Monday, May 26, 2014

Things I'm Asked as a Writer ~ Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?


I get asked this all the time as a writer.  

Despite writing ‘make-believe’ stories, a lot of us draw from real life experiences, people, places and things. 

A fellow writer confessed to me she’d used all her friends as the basis for her characters. But I think we all do that as writers. The highly successful Janet Evanovich, who writes the Stephanie Plum series, said she based the much loved Grandma Mazur on one of her favorite Aunts. Sometimes you just can’t make these people up! They’re living breathing characters in their own rights. J  

The story itself tends to come from what I call ‘the Muses.’ They turn up every so often, noisily stomping into my brain, chucking their tennis rackets in the corner. Saying things like, ‘Phew, that was jolly hot work. Let me get a drink, then I’ll tell you a story.’ And they do. 

I just dictate at speed what they have to tell me. J  

But when it comes to things like characters or things that appear in my book, they’re often based on people I’ve met, places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. They often relate to me and my life. 

Charlie’s big house is called The Grove. This was the name of my Great Grandfathers place when he first came to New Zealand from Devon in England back in the 1800’s. I based The Grove on a scaled down version of the Vanderbilt’s Breakers mansion in Rhode Island, which I visited and just LOVED. So beautifully opulent.  

The gorgeous Vanderbilt's Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island

Izzy and Henry’s house in town (New Orleans)is called Four Seasons. This is one of my things I’m always saying, “I’d love to live at the Four Seasons.” It’s one of my favorite resort hotels. I love them. It’s a big old Plantation house in the Garden District of New Orleans. A place I’d love to own in real life.  

I use some of my family names for my characters. Izzy as Isobel in World War II, is called Isobel Lanyon. Lanyon is my Cornish family name that goes all the way back to the beginning of time in Cornwall. J Izzy’s mum is called Olwyn in the book. That’s actually my real mum’s name who died 30 odd years ago. It’s a way to honor her.  

My fun and funny mum Olwyn Loudon
In the second book of the trilogy, The Chi Circle, Charlie goes to the Volcano Arts Center in Volcano, Big Island, Hawai’i. He sits on a bench that’s there in the entry way. It has a plaque on it that Izzy paid for as a memorial to her mum.  

It says:

In memory of my mum

Olwyn Loudon

Who taught me to laugh

Izzy Justine

If you go to the Arts Center there in Volcano, there really is a plaque there on a bench in the entry way. The only difference is, it says Meg Justine on the last line. It’s my memorial to my mum Olwyn Loudon. J I thought she’d like being up there among the ferns and other artists. Just mum’s sort of thing.

I base one of Izzy’s best friends Mea in the book on my best friend in real life, right down to her gorgeous looks. Izzy’s dad Brian is remarkably like my dad John. J The funny sayings in there are all things my dad says. He’s always getting sayings slightly muddled up. His best one yet is: ‘As useless as tits on a bucket.’ LOL. 

'Mea' in real life

Isadora who’s a wee bit of a character is loosely based on my mum’s personality.  

My mum in younger days ~ very glammy!

Noel Barber, my all time favorite author once said, that he uses as many real settings as he can. He said it adds a real air of authenticity to a piece of work. He wrote wonderful sweeping sagas, based in Singapore, France, Egypt, and the Pacific. All based loosely around his own experiences living or visiting those places. 

I include past lives in my stories. Most of them are based on my own past lives or pieces of them and real events. The details are as vivid to me as memories from this lifetime. I flew in the ATA in my last lifetime as a woman ferry pilot. When I discovered this lifetime, I thought, that can’t be right. Why would I be a woman pilot in WWII in England? Women didn’t fly in the war.

But someone had clearly seen the uniform on me and it also seemed to explain how I dressed as a teenager. I always wore pencil slim skirts, just below my knee, a belted jacket, shirt and tie. I had hats made for me, which I also wore. A lovely little black pill box, and 2 lemon squeezers. I’ve had a great love of ‘wool great coats.’ 

As pieces of this past life came to me, I realized why I’d always loved planes, dressed the way I did and loved Big Band music. I hit 18 in 1981. None of these things were remotely in that era. We were all into New Wave.  

