"How did you come up with your idea?"
I've seen all kinds of answers to this question over the years, ranging from the funny to the ultra serious. So here's my version for the short stories available to you (for just $1.99!) in Welcome To The Nightmare: Volume 1 by Timothy S. Villa (that's me) for sale right now (or after midnight cst) at
-Barnes & Noble for The Nook
If you don't see your country's Amazon link above, please search for it at your Amazon by title or author, as it is available on a total of twelve different Amazon sites.
Okay, so the answers. I'm going to go story by story and reveal how I came up with each story, as best I can.
I'm With The Band
The short story that starts off the collection, centers around a young woman, Gina, who is invited to a small bar in the middle of nowhere in Indiana to see her new boyfriend's band play.
I came up with this idea in 2009 or so. It came, as stories often do, to me in the early morning hours when I was barely awake. Over the course of a few days to weeks I worked the idea around in my head and came up with the hows, whys, and whats, ending with what I thought was a serviceable story that would (hopefully) shock, disgust, surprise, and entertain. In the intervening five or so years, I sat down on multiple occasions to write it, but couldn't find the right voice. There is a different version of it on my computer right now, unfinished, that will eventually get slightly reworked into a different story. Finally, last summer, while off work dealing with my bladder cancer and chemo, I figured out the right way to tackle the story. That being, as simply as possible. I kept over-thinking how to write it, wanting to delve too deeply into back-story and other matters that were ultimately unimportant to the actual small little tale I was trying to tell. I realized that shorter is better for this one. There was nothing that really set this idea into motion in my head, other than that I originally wanted to try to tell a Lovecraftian type of story about a young woman and her boyfriend, and as it went through my brain it changed and became this.
In my humble opinion (and I am so very biased of course) this is the strongest overall story in the book.
One Big Happy Family
The second story in the book, this one is about an elderly man, all alone in the world, who is being haunted by his long dead family. As with all the stories collected in WTTN:V1, all is not what it seems at the start.
Here's an example of me sitting down last summer (and yes, all four of the stories were written sometime between July and October of last year while I was off work) to write one story, and ultimately realizing as I wrote that the tale I was about to tell wasn't the one that wanted to come out. I wrote it, very fast, let it sit, and came back to it a day or so later with a new ending that I felt worked better. I love short stories that, while they have an ending, leave things very much open and incomplete. This is a tale that does that. The actual idea, and I remember this vividly, came to me as I was in WalMart and saw a very old man talking to the air as he walked across the parking lot. He seemed to be having a conversation, pausing in all the right places as if listening, with someone(s) that nobody else could see. (And if you are an author or aspiring writer, I implore you to people watch at WalMart or a mall, as it is amazing what you will see. More characters from stories over the years than I can count came from doing that.) Seeing this man do this instantly sent him into my "character vault" in my mind, and it wasn't two days later or so that I was sitting down to write the story.
In Taken Things a young woman, who is also a kleptomaniac, finds a small coin in a fountain in a mall. She takes it, but there's a young boy who wants her to put it back, and he is adamant about her doing just that.
This is a story that started from nowhere that I can find. It was written solely to be entered into a contest for a chance to be published in a horror anthology, and it didn't do too bad. It made it to the semi-finals, but ultimately lost. This is one of those that if/when asked how and where did the idea come from, I simply shrug my shoulders. One minute there was nothing, and the next there was a fully formed story in my head, along with the character traits of Jessica, the main character, and her manner of speaking. It was perhaps the easiest of the four to write as it was a complete story from A to Z in my head. I didn't play with it much, aside from cutting words to try to hit a certain word count for the contest, which I think made the story stronger overall, I just let it out and what you see is pretty much exactly what I wrote in the first draft, albeit cleaned up a bit.
The Tarnished Crown
The fourth, final, and longest story of the book, this came about over the course of six months, although the original premise was completed in a day or so. The story starts with a woman coming home to her house where her son and the babysitter are, and the conflict that occurs between her and the babysitter. It evolved into three tales in one, also featuring the woman's husband, a not so nice guy, and an Illlinois State Patrolwoman.
To say more is to say too much by far.
This is my favorite story in the collection (not the best but my favorite), and it started when I woke up from a nap and had this fully formed children's rhyme in my head. Where this thing came from I have no idea. I posted about it last summer here, but here the poem/rhyme is as well:
Do not envy he who wears
the tarnished crown atop his head
for surely it is only a matter of time
before he will be dead.
Do not covet the tarnished crown
and keep it from your sight.
To want it for your very own
you'll be dead before this night.
Note I never said it was good!
The actual rhyme was cut from the story, but it was the impetus and the groundwork for the whole thing that came from it over those six months.
The story and characters themselves, as well as The Tarnished Crown itself, the thing that is featured heavily on the cover of the book, all came from somewhere, but I couldn't tell you where. I know how it started, but now why. I don't know why I had that rhyme in my head after a nap, and I don't know how that led to me sitting down an hour or so later and cranking this sucker out.
And that's the answer for most creative people. They may be able to tell you a version of how they wound up with whatever they wound up with (story, book, art, invention, so on and so on) but they usually can't tell you exactly how or why. I think for so many of us, it just happens. Maybe we're wired differently. I don't mean to say that not everyone can do this, because I think we all can, but I think for those of us that are creative we also NEED to then follow up on the idea by actually creating the thing.
Even if it takes us five plus years to finally do it.
Someday I will finally get around to making Mind Games, an idea I came up with in 1991 pretty much fully formed from beginning to end, work and written. I've tried many times over the years to get this story out of me, to no avail. It continues to run through my mind and gestate, and I have no doubt it will come someday. Because it needs to. Because I need to create it and release it out into the world.
Tomorrow WTTN:V1 is "officially" released and available for sale (for just $1.99!), and it is the first thing I have ever published. It took me a long time, with many side trips down roads of self doubt, depression, and anxiety, but the day is finally here. I hope you enjoy it.
Have a great day!
Timothy S. Villa