One of the coolest parts of being a published novelist is being asked to “blurb” books. That means either the author or the editor or agent reaches out and asks you to read and endorse a new book, if you like it. Authors can’t always say yes, but when we do, we cross all our crossables that we’re going to like a book, find it within our moral wheelhouse to add our own name to it’s front, back, or inside. It’s not a given. A few times I’ve been unable to read a book because the subject matter didn’t sit right with me, so I politely declined. Luckily, I’ve not read a book I’ve felt unable to blurb. I think that means the right folks are asking!
Like Nicole Meier!
Here’s my blurb for The House of Bradbury, Nicole’s debut novel:
“Just as inspiration hits struggling writer Mia Gladwell, she agrees to take in a recovering young starlet. With Ray Bradbury’s former home as its backdrop, Nicole Meier weaves a delightful tale of accidental friendships and second chances.”
Today, we have Nicole here on WFW sharing how a photograph sparked the story for her novel.
Please welcome Nicole Meier to WFW, and share your novel’s inspiration in the comments!
How One Image Sparked a Novel
By Nicole Meier
One picture is worth a thousand words. Or in my case, seventy-five thousand. This statement pretty much sums up the origin of my debut novel, The House of Bradbury. It was actually the discovery of a single image that snared my attention and caused me to stop everything else I was working on to find out more.
A couple of years ago, I came across a Los Angeles Times article that read, “You can live in Ray Bradbury’s house for just $1.5 million.” Included in the article was the real estate photo of the home’s exterior. The charming 1930’s traditional-style architecture, with its bay windows and red tiled roof, piqued my interest. I could tell from the snapshot of the cheery yellow house, where Ray Bradbury resided for half a century, that the interior was full of stories. Like my protagonist, I wanted nothing more than to get inside and discover its secrets.
I’ve been a Bradbury fan since my teens, when I first discovered Fahrenheit 451. Over the years, I’ve admired him for his fantastical books and unique perspective on the culture in which he lived. Plus, he was such a proponent of writers everywhere. You’d be hard-pressed to find another author of his caliber who generously offered so much thoughtful advice to other writers. He was a big fan of the art of storytelling.
Around the time of the article, my twin daughters were studying his short stories in their middle school class. Rediscovering tales like The Veldt through my children’s eyes made me fall in love with Bradbury’s work all over again. So it felt like the perfect storm of rediscovering his work and learning about his empty home that inspired me to create my story. I wanted to imagine a modern day writer taking up residence, hoping to soak up any creative vibrancy the iconic author might have left behind. I wanted to portray someone who was charmed by the worn finishes and dated décor. All of these details served as a roadmap to Bradbury’s daily life. I imagined who might pick up that map and make use of it.
With the intensity of an art curator, I pored over photos, videos, and magazine articles featuring Bradbury’s home. I wanted to know the layout of the rooms, the color of the hardwoods, and the design of the wallpaper. I clipped image after image, pasting them up where I could study and piece together the bones of the house. These pictures drove my narrative and helped me develop the characters.
As my research continued and my story began to unfold, I learned that an LA-based “starchitect” had purchased the property with plans to raze it to the ground. This news was devastating. As a Southern California native, familiar with the neighborhood, I wanted to envision a world where the house wasn’t demolished, but instead purchased by an appreciative fan. In this respect, I did my best to keep the details of the dwelling alive. I suppose you could argue that the house itself became a main character. After all, it was the reason the story existed in the first place.
Now that the book has been released, people tell me they’ve looked up the home and reacquainted themselves with Bradbury’s work. Nothing makes me happier. While my story is fictional, I hope to share some of the author’s inspirational spirit with my readers. And where better to start than to offer a glimpse at his house?
I’m fairly certain all my future stories will be inspired by photography in some form or another. So far, it’s been a pretty good muse.
Nicole Meier is a native Southern Californian who pulled up roots and moved to the Pacific Northwest. She works as a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She lives in Oregon with her husband and three children. The House of Bradbury is her first novel.