I was staying at a condo at Bluefin Bay resort on the North Shore of Lake Superior when I got the inspiration to write Legacy. Of course, with views like that, how could I not be inspired?
I think I settled on shapeshifters because I hadn't read much about them before. I did a Google search, and mainly found some band and a couple short articles. Which gave me a lot of liberties. I didn't find any set rules for shapeshifters like there are for vampires and werewolves. (And if there are rules, I probably broke them.) That's the great thing about fiction—you get to make it up as you go.
I was also greatly influenced by Radiohead's album Hail to the Thief. I wrote Legacy in a three-week period during NANOWRIMO 2009, and solely listened to this album the entire time. Ruskahs, the vampire-like creatures in Legacy, were inspired by the song "We Suck Young Blood." Lyrics like—Are you young?/Are you fresh?.../We want the sweet meat/We want the young blood—kicked my imagination into high gear, and out of nowhere I had created a natural enemy of shapeshifters. The entire album has this free-flowing creepy feel to it, which is perfect for writing paranormal fiction. There, There lyircs—In pitch dark I go walking in your landscape/Broken branches trip me as I speak/Just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean it's there/There's always a siren singing you to shipwreck/Stay away from these rocks we'd be a walking disaster—almost compel the listener to create a story.
I'd say music is my #1 influence when writing anything. Sometimes a 4-minute song has an entire novel waiting inside—it just needs to be expanded into 70,000+ words. (For instance, my novel Band-Aids for Broken Hearts is entirely influenced by Bright Eyes' Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man.)
Find something, anything, that inspires you, and create. Whether you're a writer, or an artist, or a musician, or whatever—your take on the world matters. Do what you have to do to get it out there...