Sunday 15 May 2022

Where do ideas come from?


This week has been an exciting week. Firefly revealed the cover of my latest novel, Safe, which is being published on 1st September and is the sequel to Flight. The cover is designed by Anne Glenn and I love it. It features Kizzy and Jakob and once again they are off on a perilous journey. They are tricked into making this trip and are in great danger. It is a story I am passionate about. In the main because it feels very pertinent. There are elements to it that feel so close to what is going on in the world now. 

As an author, one of the questions you are asked the most often is 'where do ideas come from?' The thing with Safe is that obviously as a sequel it had a long journey. The idea started initially with those nuggets of ideas that formed when I began Flight. Now, where did they come from?

These two images give a few clues. The first one is an image of Director Alois Podhajsky, from the Spanish Riding School saluting General George S Patton from the US Army near the end of the Second World War. The second is an image from a Walt Disney film made in 1963 entitled Miracle of the White Stallions. This film was inspired by Operation Cowboy, which was where the US Army negotiated with the Nazis so they go could through the German lines and get to Hostau where there were several hundred horses including Lipizzaner mares belonging to the Spanish Riding School and a prisoner of war camp nearby. The plan was to rescue both the prisoners and the horses before the Russians arrived. They drove the horses back through the German lines, cowboy style. Hence the name of the operation. It was doing research into the performance in front of General Patton, what happened to the Spanish Riding School during World War 2, and Operation Cowboy that started the nugget of an idea. I also watched the film. The nugget soon became the eternal answer to the important writer's question 'What if...'

I started thinking about what might happen prior to the performance in front of the General and prior to Operation Cowboy. What if two children, who were in danger themselves, needed to save a group of Lipizzaners. And so started the story of Flight with another great cover designed by Anne Glenn.

That's all very well but then when you are asked by your publisher to write a sequel how do you follow on because the story has come to an end. Where does it go from here? Again you start asking questions. What are the worst possible things that could happen to Kizzy and Jakob now? Make a list of them, then make them fifty times worse than that before inflicting those things on them. 

While doing the research I found out about all the displaced children in Europe towards the end of the Second World War. Groups of children who had lost their parents and relatives would move around together. These were sometimes called 'lost children' or sometimes 'wolf children' because they were in packs. It felt important that as a story Kizzy and Jakob should move beyond rescuing horses so this time they don't just rescue abandoned horses. They lead a group of 'lost children' to safety too. 

The horses are different too. I spent time researching what horses might be around as I didn't want it to be Lipizzaners again as they had done those. I found information on so wonderful horses that I've been able to include. 

I also found out about the formation of organisations like UNICEF after the war and how they tried to help alongside the Red Cross. Obviously, there are many more organisations now that help refugees but I've tried to raise awareness where I can at the back of the book.

Ideas grow and evolve as you find inspiration when you do research, particularly when writing historical fiction. I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into the journey of how Safe and Flight came about. Look how beautiful they look sitting next to each other. I am very lucky. 

Another musical inspiration to make you smile if you remember it: