Author: Helen Cox

Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.

Novel Inspiration: Where does that come from?

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Since starting my journey towards publication with HarperCollins, a lot of questions have come my way about the process I use when writing. One of the most common is: where did you get the inspiration to write your novel? I’ve been asked this over and over but contrary to what we like to think about inspiration, for me at least, it doesn’t strike in one sudden, lightning flash.

I first thought about writing a book about a diner on East Houston Street, NY when I was sitting in one. The Remedy Diner, on the corner of Norfolk Street. It was the last day of a whirlwind, three week honeymoon in New York State and essentially, I didn’t want to go back home to England. I’ve visited New York City four times in the last decade and each time I said goodbye to it, I felt a hard wrench in the gut. But that time around, the feeling didn’t dissipate.

I missed New York.

Every day.

Five months passed and one night, without warning, I started writing this thing about a diner waitress. It was just a thing then. I didn’t know it would turn into a book. Ten thousand words in, I finally had to admit I was writing a novel. My aim was just to finish it and, while I was at it, ‘hang out’ in my favourite city with a selection of quirky characters.

So I guess you could say New York City was the inspiration for my first novel, but that’s really only a half-truth.

After that first draft, months of re-writing and editing followed, and during that process I drew inspiration from all kinds of texts. Everything from Jane Eyre to the Daredevil series on Netflix. I looked at old photographs; re-read old diary entries and listened to my favourite records. Anything to spark images, thoughts and theories in my mind. To evoke feelings that helped me empathise with my characters.

All this brings me to my central philosophy about inspiration: it’s described as this elusive, unicorn-esque presence but the truth is it’s everywhere. We’re surrounded by it if we only choose to see it.

I know some people are quite select about their influences, (what cultural merit is there to a film like Howard The Duck after all?) but I’m a cultural omnivore, and I’m pretty proud of the fact. Moreover, I’ve learnt to place great value on all my day-to-day experiences. No matter how mundane they may seem at the time.

Example? During my school, college and university years, I waitressed in a tea-room in a small Yorkshire market town. It was the only way I could afford tickets to see indie bands playing pokey venues in Leeds and, later on, the only means of keeping my sketchy, second-hand Ford Fiesta in working order.

Did this experience help me write a story about a waitress in New York? Undoubtedly. Would I ever have suspected at the time that this experience would be pivotal in writing my first major work of fiction? No. Of course not. I was just serving English Breakfast Tea with a side of crumpets. What could ever come out of that?

As it turns out, not just one but two books. With potential for a third.

So, if you’re looking for writing inspiration, my plea to you is not to limit yourself to one source, one genre or one format. Absorb absolutely everything that’s put in front of you and then filter out some meaning for yourself. Even if what’s put in front of you is a rerun of Magnum P.I.

My first novel: Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is out July 4th 2016. A dedicated Twitter feed, featuring tweets about life in a fictional, 1950s-themed diner, begins on April 1st, here.


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This entry was posted on March 30, 2016 by in Author Blog and tagged , , , , , , .
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