Where do ideas for stories come from?
They sometimes arrive for me out of a strong desire for escape. The question “what if..?” tantalizes me most cruelly when I’m most bogged down in the drudgery of daily routine, like a whiff of spring in the midwinter gloom.
On the other hand, ideas breed ideas: when I do manage to dwell for a few days or weeks in that fertile, inspired routine of regular writing, everything suddenly becomes fodder for the book, or the next book. An overheard conversation. A line of lyrics on the radio.
A mysterious building on the way to work.
The real answer is that stories always come from other stories. We are inspired by the narratives humming everywhere around us: in the news, in song, in our families–and sure, even in architecture.
Elizabeth Hand’s enthralling novel Mortal Love is about the Muse, that figure of inspiration to which the Greeks dedicated their poetry and plays. In Mortal Love she’s a mysterious, continually-reincarnated girl who seduces generations of young male poets and painters. Through sex she reveals to them the “green world” hidden behind ordinary reality—a world that then pours forth from their pens or paintbrushes, guaranteeing their productivity but eventually driving them out of their minds with yearning and grief.
But, you see? This, too, is a story about an old story.
[side-note: The Rejectionist put me onto this author. I love her! (Elizabeth Hand, and The Rejectionist, too). One of my favorite things is discovering an incredible writer I didn’t know about. So far I’ve read Illyria and Mortal Love; Glimmering is up next)].