Where do book ideas come from?

October 16, 2015

It’s by far the most frequently-asked question a writer gets. Dr. Seuss famously told people, “I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch, and two thousand feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Über Gletch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.” 

So is it any wonder I went on a quest to Europe?

2015 SW in cassis

The Calanques near Cassis. Hike until you drop...or until inspiration strikes.
The Calanques near Cassis. Hike until you drop…or until inspiration strikes.

Once again, we relied on advice from locals. In Aix-en-Provence, we bought matching pinky rings (I know. I know!) and a cool necklace made with tagua nut beads. The jeweler urged us to go to Cassis. He was an incredibly sincere person and a fine artist, with his atelier right there in h is tiny shop. Since I’m a big believer in following one’s instincts–off we went.

There were some fine and inspiring surprises there. A torrential downpour, complete with lightning strikes and waves crashing against the phare.


An old-school hotel perfectly situated at the harbor, where you could stand at the balcony and watch the fishing fleet going out. A friendly shop keeper who offered us her parking space, because in the old town, parking is virtually impossible. And bouillabaisse, which is both art and religion here.

France’s newest national park–The Calanques (“creeks” but they’re not creeks; more like towering cliffs like the ones in South Africa or Sydney, Australia) is criss-crossed by hiking trails so long and twisty and tough that you just have to jump into the crystal blue water. And by the way, the water quality is officially rated, and the water here is rated “excellent.” Clean and clear.

And chilly. But whatever. And while there, I watched a very attractive older couple holding hands to wade into the water on one of the tiny, rockbound beaches.

“It’s cold,” the woman protested, sucking everything in.

“We’ve driven a thousand kilometers to get here,” said her husband. “We’ve got to do it.”

And a moment later, they were swimming and laughing like children instead of seventy-year-old pensioners.

And a moment after that. I had an idea.

See? Easy. You just have to travel to a remote part of the world you’ve never heard of, et voila! 

Categories : books
  • Dr. Seuss’s dad was first cousin to my dad’s father. We met Mr. Giessel as he worked as superintendent of the Forest Park zoo. He told us to visit, his office was next to the monkey cage, but we could identify him by his red cap. I was born in 1944. My two brothers came in 1947 – 1950. We were not part of the Dr Seuss stories. I did create a unit for my 8th graders, Young adult lit themes illustrated by 5 Dr Seuss books. I swear Gertie was his cousin put on the page. He used some cousins which I knew as models. I only wish they were still alive when I taught my unit. Christine Schmaelzle was his grandmother.
    Linda Schmaelzle

  • Hi Susan
    I love love your books
    I just finished reading the Apple Orchard series and was wondering are we going to get a 3rd book? I feel like the ending of The Beekeeper’s Ball was sort of like a cliff hanger. I want to know more about Erik

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *