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A M Howell : Story Ideas from Places and Objects

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The inspiration for my historical mysteries often comes from visiting places and the objects that I see there. The idea for The House of One Hundred Clocks came from visiting two museums, Moyse’s Hall in my hometown of Bury St Edmunds and the clocks in the London Science Museum. Both museums house huge clock collections; longcase clocks (also known as grandfather clocks), skeleton clocks (which look like their name), carriage clocks (which have a carrying handle) and many other wonderful timepieces.

The clock collection in Bury St Edmunds was owned by one man and was so vast that some years ago they were put on display in a house all of their own. A house full of clocks! My brain began to tick with a story idea – why did this man collect so many clocks? Who took care of them? An image sprang into my head of a very wealthy and obsessive clock collector who eventually became Mr Westcott in my book. I thought he could employ a clock winder and his daughter, Helena, to take care of his precious clocks. But that idea didn’t seem very mysterious, so I knew I had some more thinking to do!

While visiting the Science Museum, the collection of clocks began to chime at midday; tinkles and chimes and bongs all clamouring to be heard. I had the sudden idea that Mr Westcott demands that Helena and her father keep the clocks ticking and chiming at all costs, or they will lose everything they own. I imagined that Helena could have something very important that she absolutely must not lose – her special parrot called Orbit. Suddenly I found that from visiting two museums and looking at the clocks I had a story idea with high stakes and lots of potential for things to go very wrong!

Now it’s time for you to come up with a story idea.

Next time you go out, whether it’s to school, shop, museum or your local park, have a look at the things you can see around you. It could be anything, a lamp, a book, a picture on the wall or even a funny-looking ornament or a plant. Can you imagine a story character who owned this object? Did they buy it, steal it, or even find it abandoned somewhere? Why is the object special to them? Does it hold special memories, or could it even be magical? Let your imagination go wild with ideas and begin to write them down, and before you know it you will have the very beginnings of your own object-inspired story!

The House of One Hundred Clocks by A M Howell is published 6th February 2020 by Usborne

Read our review of The House of One Hundred Clocks here