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Where Do My Ideas Come From?

I get asked that question a lot–Where do you get your ideas?

More specifically, readers want to know, Are the characters in the Raleigh Harmon mysteries based on real people?

I can answer both questions based on a recent event.

A close friend from high school just moved back to the Seattle area. We hadn’t seen each other in decades and decided to catch up on a hike in the mountains. Marriages. Kids. Jobs. Parents dying. We had plenty of ground to cover. And yet as we hiked, often laughing so hard I’m certain hungry bears ran the other direction, it struck me just how many qualities this old friend of mine shares with Drew Levinson, Raleigh Harmon’s best friend from high school.

Not identically, not literally. In fact, I could probably find just as many traits they don’t share.

But some crucial traits were evident: sharply wielded humor, aptitude for physics and math, and the grace that pervades all longterm friendships. If you want a long friendship, someone once said, build a graveyard to go with it——so you can bury all the inevitable mistakes and faults to come.


So, to answer the first question, my characters are composites: partly real people, lodged deep in my subconscious, then blended with “imaginary friends” who appear on the page to delight and entertain and inform.

But the second question—where do my ideas come from—can also be answered by this hike.

Sometimes a Raleigh mystery begins with nothing more than a feeling. Some sensation. An emotion I can’t quite articulate——yet——but which feels urgent and universal to us all. Fear, abandonment, betrayal. They’ve each triggered a Raleigh book. Loyalty, joy, vulnerability….

As I hiked in the mountains with almost-Drew, another of those eery sensations wrapped around me, as if carried by the wind. The feeling went beyond the simple “good to see an old friend.” It’s deeper than that.

Although I’m not done ruminating, it seems to be about people who know you——really know you——and how seeing them after the world has done its level best to chew everyone up and spit us out, the relationship remains. Resilient. Enduring. Never giving up in the face of adversity. Maybe it’s a glimpse of the Prodigal, the acceptance found waiting for his return. But these are the relationships that are like a cup of water on the marathon of life.

Drink deeply. Cherish the grace. Finish the race.

These friends are gifts from God.

And whatever this feeling is, it continues to haunt me, in the best way possible. So don’t be surprised if you sense it in an upcoming Raleigh mystery.

Because this is where ideas come from.



Me and Almost Drew, reaching the summit. Look closely at my sunglasses. You can see both our hands working the camera together. A great metaphor for friendship.




  1. Sue Young says:

    Loved the reading of the Raleigh Harmon books. the characters surrounding Raleigh—Drew, Jack, Aunt, mother so very easy to understand her feelings. Thank you. Keep on writing!

    1. Sibella Giorello says:

      Sue, thank you! So glad you’re enjoying the Raleigh series. Will keep on writing, I promise!

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