Clare Vanderpool
  Children's Book Author

                    

             "Singing songs like 'The Man I love' or 'Porgy'
           is no more work than sitting down and eating
           Chinese roast duck.  And I love roast duck."

                                                                          Billie Holiday
The Idea for
Navigating Early


    Writers get asked all the time – where do you get your ideas? Sometimes we might not even know where a particular idea came from but in the case of Navigating Early it originally started with the character of Early who was somewhat inspired by a dream my mom had.

    She had a dream of a young man with an extreme talent for playing the piano.  In her dream, the young man had no training but could play even the most difficult piece after hearing it just once.  Her dream was more about

a friendship between this young man and a young woman.  But the idea of writing a story about someone with an unexplainable gift stayed in my head.  What would that person's gift be?  How would it affect the rest of his life?

    Eventually, a different boy started to emerge in my mind and in my imagination. A boy with a special gift of his own. My job was to find out what that gift was.  As Early came into his own he showed himself to be a boy with some extremes; quirky, very focused, and he has an incredible sense of fidelity. 

  Jack on the other hand, is a Kansas kid who has lost his mother and is estranged from his father.  I knew his story was very much about loss of direction - he'd lost his bearings.  This would be a story of trying to find his way.  A story about navigating.

   So where to set the story?  I wanted the place to be a significant part of Jack’s experience.  I knew that moving him to Nebraska wasn’t going to do the trick.  I needed to take this landlocked Kansas kid and move him to where he would be most off balance. 

     The edge of the country… teetering on the brink of an ever moving ocean.

     I set off with my sister and a friend on a research trip to Maine.  We toured lighthouses, visited a boarding school and set off on our trek on the Appalachian Trail.  Maine is a beautiful state and much of what we saw found it's way into the book - waterfalls, niches, caves, beautiful landscape, rugged terrain, and amazing vibrant colors of the leaves changing color in October.

     So the answer to the question of where does an author get her ideas is simple.  Ideas come from watching, listening, paying attention, and most of all from the characters themselves.