The Luby’s Listener
Or Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?
By Kathleen Y’Barbo
This year I am celebrating fifteen years as a published author and ten years with my fabulous agent, Wendy Lawton. In April of 2016, I will celebrate twenty years since I purchased that Cannon StarWriter and decided I might be able to write a book. Just one. And certainly no more than that. Funny how although the Bible tells us that God’s plans and ours are not the same, and yet I was surprised when that one idea for a book became many.
As in a whole lot.
More than I could EVER write in a lifetime.
And the ideas still come. I once asked my agent how I would know when it was time to take down my writer shingle and look for employment elsewhere. She told me in her estimation, that was when God stopped giving me ideas. Good news, Wendy! I’m going to be writing for awhile!
That very first book idea came out of a desire to rewrite an ending I didn’t like. I had the flu and was doing more reading than normal for a mom of two preteens and two little ones. Several of the books just didn’t end like I expected-or perhaps as I wanted-so I decided I would write a book that ended my way. How hard could it be?
For those of you who know the answer to that question, let’s all pause a moment until the laughter subsides.
All right…so…that one book practically poured out onto the page. At the end of five weeks, I my first book was complete. One hundred thousand words on a page-figuratively, of course-and an ending I liked.
An ending that made me think of a sequel. And on it went until I had three books in that series. And then another idea dawned, and another, and so it goes.
But what if ideas don’t come to you? How do you go looking for them? First and foremost, LISTEN. Yes, LISTEN. And yes, I put that in all caps. It’s just that important. And no, there’s no fancy acronym that spells out the letters. It means what it means. Ideas are all around us. They’re in overheard snatches of conversation at the grocery story or in pieces of a news story on television. Maybe they’re hidden in your children’s conversation-or tantrums (Major League Dad, one of my personal favorites I’ve ever written came from my youngest son’s tantrum regarding his dad).
Or sometimes they’re sitting across the table from you at Lubys.
Sometime in the summer of 2002, my mother uttered these words over her Luby’s LuAnne platter: “If I’m going to meet a man, he’s either going to have to quilt or sing because the only two places I ever go are Quilt Guild and church choir. Besides the book club, that is.”
All conversation ceased while I wrote that and the idea it gave me down. And yes, WRITE IT DOWN. If you don’t, I promise you won’t remember.
I’m very glad I wrote my mama’s quote down because thirteen years later, on June 23rd, those words that originally belonged to Bonnie Sue Miller will be uttered by my character Bonnie Sue Tucker in the Southern contemporary romance novel Firefly Summer, the first of the Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series (Redbud Press, June 2015).
So listen for ideas – at Luby’s and everywhere else–and then write them down. You never know if one day a book of your heart will be born!
Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than fifty novels with almost two million copies in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and Book of the Year by Romantic Times magazine. Kathleen is a paralegal, a proud military wife, and an expatriate Texan cheering on her beloved Texas Aggies from north of the Red River. Connect with her through social media at www.kathleenybarbo.com.