When Ideas Collide!

Published on: 03 October 2016 Author: Helen Dennis

River of Ink featured as one of our Bookbuzz books in 2016.  Author Helen Dennis writes about, 'collisions' - what happens when one idea crashes into another!

Helen Dennis

Probably the question I get asked the most when I meet with readers (apart from 'do you know JK Rowling?') is where do you get your inspiration from? It's a tricky one to answer. I get ideas all the time...for funny scenes, quirky settings and unusual characters. But it's harder to be clear about where I get inspiration from that is 'big enough' or 'strong enough' to turn into a full length book. But having thought about this a lot, I think I now know the answer: Inspiration, for me, comes from when ideas collide! And this was certainly the case with River of Ink.

Let me explain.

Way back in 2005, I heard this amazing true story. It involved a man who was found wandering along the seafront in Kent. He was dressed in a really smart suit but he was soaked to the skin and he couldn't answer any questions about who he was, or why he'd clambered out of the sea. The story went viral. It was on the news and in all the papers. Appeals were made asking for anyone who knew the man to come forward. But no one did.

As the man wouldn't speak, the doctors asked him to write down anything he could about himself. But the man did something odd. He didn't write anything at all. Instead he drew a picture of a piano! The man became known as 'the piano man' and I was fascinated by his story.

But eventually the news reporters lost interest. His story was never resolved! But the story of the man with no memory who clambered from the water, settled somewhere in the back of my mind and never left.

Then one day, back in 2012, I was reading a non-fiction history book. I do that a lot. I like reading about things that happened in the past. Anyway, I read this tiny story about something that happened in the Second World War. It involved the CIA, which is a big government agency in America. The story was about the CIA's international hunt for a man who'd gone missing. A man who knew an incredible secret!

Suddenly, my heart began to race and two ideas collided smack in the middle of my brain!

I hadn't thought about 'the piano man' for years. But his story came flooding back to me. It crashed against the story about the CIA's search for a missing man who had a secret. And that was it! I had the inspiration for River of Ink!

What if I wrote about a character who could remember nothing about who he was, and only drew something when asked for answers? And what if a huge, important organisation was determined to track him down? And what if this man knew, but had forgotten, an incredible, life-changing, world-changing secret! Suddenly, the whole adventure of River of Ink slotted into place in my head. A book was born!

So the answer to the question about where I get my inspiration from is - 'collisions'! From when one idea crashes into another! In that moment, story magic happens! And nothing is more exciting for a writer, than when it does!


Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.

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