallel universes, I had to start reading.
  • Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor. I love this book. It features St Mary’s, a team of historians who travel to the past to investigate History in real time. It’s a page turning, mad adventure. With lots of sequels – brilliant.
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. When he started writing, Aaronovitch says that he said to himself, “I like Crime, and I like Fantasy, so why not combine the two?’ This is the result, with a generous dollop of absurdity thrown in.
  • Empire Games by Charles Stross. This is darker than the others, but still a world-hopping thriller with some dystopian elements for good measure.
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I was already reading this when working on the ideas for Alex Strand. It’s another dark one, about a man who wakes up in an unfamiliar version of reality. It describes itself as ‘twisted’, which I can get behind.
  • Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. Here’s the hard science. I read it all the way through, understood about half of it, and found some nuggets that I can use to describe the reality-hopping technology in the books. Of course we can’t really travel to parallel worlds, but there’s no harm in imagining.

So those are some of the books I’ve been reading (or rereading) for inspiration. Try them out while you wait for the Multiverse Investigations books to be published!


If you want to follow my #novelinaweek progress, here are some links:

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