Inspiration comes from all sorts of different things. People. Places. A situation.
I've written stories after walking through an outdoor market. I've written stories based on houses I've seen that sparked my imagination.
In "Return to Hoffman Grove," through the magic of Facebook, I had the opportunity to reconnect with my former tennis coach. Sharing memories brought back fun times and resurfaced old memories. One of those memories, a 30-second experience dating back to puberty, launched the idea for the story.
Often, truth is stranger than fiction. You can't write it into a story because people won't believe it. Personal memories get reshaped in a book. Things I witnessed (but didn't live first-hand), people I didn't know well but empathized with. I played tennis with a hot-head who threw his racket into the fence, but I didn't know him very well off the court. I played with a girl whose father gave her hell for losing the first time she met an unknown, untried opponent on the practice court -- someone who usurped her spot as Number One on the team. Again, I didn't know her off the court, but these memories help me to shape the characters you see in the book. Imagine what it must have been like to be that person! Art imitating life, molded to suit the purposes of a story.