Yes, reading magazines IS research!

Hi folks – since it’s my first day on the blog, thought I’d do a quick hello intro first like some other lovely gals have done. I’m Rachael Johns and I hail from a tiny town in rural Western Australia – I write contemporary romance for Carina Press, Harlequin Australia and most recently HQN. My Carina books have all been set in bit cities but my HQN book/s are rural/outback Australia. Yes, there are cowboys, or our equivalent in Australia!! 

Inspiration for my rural books often comes from the small towns I’ve lived in but today I thought I’d talk a little bit about what I do when I’m not feeling very inspired.

This happened not long ago when I got offered my first ever book contract BEFORE I’d written a book. I know this is something that happens to writers more and more as they build a relationship with a publisher. It’s such a HUGE vote of trust and confidence to be offered on a book you haven’t written yet and in some instances a book you haven’t even got an idea for.

So what do I do if I have a book contract but I’m all out of story ideas? I immerse myself in pop culture – I watch TV, go on a magazine hunt, read newspapers.

In the case of Stand-In Star, my most recent Carina Press release (which incidentally was written before being contracted) inspiration came from a few places. Years ago I ripped a magazine article out of a weekend paper about a couple of teenage boys who were make loads of money taking paparazzi photos. That got the mind ticking about a hero who had made his fortune this way and I started asking why questions? What had happened to him that forced him to take this road – a profession that most people do not admire at all. What kind of man did he become? How did his job influence him? I tucked that article away in a folder and didn’t look at it for a few years. But he was always there in the back of my mind…simmering.


Then one day I was in a hotel room in London and the news reported of Heath Ledger’s death. My memory is hazy but I’m pretty certain he was either already up for an Academy Award at the time or there was speculation. Anyway, I decided I wanted to write a heroine who had an estranged sister up for a posthumus Academy Award. And of course the setting for the Academy Awards was already there – it had to be HOLLYWOOD. And that got me thinking once again about my ex-paparazzo hero.  Maybe I’d found him a heroine?

These two little snippets of information formed the basis for Stand-In Star. Although I accidentally found this inspiration, as I progress in my career as a published author, I sometimes need to hunt the inspiration down. I figure the more books an author has behind them, the more this must happen, so I’ve tried to develop some things to do when I need to ‘create’ a new set of characters.

Sometimes I have a tiny bit of a story idea, but it is not enough, so when I’m ready to start writing, I now start trawling magazines for inspiration. And I often return to my folder that had the teenage paparazzi article, because it’s also the place I put other articles that grab my interest but I can’t quite figure out why yet.

I think a writer is constantly on the look out for inspiration. I can’t see a billboard on the side of the road or listen to someone tell an anecdote without thinking: How could I put this into a story?! Only the other night, I heard a story about a vintage clothes designer who sold dresses at the markets on the weekends and all the wonderful characters she met through this avenue… and of course the mind got ticking! Watch this space…

As writers, inspiration truly is everywhere. We just have to grab hold of it and put our own unique spin on it!

Happy reading and writing folks :)

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Yes, reading magazines IS research! — 8 Comments

  1. It was cool to see how the storyline and characters for Stand-In Star came to life. I had a similar situation when I was contracted by Carina for a second book based on a character from the first. I hadn’t written a word nor did I have an outline, though I knew some key elements of the story. I was a bit freaked out at first, but I love the story that developed.

    • Lol, Reese! I’m having a similar situation now! My publisher has mentioned they might like a sequel to my first rural! I’ve plucked a character from there and am trying to make a story for her. Good luck with yours!

  2. I was at a concert not too long ago where a songwriter talked about the inspiration for his songs. He talked about having an idea for a song that he kept on a shelf in his heart for a long time until it finally came together, much like how you matched your photographer and your stand in star. Best of luck to you!

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