The question of where do you get your ideas comes up at just about every author’s book signings.
At least the ones I attend.
But the answer is never simple. Ideas for novels come from myriad sources—from the news, from an idea sparked by an incident in the supermarket and, sometimes, from an author’s own life.
Even if it is a painful part of one’s life.
Tom Rob Smith borrows something from his past for the plot in his latest novel The Farm.
In The Farm, an adult son learns that his Swedish mother, Tide, and British father, Chris, no longer trust each other. His father says that his mother is psychotic, which his mother denies.
Throughout the 29-year-old’s life, his parents’ marriage had seemed to near perfect, with any sign of discontent concealed from their son. Chris tells Daniel that his mother has vanished following a breakdown. Then Tide shows up at Daniel’s apartment, claiming her husband has been trying to gaslight her. She’s armed with a briefcase full of evidence and a lifetime of resentment.
Who should he believe? And who should the reader believe?
Smith, best known for the Cold War-era series Child 44, used his experience with his own mother’s mental illness for The Farm.
Like his protagonist, Smith also didn’t know who to believe—his father who was obviously upset about his wife’s mental state or his mother who insisted she was fine.
Smith’s true story has a happier ending, which he wrote about in an essay published in the London Times: “The doctors have been so impressed with my mum's recovery that she now gives talks to other women on the nature of her experience. My parents are together and, if anything, closer than ever - a team again. In the same way, I also feel closer to both of them. Part of growing up is relearning who your parents are and being there for them in a way that they were for you, as a child, on countless occasions.”
Smith’s essay about his parents can be accessed here.
The Farm has been receiving positive reviews, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly and glowing quotes from Mark Billingham and Jeffery Deaver.
Smith’s novels in his Child 44 trilogy were New York Times bestsellers, as well as international best sellers. Child 44 won the International Thriller Writers 2009 Thriller Award for Best First Novel and the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award.
The film adaptation of Child 44, starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and Gary Oldman, is due for international release in October.
BBC Films and Shine Pictures have purchased the film rights to The Farm.