(image from author’s blog)

Where Ideas Come from


            I’m in good company with other authors who probably get this same question: Where do you get your ideas? I’m always tempted to reply, “I just think of things. Doesn’t everyone?”

            It could be just that simple. I have brain interested in just about everything. For years, I’ve read widely in history and non-fiction of other varieties – Malcolm Gladwell is a personal favorite – and this kind of reading fuels my mind.

            I’m a practical person, and certain genre will never appeal to me. I am less than interested in werewolves and vampires, or time travel, or dystopic angst. My personal escape fiction reading is crime fiction, by really good authors (Crais, Connelly, Burke, Robinson). I do like social history and military history, both of which I have mined for ideas all my life.

            Case in point: Borrowed Light. For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s the story of a young Mormon from Salt Lake City in 1909 who is a graduate of the Fannie Farmer School of Cookery in Boston. She answers an ad from “Desperate Rancher,” and goes to cook for him and his hands in southeast Wyoming, near Goshen Hole.

            How it started: Years before, I was in Denton, Texas, and came across a copy of Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century. It turned out to be a dry read, but I learned a lot about the rise of “domestic science,” graduated measurements and exact recipes. Fannie Farmer was a leader in the charge to educate women about cooking in a scientific manner. I read the book for no purpose greater than my own information.

            That led me to a facsimile 1896 edition of Miss Farmer’s famous cookbook. Some of the recipes amused me; some I wanted to try.

            Then came the next step, the one hard to explain – I started thinking about both books, and made the leap to a character I named Julia Darling, who goes to Goshen Hole to cook for Paul Otto.

            Mr. Otto is based in fact. When I lived in Torrington, Wyoming, I met Paul Otto, a distinguished-looking rancher. He was an older gentleman then, and I suppose he is gone now; the Otto name is still prominent in ranching there. At any rate, I decided in 1975, before Borrowed Light was even an idea, that I’d used that name and that rancher in a story someday. And I did, with much fondness for the people and places I know and love.

            Enduring Light wasn’t even supposed to happen. When I finished Borrowed Light, I thought that would be it. It has a happy ending, and I had other projects. In my lengthy writing career, I’ve only written one sequel: One Good Turn, to Libby’s London Merchant.

            I hadn’t reckoned on my readers, who let me know they wanted more Julia Darling and Mr. Otto. This presented its own dilemma, because I hadn’t left too many loose ends to flesh out a sequel.

            But maybe I had. What happened to James? What if Julia’s tough time trying to stay alive during a firestorm had done a little more damage than anyone knew? There’s no house now on the ranch; the cattle are scattered. How can Julia and Mr. Otto marry? She’s back in Salt Lake City, and he’s in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, hunting for his livestock.

            What do you know – there was puh-lenty to write about. I did, and I wrote it fast, because I know these characters so well.  I had a blast.

            I guess there’s really no answer to where stories come from. They just do. Luckily I have a good imagination and the patience to let seemingly disparate ideas gel and characters start to peek around the corners of my mind until I notice them. Voices in my head? Maybe. For some, that might mean therapy; for me, it means 350 double-spaced pages – its own therapy.


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Publisher:Cedar Fort, Inc. (January 8, 2012)


ISBN-13: 978-1599559841

Book Description(from Amazon)

Publication Date: January 8, 2012
Julia Darling is finally able to marry her Mr. Otto for eternity. But it’s a hard world for a rancher in turn-of-the-century Wyoming, especially a Mormon rancher. And when people start talking, it’s up to Julia to prove she’s her husband’s equal in strength and endurance as she learns to let go of scars on the outside and inside.
Thanks to Carla we are offering 1 lucky commenter an autographed print copy of “Enduring Light” by Carly Kelly. Giveaway open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Giveaway will run from today December 16 until December 23,2011. No P.O. Boxes. Must leave email address for contact purposes.
**Check at for “Our Thoughts” on Enduring Light” by Carla Kelly in a few days**