Finding the Inspiration for On Bone Bridge by Maria Hoey
Around about eighteen months ago, I found myself seized by something close to panic. I had just finished final edits on my debut novel, The Last Lost Girl and I was enjoying what I considered a well-earned sense of relief, accomplishment even. I felt entitled to take a breath and enjoy some time off while I waited for publication day and all that entailed. And then someone smilingly asked me what my next book was going to about, and my sense of satisfaction burst like a soap bubble that has landed on a particularly large and nasty thorn.
It was not that I had forgotten that I had signed a three-book deal with my publisher, how could I? Signing that contract had been the most gratifying thing I had ever done – being a published writer has been my dream for as long as I can remember. It was simply that the full implications of having done so had not quite sunk in. I was still working full-time in my day job and every spare minute I had outside of that was taken up with making book one the very best it could be. So while I was pleasurably aware that I was contracted for two more books, the realisation that I had actually to write those two books had just not fully struck me. And when, as a result of that innocent question, realisation finally did strike home, so too did the panic. Because the truth was, I had absolutely no idea what my next book was about.
I managed to calm myself, I had after all done it once and I could, I assured myself, do it again. But as it turned it, it was not quite as simple as that. The thing is, although all books begin life as an idea, all ideas are not equal. Take my debut novel, The Last Lost Girl, for instance. It is very much a character-driven novel and was from its inception. The idea for it did not come to me fully formed – in fact it sometimes seems to me that that it did not begin life as an idea at all. If anything it was more of a mood or a compulsion. It may seem fanciful, but looking back, it was almost as though I became haunted by a character I had not yet written into existence – all I really knew about her was that she was lost and that her name was Lilly and that for some inescapable reason, it was my job to write her story. And that was what I did.
But when it came time to sit down and begin work on book two, there was no ghostly Lilly Brennan waiting in the wings for me to channel. This time I was on my own and I had to look about me in order to harness ideas around which I could weave my newest tale. So where was I to find my central idea, that seed, that kernel from which my book would eventually grow?
From time to time, I come across an article on this very subject – how writers get their ideas. I know that some use their own or others’ dreams as a source of creativity. Personally, I always have an almost uncontrollable desire to yawn when someone begins a sentence with, “I had a weird dream last night. There was this…”
As for my own dreams, I have never yet had an idea for a poem or a story from them, even though I actually have extremely vivid and often emotionally-draining, almost exhausting dreams on a regular basis. Then there are those who find their ideas from items in the news, whether on TV or in the papers or in these times, from the internet. All perfectly feasible sources, but for me, on this occasion there was nothing doing and time was passing.
Then I thought about something Neil Gaiman said on this very topic:
“You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?”
That line spoke to me, it excited me. And so I began to ask that question, What if…?
I asked it in every area of my life. At home, at work, on the train, as I lay in bed at night, when I heard a knock at the door, when an unknown number showed up on my phone. What if, I asked myself, “What if?”
And one day, as I was walking across a bridge which spanned a river, I saw a woman with a toddler. She had taken him from his buggy and sat him on the parapet of the bridge. She was holding him tightly, but even so, the little boy was wriggling and waving his arms excitedly and I found myself thinking, What if? What if she loosened her grip just for one second and…”
And there I had it, the inspiration, the central idea for my second book, On Bone Bridge!
Of course the bad news is, that the initial idea is actually the easy part, because the idea is only the genesis. Around it a writer must build their plot, their sub-plot and their themes. And then they must people it with characters others will want to read about, believable characters as complex as any in the real world. But hey, that’s another story!
(c) Maria Hoey
Maria Hoey grew up in Swords, Co Dublin. She has one daughter, Rebecca and now lives in Portmarnock with her husband, Garrett.
About On Bone Bridge:
Kay Kelly has always envied pretty, privileged Violet-May Duff, but the two young girls come from very different worlds. Suddenly befriended by Violet-May, Kay finds herself welcomed into the grand Duff house, where, charmed by Violet-May’s sister, the ethereal Rosemary-June, and intrigued by Mrs Duff, a woman with a past, she falls helplessly in love with Violet-May’s brother Robbie. It all seems too good to be true. And it is.
One mild September afternoon the three young girls take Violet-May’s baby brother for a walk in his pram. What happens on Bone Bridge that day will change all their lives forever.
Now in her thirties, Kay’s path crosses once more with the Duff family and it doesn’t take her long to realise that something is very wrong. With the life of a child clearly threatened, Kay is forced to accept that what happened all those years ago on Bone Bridge has come back to haunt her. Now, not only must she resurrect painful memories, but the time has come to finally face up to terrible truths, even if it means putting her own life in danger.
Order your copy online here.