Sometimes inspiration for a story will come at the oddest times from the oddest places. A case in point:
I was just thumbing through a book on the history of Boston, called When In Boston: A Time Line and Almanac (by Jim Vrabel, Northeastern University Press, 2004). As the subtitle implies, the book basically gives a year-by-year account of significant political, cultural, and social events in the history of the city from the earliest days of exploration (there is an entry for 1000 that speculates about Leif Ericson’s possible exploration of the waters in and around present-day Boston) to the pinnacle of Boston pride: the Red Sox World Series victory in 2004.
The entry that caught my eye and fired my imagination was for 1765, the year in which the first Thieftaker novel is set. There is no precise date attached to the event, but it is listed under the heading “Sports and Recreation.” It reads simply: “Horse races are first held on the Boston Neck.”
That’s all. But as soon as I read it, I started imagining a short story in which Ethan Kaille, my lead character, attends one of these early horse races and so is there when a more wealthy attendee is robbed, perhaps even murdered. And suddenly, as the expression goes, I am off to the races. Plot points, characters, visual details — all are swirling through my head. It’s not a matter of if I will write the story, but rather how soon, and how quickly.
Now I will admit that I have recently finished one Thieftaker short and so have been looking for my next story idea. But this one caught me completely by surprise. And often, those stories are the most fun to write.