When you write any kind of a series (even a limited one such as Dog Chronicles that is one book a year), finding fresh and exciting ideas is super important. Usually I don't read series books because after the first two or three, the writer gets sloppy or repetitive or stale. Not always--some authors manage to make their series 'pop' from book A to book Z, and many readers love series because of the character growth and familiarity.
Finding a great idea for these dog books is key for me to stay interested because the process --research, writing, revising, more research--is lengthy. If I get bored with the topic, I know the reader will be bored. I've written over sixty books and I try to make each one the 'best,' so finding the idea that can turn into a page turner is important.
Sometimes a book will trigger an idea, sometimes a photo. Years ago I read about pit ponies that were used in coal mines in England. I also heard Susan Campbell Bartoletti speak and bought her book Growing up in Coal Country. I was fascinated by both and thought that one day I would combine the two--kids and ponies working in a coal mine, perhaps in the series I was working on, Horse Diaries.
That never happened because the series ended, but suddenly, the two ideas came together again with Finder. Research helped me pinpoint a setting (a coal mine disaster in 1909) but here was the problem--there is no mention of dogs working in the mine I have chosen. There are two notations of dogs working in coal mines in the early 1900s, so I know they were used. And the photo to the right is proof,
but that's pretty much it. My story will be factual in many ways except that Finder and the job he does in the coal mine will be totally fiction based on my speculation of how they were used.
Only time will tell if this idea--a boy and his dog in a coal mine disaster--will make a great story!
Where do you get your best ideas? And did they always work out?