New year, new book. But where to start?
Do you look for a strong premise - that magical 'what if?' which sparks a dozen new questions?
Or do you create strong characters, then build a plot around them?
Some writers plan a series arc, then work on individual books like episodes in a television series. Others are inspired by a picture, a chance conversation or a particular place.
So far I've always started with newspaper stories - a child in witness protection, a teenage girl winning the lottery. I like stories which link to big themes, and I try and ease them in so the readers hardly notice.
My first book, When I Was Joe started with this story, about a small child who was the victim of a crime, the hero of the story, but ended up having to leave his home,. change his name and go into lifelong hiding. It was informed by many more, including the ordeal of teenage witness Danielle Cable who saw her fiance stabbed to death by gangster Kenneth Noye, and the inspiring story of Shelly Woods, paralympic athlete. The villain owed a lot to David Norris, son of a notorious South London gangster, and jailed - finally - this week for the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Sometimes I write things and then - eerily - find that real life comes very near to my imagination. This terrible story of an accidental death, for example, comes very near to aone of my storylines, but I heard about it after I wrote the book.
For me, the writing process is bolstered by real life - not just news stories, but also conversations with friends, children, things I overhear on buses. How does it work for you?