Thursday, 15 December 2011

Article: Inspiration by Lily Harlem

Someone asked me a while ago where I got my inspiration from and I found it hard to give an exact answer. There are so many parts of my life that can start a story off as a seed – a seed which then grows into a full-length novel.

I find it easy to recall my inspiration for some books. For example, Shared, my debut novel at Ellora’s Cave, came about from flicking through the local newspaper. For some reason, and it wasn’t because I needed a place to live, I glanced through the letting section. I came across an advert – Room to Let - Wanted girl to share. Well, me being me, with my dirty mind, I thought, what if that is literal, what if, two hunky guys actually do want a girl to share? And that was all it took. The story grew from there, beginning with creating a situation where a girl, Ariane, would find herself homeless in Cardiff and on the guys’ doorstep, and then working out the reasons why these two hot, successful men needed to share a woman, why they couldn’t have one of their own? So for that novel, that was all it took – a line in a newspaper. I wonder what the person/people who placed that advert would think if they knew it had inspired such a racy ménage story, with a sequel?!

More recently Total-E-Bound asked me to write for their new Bollywood series. It worked out very well because when the email came through I actually was in Asia. However, since I was having some quality time with the delectable Mr. Harlem (who by the way is a constant source of inspiration!) I didn’t start writing until I returned home. I had an idea about a girl who secretly wrote a BDSM column for a guy’s magazine—I say secretly because she lives in Mumbai and this would not have been at all acceptable to her family. The story grew but it wouldn’t have become nearly as vibrant if I hadn’t been to the Far East and experienced the colours, sights and smells for myself. Been immersed in the culture, albeit for a short time, and brought those memories back with me. The Unwholesome Adventures of Harita is out at Total-E-Bound.

My latest release at Ellora’s Cave is titled Cold Nights, Hot Bodies. I started writing this book last winter. There had been several weeks of snow and as I live in a very rural part of the UK getting out and about had been incredibly difficult. Luckily I had a full freezer, well-stocked wine rack and a whole pile of logs to burn. It was the heroine, Ashley, who came to me first for this book. I imagined her as quiet, mouse-like, but with a secret, sexy side that longed to surface. In the meantime she was losing herself in erotic romance novels, lusting after the heroes and admiring the heroines. I actually started writing this with a very loose idea of the plot, but as soon as Shane came along it all cemented into place. But the descriptions of the hotel the couple get snowed into and the surrounding countryside, the lovely fires and Christmas trees, the food and drink, that all came from what I was doing at the time, so that was easy to imagine and in turn write—though it does bode the question: What kind of love affair would Ashley have had if she’d come to me in the middle of the summer? I am sure the book would have been quite different, all bikinis and picnics, jaunts to the beach. Shane may even have been a surfer! Yum!

So I guess in summary, and I won’t subject you to the inspiration behind all my books, ideas for me, that very first spark, light-bulb moment, comes from a variety of places. I can’t force an idea to arrive, and it would be easy to panic and scream ‘writers’ block’ when one book is finished and the next is waiting to happen, but I know that either from a newspaper, a picture, a song, a day dream, or just a day-to-day life experience will be all it takes. Something simple, usually, but with a whole lot of potential, and I am off, typing away, ignoring the housework, racing through life until I can get back to my characters and get their stories down.

Thanks so much for letting me natter on today and I hope your readers found my thoughts interesting. And if anyone wants to share where their inspiration comes from, I would love to hear it.

Lily Harlem x

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