Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Guest Blogger: Gregg Hurwitz

The most dreaded question for authors. Because the truth is…we don’t really know ourselves. I suppose it’s like asking anyone where they get their ideas. We mostly have no clue, right? They just sort of show up in our heads. So the where is impossible, methinks, and even the when can be tricky. For me, the storylines for my books are so much a part of how I live and think that it’s very hard to separate out the precise moment when an idea hits.

So it’s exceedingly pleasant on the rare occasion when I can pinpoint the instant when the first notion for a book springs into existence. For YOU’RE NEXT, my latest, I actually can. I remember exactly the night when I was lying there sleepless in the usual insomniatic stew of thoughts, staring at the ceiling. And a scene started to gnaw at me and wouldn’t let go.

A four-year-old boy is dropped off by his father at an unfamiliar playground and told to go play. Climbing out of the station wagon, he notices a single drop of blood on the cuff of his father’s sleeve. But whose?

As morning turns to afternoon, the boy realizes that he has been abandoned. And the notion of that reality dawning on that kid—well, it just wouldn’t let me go to sleep. So I got up and started to write more about that boy, probably in an attempt to redeem him and see what the future might hold for him. Growing up in foster homes, Mike Wingate never learns why he was left. But by the time we hit the second chapter, we know that he’s finally achieved the life he’s always dreamed about. He has a wife he loves. A terrific daughter.

And then.

The most dangerous two words in crime fiction.

Mysterious figures emerge who seem to know about Mike’s past—the past he doesn’t even know about—and he is forced to protect his family at any cost. When he runs out of options, he must reach back into the violence of his rough upbringing. He calls in an old friend from the foster home, Shep, who brings his criminal smarts and muscle to bear. As Mike is dragged into this nightmare, he realizes that he’ll have to face down not just this present danger, but the secret terrors of his childhood, the ones that led him to be abandoned all those years ago. He’s about to learn that the past isn’t dead. It’s just waiting.

My books tend to come from some central fear that creeps into my chest and forces primal questions to the fore. What lengths would I go to to make sure my daughter was safe? What would I do to protect the woman I love?

YOU’RE NEXT is the most emotional book I’ve written, I think because it’s the first book I’ve attacked fully from the perspective of a parent. What do you find are the most emotional topics to read about or write? What are the themes that put a hook in your stomach?

Gregg Hurwitz is the critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling author of 11 thrillers, most recently, You’re Next. His books have been nominated for numerous awards, shortlisted for best novel of the year by International Thriller Writers, nominated for CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, chosen as feature selections for all four major literary book clubs, honored as Book Sense Picks, and translated into twenty languages.

Currently a consulting producer on ABC’s “V,” he has written screenplays for or sold spec scripts to Warner Bros., Paramount, MGM, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and ESPN, developed TV series for Warner Bros. and Lakeshore, written Wolverine, Punisher, and others for Marvel, and published numerous academic articles on Shakespeare. He has taught fiction writing in the USC English Department, and guest lectured for UCLA, and for Harvard in the United States and around the world. In the course of researching his thrillers, he has sneaked onto demolition ranges with Navy SEALs, swam with sharks in the Galápagos, and gone undercover into mind-control cults.

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