Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WRITER'S WEDNESDAY: Heidi Rice on why inspiration is everywhere... But it isn't everything.

M&B Riva and Harlequin Presents Extra author Heidi Rice waxes lyrical about where inspiration comes from, why it isn't the most important thing in a story and her glamorous weekend in Barcelona and fiendishly finds a way to connect them! Make a comment and there's a copy of her latest book up for grabs.

Okay, I'll admit it.... What I really wanted to do was a very smug post about my fabulous trip to Barcelona last weekend, so I could make everyone jealous (and use the photos I'd taken). But this is a Writer's Wednesday slot so I had to make it relevant to my writing life somehow. And then funnily enough, while I was actually in Barcelona two incidents happened which gave me a great angle for this post and confirmed something I've always believed:

That inspiration for writers is everywhere... 

Doh! I know most of you (especially the writers who read this blog) are probably thinking, no kidding Sherlock. Isn't that obvious? But funnily enough it isn't to a lot of people. How many times do we all get asked at writing workshops or from readers emails the old question 'where do your ideas come from?'. Every time I get that question, I always give my standard answer - everywhere - and the attendees sometimes give me this dumbfounded, slightly annoyed look, as if to say 'Well that's a big help. Ta very much, mate!'

Because another big myth about writing is it's the brilliant idea, the unique inspiration for a story, that is the most important thing. And therefore if you ask a writer where their ideas come from, they're not going to tell you, because they don't want you to steal their brilliant idea, or their unique inspiration. When in reality of course, every writer knows, it's not the idea, the hook, the inspiration behind a story, whatever you want to call it, that really matters — it's what you do with it.

To misquote a certain great Kevin Costner movie: You have to build it before they will come.

So to Barcelona... When I planned this girls weekend away with my best mate, I had the vague idea that I might use it for a story location. I'd never been to Barca before, but I'd heard it was a vibrant, captivating city which brilliantly combined modern urban chic with old-world Catalan charm. Which sounded perfect for Riva. Plus it's Spanish. And I'd never done a Spanish hero before.

Of course, once I got there, I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous insanity of the place: those lavishly sculpted fountains plonked in the middle of traffic-choked roundabouts; the labyrinth of alleyways accented with wrought-iron balconies and tiny squares where you can drink rioja and eat tapas into the night; Gaudi's gloriously deranged buildings springing out like wild flowers next to the geometric grace of 14th century churches; and the occasional edgy graffiti masterpiece spray-painted over ornate medieval grandeur. But while Barcelona looks amazing, what really makes any city is the people.

And it was those two key people moments I mentioned earlier that got me thinking about possible story ideas and characters. 

The first came on the first afternoon we were there. It was sunny and surprisingly hot for March and the chic hotel we were staying in had a rooftop pool. So of course, being two mad British women, we just had to go for a swim. Anyway, while we were busy getting hypothermia, I noticed a handsome young Spanish guy in a business suit talking into his mobile phone on a nearby roof terrace. But as we actually started swimming he put down his phone and stared. Now, I couldn't see his expression, but I could tell, by his body language that he was obviously thinking 'What a couple of loonies!' So of course we had to wave at him. He waved back... But tentatively enough that I'm sure he was still convinced we were nutjobs. Then I started thinking, what if he were my hero? And the heroine was a svelte, beautiful British tourist getting wet in a freezing cold pool and cheekily waved at him? Suddenly the possibilities were endless..

The other incident wasn't quite so much fun. Barcelona is a haven for pickpockets (probably because all those alleyways make for an easy getaway if you're fit). And on our second day we were out sight-seeing when a guy ran past at breakneck speed with a heavy rucksack in his hand. Two seconds later we heard the high-pitched cries of a young woman in hot pursuit. As she charged after him my first thought was 'Jeeze she's brave and determined.' And then my next was 'But what happens when she catches up with him?'... And again the story process kicked in. What if my hero were to intervene, but then give the heroine a stern talking to about personal safety? Maybe he knew more about pickpockets than he should, because he'd once been one himself? And why was my heroine so desperate to get her bag back?

So there you have it. Where I get my ideas from. Why inspiration is everywhere (especially in beautiful Barcelona). But also why it's really the story you build from that spark of inspiration that counts.

So I want to hear what has inspired you recently? And why? And I've got a copy of my new Riva Cupcakes and Killer Heels to give away to one lucky commentator.

Heidi's new UK Riva, Cupcakes and Killer Heels, is about to hit the M&B site in April and will be on shelves in May. Her latest Presents Extra, Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger, is also out in April in the US. Come talk to her on her blog, on Facebook, through her website or on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice)... Because she loves to natter, and she's a social media junkie.


  1. Great post Heidi! Very jealous of your fantastic weekend in Barcelona. I went on a school trip far too long ago. And I can just imagine you taking those ideas now and writing up a storm. Trust you to wave to some guy on another roof. sheesh. can't take you anywhere!
    x Abby

  2. Yes, and of course I had to wave to him in my swimsuit... Slappers unite, I say!

  3. What an amazing post! Thanks for sharing, Heidi.

    Already read and rated on Goodreads, Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger.

    Would love to read Cupcakes and Killer Heels!

