Someone asked me recently about what inspires me to write a new story.
Seriously? What inspires me?
For Knotted, my first novel, it was several things. I had just come out of glut of reading nothing but darker, heavier fantasy novels (Game of Thrones, some Robert Jordan, probably a re-read of something like The Silmarillion in there) and my brain simply couldn’t take anymore. I needed something lighter. I needed to create something lighter.
And so I did. No death. No dismemberment. No dragons. Just a story, light and frothy and clean. Not only was it a palate cleanser, it was comfort food. The literary equivalent of a box of chocolates snarfed down during a marathon of a BBC production full of lace and corsets and people refusing to speak in contractions.
Oh, and a friend of mine made a bet with me about whether or not I could start – and finish – a novel. That, too.
But honestly, I’m not sure what else inspires me. I’d love to have a wonderful, life-changing story about that time when that dramatic thing happened and then I went for a walk and saw the most beautiful astronomical event imaginable before I arrived back at my house to find that someone I cared deeply about had endured some other dramatic thing and then there were EMOTIONS and FEELINGS and so – of course – I was left with no choice but to put pen to paper and scrawl down every heart-wrenching word that spilled out of my head at that moment.
That, unfortunately, has never happened to me. Ideas usually come to me late at night, when I can’t shut off my brain and that episode of Fawlty Towers I’ve already watched seventeen times is failing to lull me into a deep slumber, and then I realize I’ve been in bed so long that I have to get up again to pee. And did I brush my teeth? Man, I can’t remember. And what about the front door? Is it locked? Here I am, watching John Cleese get berated about Waldorf Salad and some crazy psycho could just waltz right into my house and touch all my silverware without my ever knowing, and then – WOW! I should write a story about a psychic solving murders in Victorian-era London. That would be AWESOME.
So the question of “What inspired that story?” does not always require the most attractive of answers. Most of the time, it’s not going to have an impressive, borderline-epiphanic reply that will make a great story when I’m out at the local bookstore for a signing. The reality will be more along the lines of, “Well, I was starting to clean out the cat’s litter box, and just as I scooped up the first clump, I was struck with the idea for…”
No. No one’s going to want to hear that.
But that’s what’s wonderful about inspiration. You don’t always need to go on a once-in-a-lifetime journey, or experience something unlike anything you’ll ever encounter again. If you’re stuck, sometimes the best thing to do is simply go out, do your day-to-day things, and don’t bother looking around for something to inspire you. It’ll hit you when it wants to, even if it’s when you’re doing nothing more than making a late-night run to the grocery store for some dental floss and Dr. Pepper.
And now I’m off to work on my new sci-fi story, about a race of aliens who come to earth to harvest all of our cinnamon-flavored dental floss and carbonated beverages. I’ll let you know how it goes.