About two years ago, Cortez showed up on our back porch. We'd seen him around the neighborhood for a few weeks -- he had no collar, and had the wary, lean look of a guy who was out on his own, sleeping rough and eating wherever he could.
He jumped into my husband's lap as if he was meant to be there, and pretty much just ... moved in. And we're happy to have him. (Even though we did name him after the Neil Young song "Cortez the Killer." If you have a mouse problem, Cortez will hook you right up, believe me.)
I didn't really want a cat. I'm allergic, so living with cats takes a little effort on my part, and I'm definitely more of a dog person. But Cortez was right there, patient and calm and a little mysterious, and it was hard not to pet him, and scratch him behind the ears, and feel a little proud that he'd chosen us to be his new family. (Spoiler alert: I am so ridiculously fond of him now, it's all a little goopy. We also now have another cat, Switch, so I'm beginning to question the whole "not a cat person" thing.)
The idea for Cold Kiss showed up the same way, although it landed in my lap instead of my husband's (thank goodness). I was talking with friends online, and the discussion turned, as it does, to vampires and werewolves and ghosts, and someone said, "One day there'll be a book where someone's got a zombie boyfriend."
And everyone laughed, and started talking about cupcakes and how Lost had taken a left turn into Totally Insano Land, and the moment was gone. But I couldn't shake it. In my head, there was a girl with a zombie boyfriend, and I had to figure out why.
At the time, I'd been writing romance (after years of editing it), but YA was my first love. My true love. The first book I ever finished writing is an embarrassingly autobiographical YA novel that will live forever under my bed, nestled in dust bunnies. I'd done some ghostwriting for a middle-grade series that was some of the best fun I'd ever had writing. And I thought, screw it, I'm writing this.
It was like coming home, even though "home" wasn't somewhere I'd really been yet. But writing in Wren's voice came so naturally, I knew I'd made the right decision. And HarperTeen actually liked it! So now I get to write another book about Wren, which is not something I'd ever anticipated.
The moral of the story is: sometimes stuff just shows up. Sometimes it's germs thanks to your second-grader, and sometimes it's bills thanks to the good people at the electric company, and sometimes it's that girl who was always mean to you in high school and now suddenly expects to be BFF on Facebook.
But sometimes it's a really cool cat who likes to curl up against your legs at night, and wake you up by licking your hair and putting one paw carefully in the center of your chest. (The hair licking is weird, I know, but it's his ... idiom, I guess.) And sometimes it's an idea that seems really far off your particular reservation, and you write it anyway.
Now if someone would just show up with a lifetime supply of cupcakes and a puppy ...