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Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

August 1, 2013

It’s a question I hear a lot, and I’m sure other authors experience the same thing. Everyone wants to know about your inspiration. They want to know your inspiration for writing a certain novel, inspiration for writing a particular genre, and inspiration for writing in general. Basically, what got you started, and where did your ideas come from? You would think this would be an easy question to answer, but, for me at least, it’s rather complicated. Rarely do I have a single event trigger the writing of a novel. Most of the time, it’s a combination of factors.

I write because I have always loved reading and I enjoy sharing my thoughts with others via the written word. I enjoy writing fantasy because I have always liked to read fantasy, probably because my father is a fan of science fiction and fantasy so I have always had access to a number of fantasy books. Unfortunately, an explanation like this seems too boring for many people. They want to hear a good story. Rather than the truth above, they would prefer something more like this: “There’s actually an interesting story about why I write. There was this one time when I was a child and I was visiting my grandfather’s house for a week. It was raining outside, so I explored the attic. I found this old box with a journal in it that my grandfather had kept during his service in the war. Reading through the entries, I realized that I wanted to write my own stories down to share with future generations.” Now none of that is true, but it sounds a lot better than: “I write because I read, and I have been doing both as long as I can remember.”

Luckily I have a decent story about the inspiration behind the trilogy I am currently working on, which starts with the recently published Discordant Tones. It goes as follows: “I was on a family vacation at Cape May, New Jersey a few years ago. I was sleeping in an RV in the driveway since there was not enough room in the house for everyone who was there, and I had an interesting dream. I dreamt that I was walking through a library, and I happened to see three books on a shelf with my name on the spine. When I woke up, I decided I should write a trilogy.” I told this story to a reporter from my university’s newspaper, and she liked it, including it in an article about me (see the article here). However, she did still ask what my inspiration was behind the content in Discordant Tones. For this I did not have as good an answer.

Much of the storyline of Discordant Tones was inspired by the world I described in my first book, A Broken World. The situation is similar, but the characters are different and it is set many years later. I did not have some grand inspirational moment that caused me to write A Broken World either. It was a combination of factors. I was definitely influenced by books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, and events in my life, but I cannot point to a singular interesting occurrence as the inspiration. That means I don’t have a good story to tell when people ask.

Have you ever been asked about your inspiration? How do you respond? Do you have a story about the origin of your story?

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