Monday, March 7, 2022

Where Ideas Come to a Writer


Arthur Kerns



“Where do you come up with ideas for your books?” Writers get that question a lot. My usual response is they pop up while showering, shaving, or working out in the gym. Rarely do they come to me when sitting down and trying to come up with an idea. Most writers will recall attending a creative writing class and have the teacher hand out an assignment, like “Give me a one-page story on a boy falls off his bicycle.” At least then you had a start to a story idea and could go with it. 

The idea for my first published novel, The Riviera Contract, came from the Alfred Hitchcock film, To Catch a Thief. I’ve watched the film numerous times and still become entranced with the gorgeous scenery, the filming, and the dialogue of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The film sparked the idea of writing a spy novel based on the French Riviera with a cast of beautiful, interesting, and nasty characters. Almost two years later Diversion Press published the novel.

The inspiration for the manuscript now with my agent, A Suitable Spy, came from coming across an old FBI file. When I was an agent assigned to FBI Headquarters doing analysis of old spy cases I found a non-classified history of FBI espionage activities in Latin America during WWII. The program was ordered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who feared Nazi incursion in South America. Very few, including fellow agents, were aware such a program had existed. The idea popped in mind; what an interesting background for an old-fashioned espionage novel.

If the story is accepted by a publisher, one of the first things they’ll ask, have you a sequel? I thought about it for a while. The time frame would be in early 1942, the United States is at war, and my spy protagonist is sent from Argentina to Europe. However, where in Europe and under what conditions? Then I saw a photo on Instagram of an actor I know. Autumn Reeser recently was filming in Bulgaria and was relaxing after hours at a sidewalk cafĂ©. The picture was intriguing. A mysterious aura about it.


She wore a man’s tweed jacket, obviously lent to her to ward off the night chill. 

She wore red lipstick, red nail polish, and was drinking red wine.

She wore an enigmatic smile that could be interpreted as, I want to know you better, or I want your secrets. Maybe both. Either way, the young American spy sitting across from her was in trouble. The beginnings of a sequel.

Following his U.S. Navy service, Arthur Kerns joined the FBI with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. On retirement, he became a consultant with the Director of Central Intelligence and the Department of State, which took him to o      ver sixty-five countries. His short stories have appeared in several award-winning anthologies, recently in the Sisters in Crime, So West: Lady Killers. Diversion Books, Inc published his Hayden Stone thriller series, first, The Riviera Contract, and followed by The African Contract and The Yemen Contract. His latest thriller, Days of the Hunters, was published in March 2020. He is working on a WW II spy novel set in Latin America.