How do writers decide what to write about?

A guest post by Jennifer Macaire

Here is a question a reader posed to Tom, who tossed it over to me, and I gladly caught it because it was exactly what I was trying to decide at that moment. The question was, “How do writers decide what to write about?” Serendipity, really, because I’ve always been a writer of daily happenings, circumstances, and daydreams.

Writing is a lonely business. I never minded, because I’ve never been uncomfortable alone with my thoughts. I’m afraid I day-dreamed most of my time in school – and I still tend to do that – I’m lost in thought as I take the train (one of the reasons I love trains!), as I walk or bike to work, and as I lie in bed waiting to fall asleep. And my mind is always making up stories. “What if?” is a favorite game I play with myself – and I can go on for hours. For my Alexander series, it started as a “What if someone went back in time to interview someone famous – let’s say Alexander the Great?” and seven books later, I ended the saga! On science blog, I came across a smilodon skull, and the fact that scientists are not sure how smilodons (sabre-toothed tigers) killed their prey. From that photo, and that idea, I wrote a book (which will be out in August 2020) set in the paleolithic, with smilodons, people from the future, and a lethal virus! 

Smilodon at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits
Dallas Krentzel [CC BY (]

My books come from “What if?” games, from a photo and blog article about a skull – and one came from a dream. My YA book, “Horse Passages”, came from a very vivid dream that just wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d finished the book.  My latest book is set in the Middle Ages during the ill-fated 8th Crusade. The idea behind the book came from a visit I made to the Saint Chapel in Paris, which had been built by St. Louis to house the crown of thorns.

That got me interested in St Louis, his life and times, and I ended up thinking the 8th Crusade would make an interesting background for a story. And so “A Crown in Time” was born. The heroine, Isobel, is a woman from the future sent back to save a young man who has embarked on the Crusade and whose actions have drastically changed the course of time. As a Corrector, Isobel is sent on a one-way trip back – basically a death sentence – but she accepts, because she was already in prison and doesn’t have anything left to lose.

One writer I know gets her ideas from he headlines in the press. Another writer uses photos or paintings for inspiration, and yet another uses objects for her stories: an old watch, a ring, or a teacup, for example. I admit that when I write a historical novel it is very helpful for me to actually see objects used during the time period I’m writing about, which is why you can find me peering at displays in museums and poring over old maps. We have a nymphorium nearby and when I pass by I often stop and visit – the ancient Roman temple dedicated to a nymph has been rebuilt to what it must have looked like over two thousand years ago, and I love trying to see past the mists of time to imagine people leaving offerings to the nymph – what did they pray for? What did they leave? What were they like?

Once an idea has taken hold and the story begun, it’s just a matter of writing – one word after the other. Ideas are easy to come by. The hard part is writing it all down. It’s a lonely job, often without reward, but it’s one I love with all my heart! Thank you, Tom, for giving me a chance to write about how I find my ideas – I hope this is helpful to aspiring writers! Try the “What if?” game, and see what you can come up with! But above all – have fun!

A Crown in Time

Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
(paperback copy)
ISBN: 9781786157768


Universal link for my kindle book:


Jennifer Macaire

Jennifer is an American living in Paris. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

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