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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

DAY 10 GIVEAWAY Where do ideas come from? #amwriting #writinginspiration

Probably the question I’m most asked is: where on earth do you get your ideas from? The short answer is that I don’t know – my brain simply seems to work that way! But I thought it might be interesting to give you a glimpse of just how my books came into being…


There are two things that always catch people’s eye on my CV: the first, that I was an air hostess for about six months, many moons ago; the second, that I worked in a men’s maximum security prison for a while.

One day, as I exchanged genuine pleasantries with one of the inmates in HMP Barlinnie, it struck me that bad guys often don’t seem that bad. They don’t wear black hats, as they do in old Westerns; they don’t look menacing; and they don’t have a name tag that says “evil” on it, or a giveaway as obvious as Rudolph’s glowing red nose. From that point on, whenever I read about a man who had committed a terrible crime, and people would inevitably say: “The wife must have known, how could she not”, I always wondered, would she? Really?

This was the inspiration behind Invisible, which is a journey into one woman’s twisted marriage – and how the biggest lies we tell are sometimes to ourselves.



Life was hectic. I was busy writing Invisible during my train commute every morning and evening (when I could manage to get a seat), and perhaps snatching a moment during lunchbreaks. I had also just taken voluntary redundancy from my job, so was trying to tie up loose ends before I left, and organise moving from my home in Colchester to Birmingham to be with my partner. My 40th birthday was fast-approaching, and everyone kept asking me what I wanted to do, but I’d no clue. It’s fair to say, I had a LOT on my mind…and that sometimes made me a bit forgetful.

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

One day I opened my fridge to use the last of my milk. But it wasn’t the last, there was another full carton beside it that I must have bought and forgotten about. I didn’t remember buying it at all, though.

“It must have been me, there’s no one else who could have done it,” I shrugged to myself. Then I laughed: “Unless there’s a crazed stalker breaking in just to leave me milk.”

Suddenly I stopped laughing and shivered.

From that moment came the inspiration for Adam, a stalker who wants to do kind, thoughtful things for the woman he loves. Right up until the moment he kills her. I kept thinking about how creepy it would be to have someone doing things around your home, and how easy it would be at first to write them off as absent-mindedness. No one would realise what Adam was doing until it was too late…


The story in the newspaper haunted me.

Michael Payne was the father of Sarah Payne, who had been snatched from the road and murdered by Roy Whiting when she was eight. Under the strain of what had happened, his marriage broke down, and Michel moved to a new area. There, he was befriended by baby-faced Levi Bellfield, and they became drinking buddies.

It was only later that Bellfied was arrested for being a serial killer who targeted young blonde women and girls, including Milly Dowler, Amelie Delagrange, and Marsha McDonnell.


Sarah Payne

Why on earth had this monster sought out the father of a murder victim, I wondered. The answer seemed horrifyingly obvious to me: to enjoy watching the pain of someone who had lost a child to a killer.

I kept trying to forget it, but I couldn’t – instead I found myself imagining what it must have been like for Michael when his drinking pal was arrested and the truth came out. It was the final insult to a man who had already had to endure so much heartache.

From that grew the idea of a woman who is convinced someone she has known and trusted all of her life has hurt her child. Who has done it? And why? At the heart of the tale is the devastation of loss, and the claustrophobic paranoia that my character Melanie descends into.


You won’t believe me when I tell you…but the idea for this came while watching Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The title triggered something one day, and the Thomas family popped into my head, each character already formed. I loved the idea of them suffering ‘death by a thousand cuts’; the accumulation of different events building to one destructive moment.

So, there you have it. Ideas come from all over, and I can never be sure what will inspire me. It can be a tragic news story, or a random act, and anything in between. My latest inspiration popped into my head as I was walking my dog along the beach, looking at some knots of seaweed, and suddenly lots of little ideas I’d had collided and slotted together until…oh, my! I’m writing it feverishly now, and I can’t wait to share that with you!


GIVEAWAY! How to enter

From 19 November until 30 November inclusive, my posts on this blog will contain a festive reference. Find it, and then either comment on the post or email Every person who answers correctly will be entered into a prize draw. The competition closes on Thursday 7 December. The winners will be chosen at random and announced on Friday 8 December.

So, can you find today’s Christmas reference in this post? Let me know!

What am I giving away?

ONE lucky winner will receive a SIGNED COPY of Her Last Secret and some chocolate to indulge in while reading.

THREE lucky winners will receive a SIGNED COPY of The Darkest Lies and some chocolate to indulge in while reading.

ONE lucky winner will receive a SIGNED COPY of Flowers For The Dead and some chocolate to indulge in while reading.

TWO lucky winners will receive an audio book of Her Last Secret and some chocolate to indulge in while listening.

ONE very lucky winner will have a CHARACTER NAMED AFTER THEM in my next book. *


As well as this competition, check out Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and my website for more ways to enter over the next 12 days. You can enter as many times as you want!

* Please note that the character will have your name but will not be based in any way upon you or any person living or dead. They may be a good person or a bad person – they could even be a killer. So be prepared! The part they play may be large or small. Entry into the competition is taken as agreement to these conditions. Thank you.

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