Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Guest Blog with Erica Vetsch

One of the questions every writer gets is "Where do your ideas come from?"

And the answer is as varied as the question is the same.

Writers get ideas from everywhere. Newspapers, conversations, novels, museums, dreams, movies...the possibilities are endless.

The idea for my first published novel, The Bartered Bride, came to me while sitting in church waiting for the service to start. I jotted the basic idea down on my bulletin so I wouldn't forget it before I got home. My family and I had just returned from a vacation where we toured the James J. Hill mansion in St. Paul, MN, the harbor and maritime museum in Duluth, MN, and Split Rock Lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Superior. I had also just finished reading a book about the Vanderbilts and the arranged marriage of Consuelo Vanderbilt to the Earl of Sutherland.

It seemed natural to me to use the places I had seen and information I had gleaned in a new series. The Kennebrae family from the books live in a house very much like the Hill mansion, and the family patriarch arranges marriages for his three grandsons, in spite of their unwillingness to participate.

When it came time to write The Marriage Masquerade, I knew I wanted to set it at a lighthouse like Split Rock. I read up on the keepers who had lived there, and used some of the anecdotes from their journals and diaries to give the story authenticity. It certainly helped to have visited the site and taken lots of pictures to refer back to while I wrote. I was so very happy when the art designer used a picture of Split Rock on the cover of The Marriage Masquerade to represent my fictional Sutton Island Light.

When it came time to write The Engineered Engagement, I once again delved into the information I had gathered from our visits to Duluth. The city of Duluth is a major shipping port for coal, iron ore, grain, and at one time lumber. We toured the Meteor, the last remaining whale-back ship in existence, and ideas started flowing. My hero would be as bold and innovative as the designer of the whale-backs, Alexander McDougall.

Ideas for stories are everywhere. I've recently read books on frontier medicine and logging camps of northern Minnesota. I've visited frontier forts and CCC camps and county historical society museums that have fired my imagination with more and more story ideas. Like the initial idea for The Bartered Bride, I've jotted down the ideas for future use.

Question of the day: Since I was born and raised in Kansas, Lake Superior fascinates me. So, the question is: Do you live near a large body of water? Do oceans and lakes intrigue you?

Tomorrow, we'll have a chat with Heartsong Editor JoAnne Simmons, so be sure to stop by!


  1. I do not live near a body of water, but I would love to have a house on a lake at some point in my life. My family vacationed a lot in Door County, Wisconsin, which is that little sliver on the east side of the state bordered by Lake Michigan. I've always loved lighthouses and learning about shipping in those areas.

  2. I grew up visiting Lake Superior and have lived on each coast for a number of years. Have to say that Lake Superior is my favorite, all the water without all the salt. There is just something about a large body of water though, isn't there?

  3. I live near the Gulf of Mexico, and I love it! When I need to just sit and ponder anything, I go to one of my favorite beaches to stare out at the water. The sunsets are amazing here, too.

  4. Kaitlin, I've always wanted to visit Door County. It sounds so beautiful!

    Linda, I could listen to the waves all day.

    Debby, The Gulf of Mexico is the only 'ocean' that I've ever seen. Maybe next time I'm in Florida, I'll get over to the Atlantic side.

  5. Hi Erica,

    I do the same thing. Every time we go on a family trip, I end up with book ideas.

    We live near a lake, which I haven't been to since I was 15. Tourists arrive in droves during the summer and I really like chlorine, so I prefer my trusty Wal Mart pool.