As I write, I try to inhabit the world of my book and its cast. Early in the process, I go through a stack of magazines and pull out pictures of people who have a certain look or quality that embodies the major characters.
One of my great passions is musical theatre. (I most often write in my living room, under a blanket designed with the Playbill covers of my 16 favorite shows.) Once I have a sense of the emotional arc of a novel, I create a playlist to chart that journey. While the lyrics of the songs influence my choices to some degree, it’s more about the feelings I have while listening and how those mirror the experiences of the main character.
With Dell’s story, I got stuck about two-thirds of the way through writing the first draft. On a long car ride, I listened to the playlist I had created for her, and the ups and downs of the emotions it stirred up inside me offered the clarity I needed, making it obvious what I should do to fix the narrative.
Any other inspiration I find is specific to each book. For Dell, I thought often about Charlie and his camera. When I saw something I thought Charlie would want to capture, I took a picture. In some cases, I even set out with the intention of recreating some of the photographs he takes in the novel.
My daughter, Ellie, had fun being the model.