A writer can usually identify what the first thing about a story was to come into their head. What was the spark or catalyst that started a work? Whether it is a particular place or time period or a physical thing, a concept or plot point or character, something in the writer's head said, 'hey, this would make a great story.'
For me it is always different. When I went to the San Juan Islands, they went immediately to the front of my brain as a wonderful place to set a story. Particularly the town of Olga. When I was in high school, my father gave my mother an extravagant necklace that was fashioned after a necklace owned by the queen of England. It was so over the top, however, she took one look at it, and instead of being thrilled, she shrieked, 'Where the heck would I ever wear that!' As a lark once when I a silly kid, I drew a map of an imaginary place. I filled it with caret mountains and squiggly line rivers and dotted line borders and named cities and countries all over the flimsy piece of paper. I keep it, because I can still look at it and remember the politics of the regions and the trade routes and roads and the clandestine order of wizards that have shut themselves away from the world in their tower by the sea.
But I tell you. One thing I don't find a tellable story in... a geeky gay boy from New Jersey suburbia, who read too much, and grew up to sit behind a desk every day.