Where Ideas Come From

Guest Blogger: Alafair Burke

My new book, LONG GONE, comes out today. I mention that not to plug my work (okay, it was totally a plug), but to explain why I’ve been thinking lately about where ideas come from. I finished writing LONG GONE nearly a year ago. For the last several months, my head has been in an entirely different story as I work to finish the next year’s book. But now that it’s book launch time, I need to bring myself back into the world I created in LONG GONE.

As I re-read my own book for the first time in months, I remembered not only the story on the page, but also the story of my own life as I wrote those words. I remembered where I was in the west village when the idea for LONG GONE first came to me. It was early 2009, when each cold day seemed to bring a new wave of unannounced and abrupt business closures. The familiar diner there on Monday would be replaced by an empty storefront on Tuesday. As I past all those papered-over windows, I found myself thinking about the employees who had suddenly lost their jobs. I wondered what it would be like to show up at work one morning to find your entire professional life… gone. From that kernel of an idea emerged Alice Humphrey, a woman who thinks she has landed her dream job managing an art gallery until one morning she shows up to find the business gone – stripped bare as if it had never existed, vacant except for the dead body of the well suited corporate representative who hired her.

I realize that it wasn’t only Alice Humphrey’s dilemma that had come to me during one of those morning neighborhood strolls. The setting of the novel is almost entirely in the Meatpacking District and some surrounding downtown neighborhoods.  Its modern but gritty tone is epitomized by the design of New York’s new Highline Park running east of the Hudson.

Alice dines from the food trucks lining Manhattan’s streets these days, stopping for a snack at the Wafels & Dinges truck.

When she’s in peril, she finds comfort in the anonymity that can be found on midtown’s crowded sidewalks.

Sometimes I feel guilty about the amount of time I spend walking around the city when I should be at my desk working. But looking back in hindsight at LONG GONE, I realize I was being a writer as I logged all those city miles.

Alafair Burke is the bestselling author of seven novels, including 212, ANGEL’S TIP, andDEAD CONNECTION in the Ellie Hatcher series. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan. LONG GONE is her first stand-alone thriller.

One Comment:

  1. Excellent, this is further rationalization for the way I approach my work as the facilities director at a great residential liberal arts college in the midwest. Whenever a friend and I are caught strolling campus or our natural lands surrounding it we are quick to explain that we are out “doing the work of the college”. Strangely, people buy it. Of course they are wandering around too!

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