It was some years again after that I stumbled across the information there were women ferry pilots who flew for the ATA – Air Transport Auxiliary. Very little information was available about them at the time. Only a handful of books were written and back then, no internet or anything. But as soon as I found the information, I knew, that’s what I’d done.  

ATA women pilots who ferried aircraft all over England during the War

When I was learning to fly in this lifetime, I made a mistake over and over, it drove me and my instructor up the wall. I would often push the throttle in the wrong way. NOT a good thing to do when flying an aircraft. You don’t really want to run out of juice up in the air and put all your glide skills into practice. 

I figured it had to be a past life thing, but what aircraft would have a reverse throttle on it? That didn’t make sense.  

I did a bit of research and discovered after a bit of deep digging, that actually there were some P-51’s made with the reverse throttle the French. Delivered by the English. How very French? Arse backwards. J And dangerous when you’re flying. But I must have gotten used to it in that lifetime and carried the information over. I finally did a past life regression and reset the pattern. I never had a problem with it again, flying in this lifetime. 

P-51 Mustang
Henry’s lifetime in WWII is based on a real life person I went out with in WWII. His name was Rick, an American B-17 flier. I met him again in this lifetime and it took us a while to realise why every time he left to go home, I was devastated. Utterly bereft, overcome with horrific grief, which didn’t make an ounce of sense at the time. I always felt ‘I’d never see him again.’ Well, in WWII, I didn’t. He went out on a bombing mission one day and didn’t come back… 

B-17 Flying Fortress and her crew of 10

Sometimes I ‘make something up.’ Only to find out later, it was true. As if tapping into the Universal reservoir of collector memories or the collective unconscious. 

Isadora collects miniature silver. Izzy gives her a silver wine barrel and glasses. Exquisite petite work. I found the piece for sale on eBay by a Russian silversmith Vladimir Matuskovsky.

The samovar on the left. And the wine barrel on the right which came with 2 glasses. It stands just over an inch tall. The spigot even works on the wine barrel

I also say, she has in her collection, tiny knives and forks. But had never seen any at the time I wrote it. I ‘made up’ the detail. I had Henry give her a miniature Russian Samovar as a Christmas present, which later got cut unfortunately due to word count. Much later, I was looking up Vladimir and came across his son Greg, who took over the silversmithing from his dad. Greg makes tiny knives and forks… and yes… his signature pieces are Russian Samovars! J Of which, I would LOVE to own one.  

The exquisite miniature work of Greg Matuskovsky - silversmith

I have a deep and profound love of Russian things, people, and places. Henry and Izzy own a Russian Samovar, which has all sorts of connections to it. It belonged to the Serebriakovs, who are actually another lifetime of Henry and Izzy. I would kill to own a Samovar. I have a deep love of them. On my list of things to own. J  

A full sized samovar with teapot on the water kettle and the podstakanniki glasses

Izzy drives a white BMW 650i. Also on my list. LOL. I love Beemers. I’ve owned three, all 540’s and one 535. So, the 650 is my next model I’m after. I love them! I also like the Jag, so Charlie drives one of them.  

Henry wears a clove scented perfume, reminiscent of the sultry steamy smells of Singapore. When I lived there briefly 30 odd years ago, the Indonesian clove cigarettes were popular. I love the smell of them. They instantly take me back. J  

I think for most authors, there are large pieces of ourselves in our work. Whether it’s parts of ourselves, or people, places and things we have experienced in our lifetime. Despite ‘making up stories.’ A lot of us authors like to be an authentic as we can, taking from real life.  

And here’s the question often asked of me as a romance erotica writer J Are all the sex scenes made up? Um… well… some of them are, but some are genuine experiences I’ve had. J I’ll let you try and guess which ones are real and which ones I just wish were real, or I have on my ‘yes please’ list. LOL.  


  1. Meg...I love learning more about you...and I know a lot about Izzy, Charlie, and them all and their amazing love story:)
    Great really brings the extra to your already brilliant story of their troika romance:)
    Hugs, dear friend!

  2. Aloha Kay Dee!! :-) Thanks so much for reading and your lovely comments as always. :-) Hugs to you too. :-) Aloha