Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Places That Inspire...

As an author, I'm always on the lookout for inspiration.  I strain to hear snippets of conversation from the group sitting at the table behind me. (Yeah, beware what you say when you're out in public.  You might end up in a book. *wink*)  I hastily jot down notes on the newest flavor of gelato and wonder how I might incorporate it into my next title.  (The hero's favorite dessert, perhaps?  The taste of the heroine's skin on the hero's tongue?  Yowza!)  Much to my husband's eternal lament, I stop to smell... well... everything.  (Hey, I tell him, you never know when I might need to describe the exact bouquet of interesting... uh, arresting?... hmm, overwhelming odors on the wharf in San Francisco!)   You name it, I catalog it away for use in a future book.

And then there are times when, from out of nowhere - BAM!- inspiration strikes.  Take for instance a recent road trip Mr. Walker and I made from Chicago down to Oklahoma.  Deciding to get off the beaten path, we meandered through the little town of Cairo on the southern tip of Illinois.  KABLAMO!  There it was.  The setting for my next book.  Because Cairo, with it fascinating history that includes race riots and monster floods, is quickly becoming a modern day ghost town.  Ooooooh, so dark.  So mysterious.  So... screaming to be made into a book!  Don't believe me?  Check out these photos...
A portion of the abandoned downtown area. Just look at that old Maytag sign!

More of the abandoned downtown area. I wonder which film was last seen at the Gem Theater?

A beautiful old Victorian, overgrown with bushes and weeds.  Forgotten...

A pair of old row houses, gutted by fire and left to decay.

An old Federal-style house on Main Street.  Remarkable architecture left to rot.

The Cairo Baptist Church Bus.  Windows splintered and busted.  Vines growing in the wheel-wells...  

I mean, really, how could I not turn this town into a setting for suspense?  So, pre-order HELL FOR LEATHER, debuting this coming May.  And see how the dark, deserted streets of Cairo come alive with madness and mayhem!


Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She'll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. Look for the first five books in her fast-paced series: Hell On Wheels (August 2012) In Rides Trouble (September 2012) Rev It Up (October 2012) Thrill Ride (April 2013) and Born Wild (November 2013). For more information, please visit or follow her on Facebook and/or Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor



  1. Great pictures. When old towns die, it makes me so sad. I live in Houston. It seems nothing of the past survives here. Everything old is knocked down and rebuilt into something else.

  2. I LOVE this post, Julie! Love old ghost towns. They have such character!

  3. Wow? What great inspiration! I usually look for places I'd like to spend time in, because I'll be there in my head for a while. Quite a while with the big books we write. (Grin )

  4. Okay. This is going to be awesome. What a cool and unique setting. Can't wait to see how you utilized this and how BKI reacts. :)

  5. Spooky, but the possibilities are endless!

  6. I am from Cairo (haven't lived there in 22 years but my parents do) just wondering when these pictures tires were taken as a few of these structures are no longer there.