Like all things in life, there is both a short answer and a longer answer to the question of “Where do authors find their inspiration?”
Short answer: Everywhere.
Slightly longer answer: Everywhere, but you need to be open and receptive to it.
The rest of the answer: Inspiration can come from anywhere but it often doesn’t. Inspiration is not a one and done process for a book. Inspiration comes in waves.
Let’s imagine we’re out on a surfboard, floating on the waves. Waves are our inspiration and actually surfing a wave is using that inspiration.
Many waves will pass us by. The waves that are too small or not quite right. We will try to catch some of them, but might not ride all the way to shore. Maybe they fizzled out. Maybe the inspiration was alright, but not enough to carry us through a slump. Not enough for a complete story.
If it’s a good day we’ll catch waves with regularity. Most will be alright and give us plenty of material to write with. Sometimes though we will catch a truly memorable wave that defines the rest of our day and even the rest of our draft-in-progress.
Very few waves are good enough that our surfer will give up the rest of the day and dry off. If anything, a good wave of inspiration will get us back out into the surf, ready for the next wave. That’s how writing is: One good wave of inspiration might be enough to get a story started, or to figure out a character’s flaw that makes them relatable, but it is rarely enough that it writes the whole draft itself.
Quick plug for getting your daily word-count: A day without writing is like a day of watching the waves from the shore. Sure, you see the waves and you feel the inspiration, but you can’t do anything with it from shore. All you can do is watch as they pass you by. When you’re in the water, even a bad wave helps you get the feel for the rhythm of the ocean, and will help you catch a good wave when they come. When you’re in the water every day the waves become intuitive. You’ll spend less time thinking about writing and more time letting the words flow through you.
So, what does our surfing metaphor have to do with finding inspiration for our writing? Well, when you’re in the ocean, all you see are waves. You’ll see waves when you’re reading other books, watching movies, hanging out with friends, or just going through your life.
Inspiration will come to you, you just need to spend more time in the water.