“I’ll never write fiction,” I said. “I have no interest in writing fiction and besides, I have no ideas for stories.”
This is what I told myself when I started writing two years ago. At the time I was drawn to personal essays, to telling my stories. I wrote and I wrote, pages and pages of notes and ideas and memories. Then in the middle of it all, I got an idea for a novel.
The Beginning of an Idea
I have a Master’s degree in Art History. For my final thesis paper, I wrote about the series of minstrel carvings in Beverley Minster. The one question I had that I could not answer was why the carvings were there. Who decided to make them the subject? Did the local guild of minstrels pay to have them carved? Or did the stonemason’s simply look around, see all the minstrels in town and decided to carve them?
My initial idea was to create a story and answer those questions. But I wanted my story to have more mystery to it. What if a series of clues were carved on the back of the figures, clues that lead to a treasure. While the idea interested me, I realized that writing a historical novel would involve a lot of research. (I’m too much of a researcher not to do that.) I love to research, but also know that I can get lost in it, struggling to be sure everything is correct, and never actually do any writing.
I needed to find a different angle.
A Better Angle On The Idea
I took the story of the clues carved on the figures and brought it to the present day. Now the plot involves an art historian researching the minstrel figures for her Ph.D. Dissertation. She discovers clues carved on the back of a few of them and learns they lead to a treasure. Of course, there are bad guys who are also searching for the clues and the treasure. Once they know she has found a clue, they realize they may have the key to find what they have sought for centuries.
That’s when the story began falling into place. I thought about it the rest of the day and by the evening I had a rough outline.
And now the research began. What was the object they were all after? How did it get to be in medieval Beverley? What were the clues and how were they read?
The answers would come over the next several months. But I finally had an idea for a work of fiction.
Watch this video where I talk about the idea behind The Stonemason’s Secret.
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