  4. Cheers for the great rating on Goodreads Nas, have had mixed blessings on that site, some readers love the books, others extremely scathing. Ouch!! Still always better to get a reaction than none at all, right!

  5. Is it wrong of me to say that I'm getting my inspiration from ice hockey players at the minute? Hear me out - it's not just about the hot bodies and the high level of testosterone at the games (though that may be part of the overall attraction). But to have an ice hockey team in Belfast was totally unheard of ten years ago and now we have streams of Canadian and American guys living and playing here. A lot of the players have settled here, marrying local girls and having families, and I think there is many a romance being played out off the ice that I can easily take inspiration from :)

  6. Wow, you had a great time in Barcelona. I don't have (major) problems with ideas floating into my brain, but they usually float out again before I can do anything with them!

  7. OMG Angel, that is sooo a story I want to read, complete with sweaty muscles and testosterone! And the Belfast angle is brilliant. Have you read Rachel Gibson's Seattle ice hockey books? Don't know a darn thing about the sport but boy did those books turn me on to the guys that play it in a big way.

    Ha, Pageturner, I'd say get yourself a notebook, but I'm so utterly crap at jotting these ideas down myself... Which is why I have to blog about them!

  8. I have read one or two Rachel Gibson books, Heidi ;) And whaddaya know my sis has given me a free ticket for the Belfast Giant's match tonight. Woohoo! My husband wants it but I'm claiming it as research lol

  9. Fab post Heidi - and I love seeing how your talented brain ticks!! Thanks for sharing and I hope you write this pickpocket past hero!

  10. Yeah Rach, I kind of like the pickpocket hero myself... Am also thinking maybe I can combine the two ideas. That my hero first spots my heroine in that rooftop pool, and then jumps in to save her from the pickpocket. Am thinking it could set up all sorts of interesting sparks when she's not too pleased about him having a go about her reckless behaviour. Especially when she starts to suspect that he's a bad boy in designer clothing and he's equally as reckless as she is.... Oooh, Yum! I definitely feel a new story coming on.

  11. I am sitting here munching my cheese toasty and am really quite jealous about your trip to Barcelona. And yeah I reckon you do indeed have a story brewing. :-D

    Inspiration is never my problem, putting it down on paper is another matter entirely though my current Italian hero has the annoying habit of not letting me sleep, until I do. Can't blame him really, last time I left the poor man in a very angsty place and he had to work out his frustration shall we say ;-)
    Anyhow, would love a copy of the new book of course.

  12. Wow your pictures are stunning thank you for sharing them with us Heidi !!

    My recent inspiration came from a book by Anne Mather called Jack Riordain's Baby , it inspired me to encourage a very dear friend of mine not to give up on a relationship (she and the guy have been together for 6 years) and they hit a really rough patch !

    But after reading the book it got me thinking that I need to remind them that there are far worse situations that can happen and they need to try overcome their current situation.

    Thanks for giving us the change to win your book !

    Take Care

  13. The moment I read Barcelona, I was wondering if you would base a story there.. I'm sure looking forward to that one; if that example of an introduction of the hero & heroine is some indication of what would be coming up!! :D & Spanish Heroes are a fav too!
    Wish you more such inspiring trips! :)

  14. Doris, love the thought of you sitting there with your cheese toastie and your Spanish hero leaning over you demanding to be noticed.. Have a feeling Spanish men are a bit hard to ignore!

    Ah Desere, well done you. See I've always felt a good romance novel has so many positive things to say about relationships.

    And Biraj, am now thinking this may well be my next story after the one I've just started... As usual thought am now more excited about this one than the one I'm working on. So much inspiration, so little time to write it!

  15. Thanks Heidi and I could not agree with you more !

  16. WOW!! Heidi - you have to write that story!

    Inspiration for me hits everywhere... it is all about seeing something and thinking 'what if'.


  17. Your weekend away sounds totally lush :) especially as a weekend away in Spain is a little difficult for us Aussies....way to far away *sigh*

    You waving to the hot guy sounds like a fantastic idea for your next book and I'm sure it'll be fantastic :)

  18. I think that business guy had you sussed if he thought you were a nutjob swimming in an outdoor pool in March ;)

    Loved the post Heidi.

    I'm currently getting some inspiration from a barrister me and some of the girls are lusting over (don't tell our husbands!) Sadly when he takes his wig off he is balding on the top of his head, such a shame!

  19. My thoughts exactly Biddy, it's really the 'what if' that counts!

    Oh Joanne, you're so nice to say that... I guess weekends away to another country aren't that easy in Oz.

    And Gems, what a shame your sexy barrister isn't as sexy as he ought to be (you are definitely going to have to read Cupcakes and Killer Heels, cos my hero's a barrister!)

    Okay folks will post the name of the winner tomorrow morning on this comments thread, in case any more comments come in tonight. Off to bed now myself to dream about sexy Spanish guys on rooftops!

  20. Okay so the winner, picked at random from all the commentators, is... Angel Karina (and her inspiring comment on ice hockey jocks in Belfast!).

    Just email me your addy at and I'll stick a copy of Cupcakes in the post.

    If you didn't win there's still a chance to enter the competition on my blog at if you haven't already, so don't despair!

  21. Woohoo! Thanks Heidi, I'm so chuffed :D and really looking forward to reading this.