At any given time I have ideas for probably a dozen different books and stories swirling around in my head. Some of them have been floating around in there for years. Some of them pop in with a sense of urgency that seems to fade once I start trying to put them down in words. Some of them come so fully formed that I fear that I'll lose them if I don't get them down immediately. The source of these various ideas can be something as innocuous as a book title popping into my head. There's no real substance there beyond a title until I start trying to extrapolate it.
I once saw a sign for a family cemetery while driving through the middle-of-nowhere west Texas. It had two last names on it, but together they seemed to make the perfect name for a slimy bad guy. That name, Scurlock Sneed, has been floating around in my head for close to four years now, just waiting for the right story to come along. Although Necessary Evil and the Greater Good is my first published novel, it's not the first (or even second) that I've written. In addition to a couple complete, though unpublished novels (and a few incomplete ones) I probably have two full volumes worth of short stories floating around in journals, notebooks, floppy disks, flash drives, and god knows where else.
Necessary Evil and the Greater Good is probably one of the few things I've worked on that I think has a somewhat normal genesis. It's a story about an Angel and a Demon that get sick of their boring and monotonous jobs and come up with an idea to manipulate an Omen and a Prophecy to get themselves kicked out of the Afterlife and kicking back in style until the End of the World. The basic idea about omens and prophecies came about from playing some little fantasy RPG in which a prophecy foretold that your main character was, not surprisingly, the chosen one. It's a trope that's been used so many times it almost becomes invisible in the world of storytelling. I see that concept and I immediately understand that the story is really just there to justify my character getting a million lucky breaks between humble beginning and triumphant end. I saw the premise and thought 'Oh great, another prophecy'. From there I wondered what would happen if I took that tired trope and started out by not taking it seriously. What if even to the protagonists prophecies and omens were as inconsequential as a penny you dropped on the ground and were too lazy to pick up? I decided that I would run with it and not take it the least bit serious.
I'd like to say that the rest was history and what I published was the obvious result of that concept. The truth is it took me a ridiculous amount of time and rewriting to get the fast-paced romp across countries and pantheons that I published. The writing started out easy enough. It was fun and irreverent from the get go. I had finished up the first chapter and had a basic idea of where I wanted the story to go.
Then I ended up reading a book called Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Although there are a lot of differences between my book and theirs, it felt too close for comfort and I felt like I'd stolen the idea even though I hadn't read it before. I felt like such a hack that I gave up - just stopped writing it altogether. I had printed out that first chapter and ended up stuffing it somewhere and about a year later a friend of mine came across it and after reading it said I should keep going. He had read Good Omens, he had actually been the one to suggest it, and he insisted there was enough originality that he hadn't even considered the potential similarities. I was hesitant but I decided to give it another try.
Follow this link for part two, where we find out how Adam got his book published.