As a fiction writer there's this dreaded question you always get asked, which is "where do your ideas come from?" It's dreaded because it's normally really difficult to answer, it sounds so feeble and slender when you try and do it. You find yourself inventing; you're inventing within the invention.However, his latest book had a clearer story behind it. He'd been living in Tuscany and met a friend whose companion recommended he should visit La Specola, a museum in Florence:
This was from a complete stranger. There was an unusual moment. I think as a writer you're always alert and open to these moments of being steered out of the unknown; it's a bit like inspiration, something that you're not expecting.He visited the museum on his way back to the UK and was fascinated by the some of the wax sculptures "but not really thinking it would go anywhere". It wasn't until he attended an art exhibition in London some months later and saw a description of an Italian wax sculptor as 'eccentric' that he began looking for the background to this story... and began writing his own.
The Charleston event was a fascinating insight to Rupert's work. His novel-writing process struck me as similar to the steps in James Webb Young's A Technique for Producing Ideas.
In this advertising classic, which was published over 70 years ago, the author refers to an idea being "a new combination of old elements" and goes on to talk about a five-step process of gathering material, digesting that material, letting ideas incubate while you think about something else, experiencing the birth of the idea and finally developing the idea.
Of course, having ideas is only the first part. Turning them into successful books is the really clever bit.