We began to talk about this at our meeting tonight, because Kelly gets ideas in dreams.
In some cases, I can point to an incident or idea that led to a story. In other cases, I have't got a clue where a story came from. I don't remember offhand how my first four novels began, but my fifth novel started with Jesse Helms' attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts and with a conversation between Joel Rosenberg, Steve Brust and Gordon R. Dickson. Steve, Joel and Gordie were talking about the need for sincerity in art. You have to write what you believe in, they all agreed. I thought, people say this, but do we really know it's true? What happens if you set out to write a story you don't believe in? I have a lot of trouble with military science fiction. With the exception of Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan stories, I don't like the stuff and don't believe one word of it. So I decided to write some military SF. At the same time, I was deeply angered by Jesse Helms' homophobia and decided to write about a society where gayness was natural and heterosexuality perverse. This led to Ring of Swords and the hwarhath, an alien society where all the men are soldiers, and almost everyone (male and female) is gay and heterophobic.
Do I think the novel is insincere? Not a bit. I ended writing about things I believe: prejudice is wrong; and modern war is really, really dangerous; and the best way to solve a conflict is to negotiate and hold an art festival.