Ideas for books come to me in all sorts of ways. It could be someone’s bathroom that was so dirty that the bath was blue-black; or a wet dog shoving his soaking self against me to show he needed a towel; or an oddly named room in a library; or mabe an ordinary landscape seen through a wobbly window. A peculiar dream started Archer’s Goon. But they are only the seeds from which a book grows. I have to wait for the right characters to fit the growing idea. These can be real people or people I have made up – in either case I have to know them as well as you know a friend. Then I have to wait for the seed to grow into the outline of a story, and I often have several ideas growing in my mind at once. Sometimes it takes several years before the book – suddenly and loudly – lets me know it is ready to be written. This is not only often at an inconvienent time, but quite often the book that wants to be written is not the book I thought I was readiest to write.
Writing it, I have to drop everyting and live in the world of the book – which is fascinating, because each world is different. My family don’t find it fascinating. I get horribly absent-minded. I forget mails and I keep bursting out laughing for no reason they can see. And while I am working on a book, the things I am writing have a creepy way of coming true. At the very least, I am haunted by vans with the names of my characters on them. In Howl’s Moving Castle,the heroine gets turned into an old lady and has to walk with a stick. Just as I finished the book, we had a car crash that caused me to walk with a stick for months. Even more alarming, while I was writing A Tale of Time City, when I had got to the part where its domes collapse and its houses fall into the street, the roof of my study suddenly fell in.
You might think these dangers would stop me writing. But they don’t. I love writing too much.