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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

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