What inspires your writing?

I’ve been thinking about this question as I begin my fourth novel.

Usually when folks ask me this question, I tell them nature. In many ways, the biology, geology, geography and weather of a place is like another main character, such as the pecan farms and salty bayside breezes of southwest Alabama in How Sweet the Sound; blustery winter in Ukraine and the sunswept Michigan lakeshore in Then Sings My Soul. I tend to imagine myself living in the places we travel to, soaking in the local flavor and scents, terrain and sounds, and I can’t help but share all that in my stories.

As I begin outlining and jotting down characters for my fourth novel, however, I’ve realized another huge inspiration for me:


Lots and lots and lots of books.

Nonfiction books about settng and time periods.

Fiction books in and out of the genre I’m considering.

Other books completely unrelated to what I’m writing about.

Stacks of books sit on my nightstand. The dining room table sags with the weight of a giant collection of books fresh from the library. Books pile on the floor and on my desk, in the bathroom and in the kitchen.

Even the dogs can be caught reading…or trying to chew on…books.


Someone once said there are no new stories, just new ways of telling them. And indeed, not only do I read because I love to, I read to study plot, to absorb the way a character is developed, to dissect detail and style, rules other authors follow and rules they break.

The more I read, the more I fill my writing tank, so to speak. Soon, brand new characters start revealing themselves in my mind, and (at the risk of someone thinking I ought to be committed) they begin to speak.

Stephen King refers to this phenomenon as a muse, or, “the boys in the basement:”

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”

I completely agree with Mr. King.

The basement guys are hungry.


A library is to the muse what Costco is to my teenage boys.

*****  *****

What about you? If you’re a writer, how do books play in to your writing process?

How do you feed your basement boys?

How sweet the…Pecan crusted lemon cheese squares!

  If I had to choose my favorite part about being a published author, it would be my visits to book clubs. Just the fact that these clubs pick my books to read is beyond kind!

A couple weeks ago I met with a book club from a local church. Like the other clubs I’ve visited, they spoiled me with amazing snacks and treats. 

Take these freakishly to-die-for, four-layered, pecan crusted lemon cheese squares Geri brought, for instance. 

I ate a whole entire plate of them.

I wish I was kidding.

Actually, I don’t wish I was kidding.

I loved every bite of it. 

My eyes watered as I stuffed my face with them, they were so. darn. good.

Geri was kind enough to share her 40+ year old recipe with us, and to allow me to share the recipe with you. Did I mention these things have four layers–FOUR LAYERS–of yumminess??! 

And do you know what she did?

She added pecans to the crust. Because the club had read How Sweet the Sound. And if you’ve read How Sweet the Sound, you know how integral pecans are to the story. 
If you haven’t read How Sweet the Sound, may I suggest you whip up a batch of these and some sweet tea and read it? 

(You guys, the recipe calls for cream cheeseCream cheese!)

Thank you, Geri, for this recipe. And thank you to the kind ladies at ZUMC for having me out to your club. I’m so grateful you read the book!


Pecan Crusted Lemon Cheese Squares
By Geri Rogers


Bottom layer:  

1½ cups flour

1½ sticks butter

1T granulated sugar

½ cup chopped and toasted pecans


❑ Mix as for pie dough, cut small pieces of butter into flour with a pastry blender or a knife until it resembles small peas.
❑ Pat into a 9 x 13 pan. 
❑ Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.  
❑ Cool completely before adding next layer.  

Note:  You can make and bake the bottom crust the night before.


Second layer:  

12 ounces of light or regular cream cheese

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

½ – 1 cup Cool Whip


❑ Whip cream cheese until creamy then add powdered sugar.  
❑ Cream together until smooth.  
❑ Fold in ½-1 cup Cool Whip.
❑ Spread on top of cooled crust.


Third layer:  

1 (15.75 oz.) can of Duncan Hines ComstockOriginal Lemon Pie Filling

❑ Spread evenly over cream cheese layer.


Top and final layer: 

large container of Cool Whip (minus the ½ cup used above.)


❑ Spread Cool Whip lightly over lemon pie filling using little wavelike strokes.

Cover and refrigerate before serving.  

Note: Great for “parties and showers.”  Cut the squares small enough to fit into muffin papers!  Enjoy!


Show me your nightstand and I’ll show you mine.

Since I just submitted the manuscript for my third novel, yet another season of binge reading has begun. Books on writing, books out of my genre, books in my genre, books resembling the ideas bumping around in my head for my fourth novel. Books my kids want me to read. Books recommended by others. Books long beside my bed collecting dust.

I’m really enjoying Ann Patchett’s book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. The title is deceiving–it’s really a collection of her essays, many of which involve her thoughts on the craft of writing. Here’s a section that resonated with me:

“Novel writing, I soon discovered, is like channel swimming: a slow and steady stroke over a long distance in a cold, dark sea. It I thought too much about how far I’d come or the distance I still had to cover, I’d sink. As it turns out, I have had this same crisis with every novel I have written since. I am sure my idea is horrible, and that a new idea is my only hope. But what I’ve realized over the years is that every new idea eventually becomes the old idea. I made a pledge with myself that I wouldn’t start the sexy new novel I imagined until I had finished the tired old warhorse I was dragging myself through at present. Keeping that pledge has always served me well. The part of my brain that makes art and the part that judges that art had to be separated…”

Here’s a picture of my stack of reading. Throw in a box of Keebler Coconut Dreams, and it’s quite a binge-fest.


And here’s my audio book line-up (for whenever I can tear myself away from Maroon 5): 



I don’t know where he came from.


What about you? 

What are you reading these days? 

Have you read any of the ones in my stack?