A few months back, I hit a roadblock trying to work out a theme for my next novel. Like many writers, I have a folder full of writing project ideas, but none grabbed me. Many hours plodded by, staring frustrated at a legal pad full of crossed out, brain-stormed thoughts.
Then one afternoon, feeling betrayed by my imagination and worrying that I didn’t have another novel in me, I walked into town. Past the Victorian homes lining Main Street, where downtown begins, I noticed a new “For Sale” sign on an old antiques store–Clarkston Country Store. I lifted the lid on the container holding the realtor’s description of the property, pulled one out, and read that an apartment existed on the top floor–something I didn’t know. Surprisingly, the store was open that day. It rarely had been for the past few years. I stepped in.
I hadn’t visited the place for at least twenty years, not being interested in the garage-sale type “antiques” sold there. Smiling at the owner, who stood behind the counter I did a walk through. Not much had changed, but I couldn’t help looking though a basket full of photos with a sign inviting me to “Choose a Relative.” I didn’t–I have more than enough of my own.
Back at the counter, I asked the owner about the history of the place. He told me that in the early 1900s, the building housed a woodworking shop on the first floor and a photographer’s studio above. Mid-century, it became an antiques store, and the photographer’s studio was converted into an apartment.
Excited, I rushed home, my brain spinning all the way, and googled the store. As it turns out, my adopted town has a historical society website where I discovered more information about the building. Gratefully, the legal pad was soon covered with potential stories about hidden photographs, small town scandals and secrets, and unreliable witnesses to crimes.
That day I learned that it’s not only big flashy ideas that inspire a novel, but sometime it’s places, buildings and objects right under our noses.