When I wrote the title out, I started singing the Schoolhouse Rock song for “Nouns.” I loved Schoolhouse Rock, it helped me not only in school, but even as an adult, it helps me to remember things like what nouns are, what conjunctions do, the planets (Interplanet Janet!), and more. Who remembers how a bill becomes a law? Thanks to many of us in the US who grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock– we know and we specifically know that law was one dealing with school buses and railroad tracks. But this topic today is about inspiration– what inspires us to write.
When I was young, about four or five years old, I loved telling stories to my younger sister and to my cousins. I had learned the art of storytelling from my Grandpa Bob. (I do miss him, even now.) I learned to read by then as well and my family allowed me to read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden (yes, I know my male’s redheaded– don’t even go there!), and I started reading fantasy stories. At age 8, I discovered that Mercedes Lackey was a woman author who wrote beautiful fantasy books that I adored. I wanted to write fiction and I wanted to be published. It was a dream that never went away. There were other dreams, of course, but that one dream was my special dream– it was a hidden dream I never shared with anyone– because I wanted something for me. Even when I had a short story called “The Easter Ruins” in a magazine out when I was young, it wasn’t enough– it wasn’t a book. But it helped. It propelled me on a path that one day I would find again.
But I was inspired by many authors- Terry Brooks (Shannara series– OMG, I love this series!), JRR Tolkien (I read it every year!), Rex Stout (I have this thing for Archie Goodwin, I admit it!), and more. These are some of the authors who inspired my love of fantasy and mysteries early in my life. Then when I was 11 years old, I stole a Harlequin novel from my mom’s nightstand. It was called “Magic of the Baobab Tree” by Yvonne Whittal. This book hit me like nothing I can express. It tapped into something that was hinted at in the fantasy novels I read, that even the mystery novels touched on– but hadn’t talked on– love. Romance hit my soul and I was entranced! Talk about inspiration– I knew I wanted to write romance, not just fantasy and mystery. Romance and romantic elements were important to the stories I read and enjoyed. The Dragonlance Chronicles– I love them, but what really took them to another level for me– the romance in them. It made them real and it gave them a depth that other novels up to then had been missing except in the Shannara series. It’s why I took to them so hard.
Until my divorce, I contented myself with reading and with doing many other activities that interested me and gave me outlets of creativity. In fact, I still do my jewelry making, my candle making and more. Yet, once my divorce was final, I realized something– I needed to write. I needed to achieve my dream- even if it was nothing more than to publish one book. So, I went online and began researching the hows and whys of writing well. I found many sites, many places to hang out and talk to other unpublished authors. One big place for me was eharlequin.com. I met many people there who are now authors I love and enjoy reading. More importantly, I made friends, even among the established authors, who are now inspirations for me- Maggie Nash, Dawn Montgomery, Lori Foster, Suzanne Rock, Julie Leto (who I’ve met in person and wow!), Katherine Garbera (also met and is fantastically creative!), Nancy Warren, Olivia Gates and more! Even now, my fellow authors inspire me like Selena Illyria, Cheyenne McCray (who was a big reason I started writing erotic romance!), Angela Knight, and many others. They push me to be what I am good at and push me to be the best writer I can.
When I was first published in 2003, I was in shock, and I think part of me was still adapting to the idea of not only being published, but the epublishing industry as a whole. I actually liked the idea of being in more than one format, being able to be read on a computer, the early ereader devices, and yet still have options toward print as well. In fact, the print publishing is still never far from my thoughts, but I have rethunk my place within them. To me, print is something I’ll do when the time is right and depending on the publisher– it’s an option we decide to do together for specific books doing well to reach wider audiences. It’s not that I don’t think print isn’t great- I do– but I’ve changed in how I see myself in the print market. Don’t get me wrong– I want to get into Harlequin one day– it’s my mom’s dream and mine– but even if it’s in their ebook program- I’ll be happy. But that’s part of the inspiration– I’m inspired in how many of the big publishing industry giants, forced to change tactics and to not follow ancient practices that have not given them good results are finally embracing better marketing that can benefit both them and hopefully for writers. Hopefully this will not only open up the market to more sales, but give more opportunities to books that might not be considered mainstream enough for the reading public.
Places that inspire me- I’ve traveled in my life. I’ve seen cities that evoke both fear and joy like New York, Chicago, Boston, Orlando, Atlanta. But I’ve also seen towns like Savannah, Charleston, Longboat Key, Denver, Golden, San Francisco, Seattle. The inspiration of their memories are such that I bring with me the flavors of food, people and deep need to showcase that inspiration in my stories in some way. Whether it’s to base the story in that city or to incorporate what I love best of that city in a story– those places live in my heart. The time I was in Cancun has been a sacred time that I only share with close friends, but once I do, they see why the story I want to include of that time has to be just so. They understand why the second book of the Marauders includes part of the trip I took to Chichen Itza. It was that important to me, that much of an inspiration.
Things can inspire- I have some jewelry that was my mom’s and my grandma’s. They’re pieces I remember as a kid seeing. But they are more than that. They’re pieces that evoke strong thoughts and feelings. There’s this one piece that for years was in every fanfic story I wrote set in the Star Wars universe. I kid you not! I look at it now and I just grin at it. In fact, I made sure I picked that piece when my sisters and I divided my mom’s jewelry between us. That piece still inspires me because now I see it in other ways I hadn’t before. There’s another piece that’s similar but different that will make it into a steampunk story idea. So, I”m tickled because I love my jewelry. It’s my girly girl side. Otherwise, everyone who knows me knows I’m techno-geek. Can’t help it. Another thing that inspires me is a beautiful necklace my male bought me– it’s an opal and the design is unique and clean. It’s a design I’d have chosen for myself, but at the same time, would have waited on, because I don’t like to spend money a lot– unless it’s saved up ahead of time. It’s one reason I learned how to bead jewelry. I have this Buddha incense burner that inspires me daily. It reminds me to smile and that every day is worthy of smiling. You never know what each day brings, but you can’t be negative or you bring that negativity to you without trying. It also relates to my writing– by smiling and thinking positive, by focusing on what I want to bring to the story, I can make it work for me. It’s important.
Readers are an inspiration too. Their letters and the chats have often helped me to think clearer when it comes to my stories. Sometimes, they help bring stories to a better place just by mentioning something which sets off a secondary thought process in my plotting. Suddenly the story takes a deeper more meaningful turn, something I wanted for the readers in the first place. I write to please myself and to please those who read me. I bring to life characters who won’t shut up in my head. (Yes, this makes me sound crazy, I know!) But at the same time, the inspiration around me helps me to know how to bring the stories to life in the best way possible. And that’s what is important.