The Really Big Idea: Steve Umstead

Steve Umstead has been exceedingly generous in providing helpful advice to me in the short time that I have been above water as an author. So naturally, I asked him to help some more… But at least this time, we have the thin fiction that this is self promotion for him. The Gabriel story is the kind of thing that I always imagined that I would be writing when the time came. Space ships, action, conflict, and intrigue. Science fiction in the classic mode. Sometimes, an image in your mind can be a powerful thing even if you don’t realize its power at the time. The key is that if that picture in your head is true, then what you make of it at least stands a chance of hitting a chord with your readers. Three Gabriel books is perfect proof of that.

Gabriel’s Genesis

When Stephen approached me a few weeks back about participating in this modified version of The Really Big Idea, my first thought was, “I never had a really big idea,” so what could I possibly contribute? As I thought more and more about it, I realized that way back when, I did have a Really Big Idea about what became my debut novel, Gabriel’s Redemption. It’s just that way back when, I had no inkling that little scene floating around in my head would turn out to be an idea that blossomed the way it did.

You see, a little over a year ago, I had no story, nor plans to publish a novel. I had always wanted to write, since a very early age, but had never sat down and written, from start to finish. I had plenty of first chapters I thought were incredible; I edited them to death, and subsequently lost interest as real life moved in to take over my focus. So I never finished.

Flash forward past my 40th birthday (the year at which point I always thought I’d be rich and famous by…not quite) to October of 2010 and my plans to jump into the following month’s National Novel Writing Month challenge. I decided once and for all to sit down and finally finish a story, but I needed that Big Idea. The scene that had been floating in my head for decades (yep, decades…) reared its head, and Gabriel was born.

The scene is quite simple, actually, and at the point when I sat down to write it, I really had no clue what it would become. It’s a short scene: a disgraced Special Forces soldier, haunted by his past, dreaming of a happier day in his childhood with his family, brought out of the dream by people who want to bring him back to his present, with a chance for redemption. From that scene, I created the character and his background, his mission and its challenges, his flaws and his strengths. They all grew from that one tiny little chapter.

Once that book was completed, and published, and started to get good feedback, I looked back at that tiny little scene and realized I could do much more with it. And so a trilogy was born, the characters continued to be developed, the plot arc was extended, and came full circle with the final scene of the final book.

I get the question of, “where did you get the trilogy idea from?” a lot. And my honest answer is I don’t know, at least for that first scene. But as for the complete story, it all came from a guy in a ratty Jamaican hotel room, dreaming of better days. Go figure…

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