Anything and everything can inspire Trisha Ashley to find characters and plot ideas for her next novel.
I’m often asked where I get my inspiration from and I can’t always resist the temptation to give the flip reply ‘I steal it from the internet’. It’s amazing how many people believe me.
But of course, inspiration has to come from within you, and luckily I have the sort of mind that treasures up nuggets of weird, wonderful and interesting stuff and forgets all the useful things, like where I put the ham and why the TV remote control is in the freezer.
The great thing about being a writer is that all of life’s experiences can be composted down to grow new material, so nothing need go to waste and I thought I’d give you a couple of examples of how I’ve played the ‘what if?’ game with something that has happened to me, jumping off in a different direction: this is great fun.
Let’s look at my novel Chocolate Wishes: many years ago I bought a metal Easter egg mould at a jumble sale and made chocolate eggs with messages inside from the Easter Bunny for my small son to find. Fast forward a few years and I’m eating a fortune cookie when it occurs to me that if they were made of chocolate, you’d have the inspiring message and something really yummy to eat. So I had my heroine, Chloe, do this and her Chocolate Wishes business was born.
Or take Josie, the heroine of Wedding Tiers, who just like me enjoys making weird and wonderful cakes (I knew spending four years at Art College would come in useful for something,) and spots a gap in the local wedding cake market. I made the Elizabethan pomander cake mentioned in the novel for my book launch and you can see a photograph of it by clicking on the Wedding Tiers cover icon on the home page of my website. I had to bake the cake in a giant round Christmas pudding mould, then I covered it with marzipan and icing and stuck on hundreds of little icing roses. It took me days to make, and about ten minutes to be eaten up, apart from a few crumbs and several icing roses.
Then there was the day when I was thinking about how brave my mother was, opening a shoe shop just after the war and building it up from nothing, and how sometimes I would go with her to the shoe warehouses in Manchester in the school holidays – and suddenly the title ‘Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues’ popped into my head, along with the character of Great Aunt Nan and a vision of Bright’s shoe-shop in Sticklepond.
Sowing Secrets is all about old rose varieties – a real war of the roses – and the hardback was called The Generous Gardener, the name of a rose. I was actually standing on the terrace in the lovely Bodnant Garden in North Wales right in front of a Generous Gardener rose when the whole thing popped into my mind. In fact, at the time I was working every Sunday in the little wooden entrance hut at Bodnant, selling tickets and guidebooks and it was just after Troy Scott Smith had taken over as head gardener and was transforming and revitalising the gardens, so it was all very inspiring.
My latest book, Good Husband Material, is actually a fresh new edition of my very first romantic comedy and the origins go back even further. When I first began writing adult novels they were satirical ones, so this started out as an exploration of the effect moving to the country could have on a marriage. I was doing the Earth-mother, Good Life thing in the middle of a town (Bedford) when I wrote the first draft, growing herbs and fruit, making sloe gin, jam, pickles … baking my own wholemeal bread. I dreamed of living in the country and then started speculating about what effect such a move would have on a couple who appeared to be a perfect match on the surface, but underneath really wanted very different things. Then my agent Judith Murdoch took me on and I rewrote it as romantic comedy … but that’s another story!
Trisha’s brand new novel, Wish Upon a Star, will be published by Avon HarperCollins on October 10.