When you tell them you’re a novelist, they ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” I say that, if you’re a novelist, ideas leap out at you from behind every tree, building, and overheard conversation.
I’m back from an idea-filled trip to my husband’s 60th Harvard reunion, where some of his fellow classmates asked me―guess what?
There were plenty of ideas floating around the oldest university in the United States. Some of them were supplied by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who spoke to the annual alumni association meeting on commencement day. She gave me an idea for a short story at the beginning of her remarks, when she talked about growing up on the wrong side of the Berlin wall.
But there were lots of other moments for a writer to catalogue. I watched many of the graduating seniors pose with the famous statue of John Harvard. They were with their families, and I thought about what it would be like to have raised a child who was now graduating from a prestigious university. Or what it would be like to be that son or daughter. Where are they going from here? In a lecture room in Emerson Hall, I listened to a talk by Professor Theda Skocpol on how the development and organization of the Tea Party and the Anti-Trump Resistance paralleled each other. That sent me contemplating political passions and dedication. Then, on the ground floor of the building, I came face to face with a statue of one of the great thinkers of my own education—Ralph Waldo Emerson. Seeing him took me back to my American Studies classes at The George Washington University. And that led me to thinking about a good friend from GWU who recently died. I usually write happy endings. Do I want to write about loss?
There are authors who have an easy time with writing humor. I have to struggle with it. But seeing the Harvard Lampoon building put a smile on my face. Who came up with that whimsical facade? It made me think about college-age humor writers sitting around a table trying to outdo each other—which led me to speculation about the groups of writers who came up with the jokes for the TV shows of my youth.
Then there was the art museum where Norman’s reunion class enjoyed a wonderful dinner. (The first wonder was that they served us very nicely prepared fish instead of chicken.) The courtyard could have been in an ancient Roman building. Then I looked up at the huge mobile hanging above our heads and the newly-installed glass upper stories. Around the courtyard were art galleries with both modern and more traditional art. I thought about the men and women who had produced those paintings and sculptures and how writers and artists have a lot in common.
And we had a final fun surprise. After the reunion we went to a barbecue restaurant in Kendall Square. We sat near a long table where a large group of men were laughing and talking after dinner. They were all fit and good looking―romance-hero potentials. Most were informally dressed, but one was in a Navyl officer’s uniform. After dinner, we walked out in back of the Navy guy, and I asked him about the group. He said they were in town for their 25th Harvard reunion—and they were all members of the Harvard football team. No wonder they were so impressive.
If I don’t get a story out of this trip, I’ll be surprised. What do you think about when you tour new places?
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.