The more I talk to writers, the more I realise the passion that they hold for their art and one subject that seems to evoke stronger reactions than most is ‘where do stories come from?’

This comes to mind because I am teaching a plotting masterclass at Greenfield Arts Centre in Newton Aycliffe on February 16. There are those writers who argue that ideas come out of real life experiences. You go through it as a writer, therefore you are able to best tell the story.

Others recoil from that approach, arguing that that the key is in the word ‘fiction’, that stories should be made up and come entirely out of imagination. The anecdote below will, hopefully, show where I stand and it involves The Secrets Man, published by Hale.

For me, stories come out of experience and The Secrets Man had its germ (literally) in one of the most difficult experiences of my life, the serious illness and resultant health problems experienced by my father. As the illness took control of his mind, he disappeared into another world, one where nothing was as it seemed.

As I sat at his bedside night after night, I started to look around the ward. Six beds, six patients, each of them in a world of their own. And the idea came to set a novel in the world of dementia, weaving the worlds created by unwell minds into the reality outside the hospital window involving my character DCI John Blizzard.

Because it was so personal, I told my family at the outset what I planned to do – their reaction? ‘You’re a writer, go where the idea takes you.’ Good advice.

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