Shannon Grogan On Inspiration... From A Commercial

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Shannon Grogan, a second grade teacher who writes at night (and while her kids are at ballet and baseball) in a small logging town east of Seattle. She holds degrees in education, and graphic design/Illustration. When she isn’t writing, she's baking, reading, watching scary movies, and wishing she were at the beach.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

When I got the idea for FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU, I was revising another story. The only thing I had in place was a MC who wanted to be a baker. Then I was driving down the highway and a Campbells Soup commercial came on the radio. By the time it was done I was pulling over to jot down notes. By the time I pulled back onto the road I had my MC’s mother (a crazy lady who thinks her pea soup was blessed by Jesus and has healing powers) The rest of the story came from this point—my MC who wanted to become a baker and also wanted to escape her life and her crazy mom.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I figured my theme was leaning in the direction of escape, so I added in the baking contest, which if she won she’d get a scholarship to culinary school, and away from her mom. I also wanted something ghostly, so I decided to have her dead sister hang around so she’d want to escape this and the bad memories associated with her. I love contemporary and focused first on the betrayal, and ultimately, the forgiveness within her family, but I also love scary thrillers, and romance. So I added those elements in along the way: a stalker to escape, and a boy to love and push away/escape from (also betrayal and forgiveness).

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

I usually have the main plot really solid in my mind and it pretty much comes out on paper the same, mainly because I use a quick visual plotting method to help me. But the subplots change the most, and/or are added/deleted.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I seem to have times where story ideas come one after the other. I write them on index cards and file them away. Most of the ones that come that are total crap on their own. But one idea might combine with another idea or two to form a good story idea. When they do I give them their own page in my book idea journal.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Ooh, this is happening to me now and I’m leaning towards the one I enjoy writing down notes on the most.

Given the choice of losing your feet or your hands, what goes?

Feet. I need my hands to type and write and draw. And eat. And hug my kids.