When I started thinking about my new novel, I really had no idea where I was going. I had a concept; I was interested in telling a story about a woman who seems to be balancing multiple, secret lives. I was beginning to spin a dark and twisty "what if" scenario in my head, but I didn't have any clue at all who my heroine was, or what motivated her. For a long time, I wondered if it would ever evolve from a concept into a real story, because I was so clueless about how to morph a basic (and let's be honest, pretty weird) idea into a story. Furthermore, I had a hunch that my character might not be particularly likable. That's okay with me - I'm fascinated by anti-heroes, and so is the rest of the world (see The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Weeds, Mad Men, etc and so forth). Anti-heroes are way more interesting than heroes, in my opinion. But you do need to be able to make them relatable, not just hatable.
Then I saw this picture, and things began coming together. Suddenly, I could see her. I realized this woman is an artist, and a multi-faceted one at that, who comes from a family of artists and that inherent talent is both what motivates and drives her and also what makes her a little bit insane. I began imagining more pieces to the puzzle and suddenly, a person began to take shape. She's not always a very likable person, but she's interesting and she's relatable. Suddenly, the story wasn't just the messed-up choices she makes, but a real, clear explanation of why she makes those choices. Once she started coming to life, my story felt less like a wobbly notion and more like...well, a story.