Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The big idea: bestselling authors reveal the creative secrets and inspirations behind their greatest books

Where do the world's most prized writers get their ideas from?

One of the 20th Century's greatest literary voices, Harper Lee, has dismissed the idea of a light-bulb moment of creativity. "Naturally, you don't sit down in 'white hot inspiration' and write with a burning flame in front of you," she remarked, in a rare interview in 1964

But some authors can indeed pinpoint the exact moment when they were struck by a particular idea or character that formed that first, magical grain of a bestselling novel. 

Quite often, this spark came from something fairly incidental or random. A passing joke made by his wife was all the fuel Kazuo Ishiguro needed to create The Remains Of The Day and JK Rowling was on a boring commute home when thunder of a Harry Potter variety struck, out of nowhere. 

For artist turned novelist Audrey Niffenegger, a series of images led to what would eventually become The Time Traveler's Wife, while a vivid dream inspired Stephenie Meyer to pen her smash hit Twilight series. Khaled Hosseini came up with the idea for The Kite Runner after watching a news report on TV and Margaret Atwood was moved to write The Handmaid's Tale in wake of a lively debate over dinner with a friend. Other authors, such as The Book Thief's Markus Zusak, struggled over their work for years before a sudden flash of inspiration reaped success (in his case, death being the narrator of the story). 

So for all you wannabe writers out there, here's how and why celebrated library names got their ideas, from family stories to dreams, images and chance meetings - remember, inspiration could strike at any time...

Images: Getty Images and Rex Features

Related

nyc.jpg

Stylish tiny apartments to inspire city dwellers

3430805.jpg

The original Gone Girl? Agatha Christie's mysterious disappearance

rexfeatures_390875ll.jpg

The good luck rituals and superstitions of the rich and famous

Comments

More

UK publisher launches new imprint to address diversity in books

Fewer than 100 books written by non-white British authors were published last year

by Sarah Biddlecombe
16 May 2017

Emily Browning slams Twilight series as “emotionally abusive”

Aussie actor was Stephenie Meyer’s first pick to play Bella

by Joe Ellison
16 May 2017

Here’s how you can (legally) watch The Handmaid’s Tale in the UK

We finally have the answer

by Kayleigh Dray
16 May 2017

These are the books you need to read, according to female TED speakers

12 inspirational tomes to add to your reading list

by Sarah Biddlecombe
15 May 2017

Two brilliant word-of-mouth books to pop on your summer reading list

Load up your Kindle, pronto

by Anna Brech
10 May 2017

Book lovers, this is what your reading habits say about you

Good news for drama and romance fans

by Sarah Biddlecombe
09 May 2017

A second series of The Handmaid’s Tale has been confirmed

“It will be an interesting challenge, since I myself have never known what happened to Offred”

by Amy Swales
04 May 2017

Book-lovers, this intriguing new site will broaden your horizons

Lounge Books features "people-powered" recommendations

by Anna Brech
01 May 2017

How to turn your recipe collection into a bestselling book

You don’t have to be a qualified chef or TV star to clinch a cookbook deal in 2017

by Gemma Crisp
01 May 2017

Ruby Tandoh on how to support a friend with a mental health problem

You are not alone.

by Sarah Biddlecombe
28 Apr 2017