Inspiration Comes From Many Places

One question authors get asked all the time is where do you get ideas for your stories. No, you don’t have to worry that if you tell me about running into your old high school crush I’m going to use it in my book. Unless, well, if it’s a really good meet cute …

Never mind. Just kidding. I actually get a lot of my ideas from news articles or human interest pieces I read online. Sometimes, however, inspiration comes from a place I’ve visited.

Many years ago, when my kids were young, we took a trip to Bisbee, Arizona and toured the Queen Silver Mine. While there, I saw an old photo of a mule being lowered down into the shaft (mules were used to haul ore carts and often spent their entire lives in the mines). From that tour and photo came the inspiration for Her Heart’s Treasure. While researching that book, I came across an article about a horrific mining accident in Denver and that became the inspiration for my book, The Gate to Eden. Note: this was back in the days when I wrote Western historicals.

A few years after that, we were vacationing at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. One day, we took a tour of the (replica) Ponderosa Ranch and Western town TV set from the show Bonanza. The scenery was incredible, and my mind raced with ideas. Eventually, I wrote a three book series for Harlequin American titled Sweetheart, Nevada.

When I was a teenager, we used to stay at a Western-themed resort outside of Payson, Arizona called Kohl’s Ranch. As an adult, I frequently visit Payson and have returned to Kohl’s Ranch just to check it out. Of course, a story popped into my head. That story eventually became a four-book series called Bear Creek Ranch that was so thinly disguised I actually had readers email me to say they knew I’d used Kohl’s Ranch for my inspiration.

I could go one and on, but I think I’ll end with the McDowell Mountains. I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona and lived for many, many years not far from the Sonoran Mountain Preserve. Once, while walking my dogs, I found myself gazing up at the mountains and wondering if any wild horses still lived there. Turns out, they do! That question launched a thirteen book series, the first one about a cowboy trying to save his ranch by capturing the last wild mustang roaming free in the mountains near my fictional town, Mustang Valley.

Wow. All this talk about places I’ve visited makes me want to travel again. It’s been too long. Wherever I wind up going, I’ll be sure to take my imagination. Who knows? I could be inspired with a story.

Now, what were you telling me about your old high school crush ?

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Cathy McDavid has been penning Westerns for Harlequin since 2005. With over 50 titles in print and 1.5 million-plus books sold, Cathy is also a member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll. This “almost” Arizona native and mother of grown twins is married to her own real-life sweetheart. After leaving the corporate world seven years ago, she now spends her days penning stories about good looking cowboys riding the range, busting broncs, and sweeping gals off their feet — oops, no. Make that winning the hearts of feisty, independent women who give the cowboys a run for their money. It a tough job, but she’s willing to make the sacrifice.

24 thoughts on “Inspiration Comes From Many Places”

  1. I had a high school crush on a boy, I think he ended up going into the navy. I have no idea where he is at now. I was so in love I thought at the time. He was everything. I think it was just on sided.

  2. Love your inspiration! Looks like you’ve visited some great places to help the settings of your stories.

    Nothing to tell about my high school crush.

  3. I dated my high school crush my senior year and my freshman year of college (we attended the same college) but then we broke up and went our separate ways! However, as crazy as it may seem, we are still friends 40 years later! Our spouses know each other and we’ve seem each other numerous times! Our families know each other from way back and we grew up in the same small town so perhaps that is the reason but no hard feelings there!!!!

  4. Cathy, your pictures are stunning. Who wouldn’t get inspired that that scenery? I recently went to Raton, NM for a balloon festival and while I was there we drove to the top of a high mesa where an old church stood that was built in 1897. Seeing the desolation and imagining the horrible winters when they were cut off from the world inspired a new story for me. We never know where or when inspiration will strike. We just have to be open to the ideas. I had a serious crush on a high school basketball star but he never knew I existed and that was for the best.

  5. I married that cute high school crush, but I quickly learned that he said “no” to life and I am a “yes” to life person. I left him and went on to have a fun, adventuresome life. I have no hard feelings about him and would thank him if I saw him today as he helped define me with his two-letter word!

  6. Wow, I love where you have gotten your inspirations for books, they all sound like beautiful places and I’m sure your books are great reads! Thank you for sharing where you have gotten your inspirations from. My HS crush was a little too wild, we were just friends .I don’t even think he ever knew that I liked him,we just said hi to each other,we never hung around with each other , he was a wild one though, he passed away way too young. Have a great weekend and stay safe. I enjoyed reading this post.

  7. No high school crush, but a lover of travel. We travel as far and as often as we can. It is very easy to let my imagination take over and think of what life and the people were like in the places we visit. We try to find out as much as we can about the areas we go, who lived there, and what it was like at different times.

    Bonanza was a favorite show when I was growing up. I am sorry we never got to visit the Ponderosa Ranch and Western town before they shut it down. I didn’t realize it was there when we went through Tahoe in 1982. We lived in Sacramento, CA for 2 years in ’85 to ’87 and could have easily gone up for a visit.

    The West is a great place fir inspiration. We travel that way whenever we can and will hopefully be heading to San Antonio some time next year. From there we plan to head north to visit some of the National Parks and Monuments we haven’t yet managed to see. Not sure we will try to visit the mine. I am not a fan. The lodge , however, is another story. I visited their site and it and the grounds are lovely.

    Thank you for an interesting post and a peek at your writing inspiration and process.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing. Your pictures are awesome! I was a wallflower in high school. I had a boyfriend my senior year, but he lived in another state. We would talk on the phone.

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