Posted by: gillarbuthnott | August 8, 2016

Inspiration by the busload…

‘Where do you get your ideas?’ has got to be the most commonly asked question at author events. (Two other favourites being ‘How much do you earn?’ and ‘Do you know J K Rowling?’). There are many more potential answers to this question than there are authors, and they can best be summed up as ‘Oooh… anywhere, really.’

However, one of my favourite sources of a bit of something for my imagination to ferment is eavesdropping. Particularly eavesdropping on buses. And Edinburgh in August is as good as it gets, in that respect. The whole world seems to be here – I’m unconvinced that there are any Italian teenagers left in Italy just now – and many of them are inadvertently¬† giving me a peephole into their lives and minds.

I know, I should be ashamed of myself. But it’s so much fun – the thrill of the transgressive, the constant surprises, the astonishing things that people argue about, in public. I already owe almost the whole plot of one of my books – The Keepers’ Daughter – to other people’s conversations on buses, and I won’t be giving up any time soon. So beware of a woman with a faraway look in her eyes, especially if she reaches for a pen and writes something on her arm…



  1. I write things in Keep, on my phone. Last time was in the doctor’s waiting room, where a particularly colourful discussion was in place regarding criminal behaviour of someone who was no better than they ought to be. My daughter pointed out the language in a hiss, and I pulled out my phone and wrote the conversation down… It’s yet to find a home.

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