Where Do Ideas Come From?

Novelist Joseph A. West, who writes the GUNSMOKE tie-ins among many others, shared this story with me about how he got the idea for his new book:

I’ve just started work on a fairly traditional western I’m calling CANTINA.
As you are aware, ideas for novels come in strange ways. [My wife] Emily and I were on the
New Mexico/Texas border and a busted muffler on the Wrangler forced us to stay
at a Bates motel in the middle of nowhere, run by an old German lady with 100
cats. She told us the only place to eat was a Mexican cantina a mile down the
road, and that’s where we ended up that night. The food was good, the beer
better, and as we were settling the bill, the owner said to me: "Hey, why don’t
you buy this place. I got two fat ladies in the kitchen and all you have to do
is sit back and rake in the money."
I refused Emilio’s kind offer, but I got to thinking…suppose a puncher
rides out of the blue hills with $500 in his jeans, money he’s saved from 10
hard years nursing cows. He stops in a cantina to eat and the owner says: "Hey,
why don’t you buy this place. I got two fat ladies in the kitchen
My hero jumps at the chance and thinks his troubles are over…until
Mexican bandits, marauding Apaches and the three deadly Retzin brothers convince
him otherwise.
[My Editor] liked the idea, and now it’s a go. Thank heaven for very spooky old ladies with cats.

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