Monday, 1 September 2008

The Hidden City

A question I am always being asked is, 'Where do you get your inspiration?' It's one of the questions writers dislike answering because the truth is that we don't really know. Obviously, the simplest answer is that everything that ever happens to you affects the writing you produce but that's not what the questioner means. What are the really significant experiences, the ones that act as catalysts or starting points for a particular book? That's what they're asking.

If I take my trilogy, The Promises Of Dr Sigmundus, as an example, I could say that there were a number of critical experiences for me. Some took place during my childhood like having a hallucinatory experience when I had tonsilitis (I've blogged about this previously. See The Machinery Of The Universe, Jan 2008.), reading book one of Dante's great poem The Divine Comedy when I was about thirteen years old and, more recently, during a trip to Orvieto in Italy, visiting the network of caves carved out of the rock on which the modern city stands

But those experiences aren't the reason I wrote the books. They were just the seeds that grew into certain aspects of the content. I wrote those books for one reason only – because I had to. The books just started to appear in my head one day and from then on, it was like looking out my window, watching the fog gradually thinning to reveal a wonderful city whose existence I had always suspected but which I had never dared to dream that I could visit.

Once I knew for certain that the city really was there, I simply had to explore its winding streets, visit its magnificent temples, peer down its sinister alleyways and sit drinking coffe in its magnificent squares while I watched the people going about their business, talking, laughing, arguing about prices, or falling in love.

I don't know if that's what it's like for other writers but that's what it's like for me.

No comments: