Some five years ago, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Eng­lish pro­fessor Gary Gosh­garian watched an episode of Dr. Phil fea­turing an attrac­tive 28-​​year-​​old woman who wanted to look like pop singer Jes­sica Simpson.

Celebrity wor­ship, he said, served as a jumping-​​off point for his 2008 novel “Skin Deep,” a psy­cho­log­ical thriller in which a serial killer mur­ders beau­tiful women in Boston.

Gosh­garian, the author of eight crit­i­cally acclaimed novels, including three that have been optioned for films, gave an on-​​campus pre­sen­ta­tion last week on the making of a mys­tery. The pro­gram was part of Insights, a fac­ulty lec­ture series cre­ated by the Office of Alumni Relations.

Great story ideas, Gosh­garian told alumni, fac­ulty and staff, are like “fos­sils hidden inside the cave of your brain.” He said he chooses to exca­vate those ideas by watching TV, surfing the web and chan­neling per­sonal experiences.

A poll on CNN asking viewers what they would change about themselves—80 per­cent of respon­dents wanted to be more intelligent—served as the basis for his 2004 novel, “Gray Matter,” in which a middle-​​class mother wor­ries about her under­achieving son.

What he referred to as a “Stephen King moment” fueled his 2006 novel, “Flash­back,” in which a phar­ma­col­o­gist tries to find a cure for Alzheimer’s dis­ease. “My aunt had Alzheimer’s and I was vis­iting her in a nursing home,” said Gosh­garian. “All of a sudden she started to have a coherent con­ver­sa­tion with her dead mother in a little girl’s voice.”

Gosh­garian, whose nom de plume is Gary Braver, plans to release his ninth novel, “Tunnel Vision,” in June. The book fol­lows neu­ro­sci­en­tists who con­duct a series of exper­i­ments on a young man who had a near-​​death experience.

He said the late North­eastern Eng­lish pro­fessor Robert Parker, who wrote pop­ular crime novels about a pri­vate detec­tive named Spenser, demys­ti­fied the chal­lenge of writing a novel.

The trick, said Gosh­garian, is to think of a 350-​​page novel as thirty-​​five 10-​​page short sto­ries with the same char­ac­ters. “The author who wor­ries about writing a novel,” he said, “is like a squirrel that con­tem­plates an acorn the size of a basketball.”

Gosh­garian, who finds it nearly impos­sible not to “project your­self into all of your char­ac­ters,” writes every day at the crack of dawn. Like author William Faulkner, he chooses to leave a sen­tence — or scene — unfin­ished for the next session.

I drink a French roast and I write,” said Gosh­garian. “Some days are good days and some days are bad days.”