Jen Gilroy talks about her writing process and where she gets the inspiration for her books.

One of the questions I’m most often asked about my writing process is where my book ideas come from. It’s a good question and indeed, before I was published, it was always top-of-mind for me as a reader.

What was the genesis of the stories that had given me so much reading pleasure? How did authors — then to me mysterious creatures — come up with ideas for their novels? Was there a secret recipe for literary inspiration?

As I’ve learned over the years, every author’s process — and sources of inspiration — are different. But as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve discovered certain tried and true ways that help me stoke the creative fire.

Here are my top three.

Keep an open mind…and an ideas file

By keeping an open mind and asking, “what if?” magazine and newspaper articles often spark story ideas for me.

The heroine of my first book, The Cottage at Firefly Lake (January 2017), is a foreign correspondent, and the germ of that story came from reading a newspaper article about women journalists in war zones and wondering what women who succeeded in that field might have had to sacrifice to achieve professional acclaim.

When an article, or even an advertisement sparks my interest, I cut it out (or print it if from an online source) and tuck it into a bulky green file folder I call my “ideas file.”

To write a new book proposal, I go to that folder first and spend a happy few hours pulling out material and letting ideas percolate.

As well as story inspiration, and since I’m a visual person, I find ideas for characters in that file too. Once I’ve settled on an idea and begin to plot, I usually create a storyboard for the book (or series) to serve as a visual guide while I’m writing.

Eavesdrop … and observe

If you grew up in a family like mine, you undoubtedly learned that it was rude to listen in on other peoples’ conversations. As a writer, though, somewhat different rules apply!

Although I’d never eavesdrop on a private discussion, when someone is speaking loudly on a cell phone in a public place, it’s hard not to hear them!

And since I write contemporary romantic women’s fiction, it is from those everyday conversations — on public transport, and in shops, restaurants and other public places — that I glean both story nuggets and hone my appreciation for realistic dialogue.

I carry a small notebook in my bag and, along with my ideas file, it holds brief jottings I’ve adapted for scene snippets and more.

I write about ordinary people, and although I don’t put real people in my books, to make characters recognizable and relatable to readers, there is no better inspiration than listening to and observing the rhythms of everyday life.

Take a shower … or a walk

At times when I’m really stuck, I take a shower or go for a walk and it’s then, when I’m away from my desk, that literary inspiration can strike.

If I let my mind drift, previously unrelated ideas often coalesce into one of those magical “aha!” moments.

And whether it’s because the shower is a quiet space away from my family and other distractions, or there’s something about running water, but I’ve had many of my most workable book ideas inside that tiled cubicle!

From idea, to page, to novel

Although it might not always seem so, literary inspiration is everywhere. And from those small, almost happenstance ideas, ultimately come stories with fully developed characters, believable and emotionally rich plots, and twists to keep readers turning pages.

Although, alas, there’s no secret recipe for literary inspiration, it’s magical nevertheless, and I’m lucky to live that magic every day.


Jen is offering one lucky Grand Prize winner a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a paperback copy of Back Home at Firefly Lake.
Five runner-ups will receive a paperback copy of their choice from the Firefly Lake series.
This giveaway is open internationally. Enter here.

She has a million reasons to leave. Can he give her the one she needs to stay?

Cat McGuire’s return to Firefly Lake is turning into much more than she bargained for. Sure, she missed the crisp pine-scented air and the comfort of having her family around her. But being home makes her feel less like the successful single mom she is – and more like the awkward teen who never fit in. It doesn’t help that hockey-pro Luc Simard is back in town, too. Luc was her childhood crush, the hometown hero who never noticed her, and yet somehow he still makes her heart skip a beat.

Luc’s homecoming has been bittersweet. He’s lost his wife and his career, but there’s no better place to start over than Firefly Lake. Coaching the local kids’ hockey team makes him feel alive again, and he thinks his life is complete – until Cat arrives. The shy girl he always wanted to protect is now the gorgeous woman who’s stealing his heart and making him believe in second chances. But how can he convince Cat that Firefly Lake is where she truly belongs?

Jen Gilroy lives in a small town in eastern Ontario, Canada where her Irish ancestors settled in the nineteenth century. She’s worked in higher education and international marketing but, after spending too much time in airports and away from her family, traded the 9-5 to write romantic women’s fiction to bring readers’ hearts home. Jen likes ice cream, diners, vintage style and all things country. Her husband is her real-life romance hero, and her teen daughter teaches her to cherish the blessings in the everyday. The Cottage at Firefly Lake, the first book in her Firefly Lake series, was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® award in 2015. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award 2017.

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