Eureka! Where Inspiration Comes From

My husband woke me up early Sunday morning to show me an article about, of all things, clouds.  An ordinary girl would be annoyed, being awoken in the wee hours by a man waving a blindingly bright phone in her face, insisting a bit too loudly, “Wake up!  You have to read this!”  Not me.  Believe it or not I am perfectly content squinting though the darkness, trying to make sense of the colorful blurs before my mind has completely stopped dreaming (some of my best eureka moments happen in this state, after all).  Of course, my husband usually figures out I can’t exactly see what he’s trying to show me and takes pity, reading the intended passage aloud, before I fall quickly back to sleep, happy–legitimately happy, not just because I get to go back to sleep, although that is nice too, but because the man just gets me.

This is actually a fairly common occurrence in our house, and it isn’t just a middle-of-the-night attempt by my husband to make me suffer his insomnia with him.  He often calls during the day just to tell me about some amazing fact he happened across or hurries home after work to show me a picture of some place he thinks will be a great setting for a battle because he totally supports my need to include as much reality in my fantasy as there is fiction in my fantasy.  I am grateful for all of the ideas my husband has come up with through the years, even the ideas I won’t ever use, and for the fact that my oftentimes begrudging nature as a writer never seems to get in the way of his enthusiasm, which I have to admit makes him my favorite person in the entire world.  I love that he gets just as excited as I do about the prospect of inspiring wonder in people by showing them the magic that exists right here in the real world, no fiction required.

Sunday morning the wonder was fallstreak hole clouds, which apparently received some media attention after residents of Wonthaggi, Australia captured images of the rare occurrence last week.  I’m not certain my husband realized that I actually have a fairly extensive file on atmospheric conditions already, which includes what I believed was every description of cloud known to man, until Sunday when my darling Official First Reader woke me up excitedly explaining that elves could in fact make these hole punch clouds when they fly–he had even thought of the fuzzy science to back it up (which made me laugh, in a good way, as I went back to sleep).  I don’t know that I will ever write about a fallstreak hole in the way he envisioned them, however he will be happy to know that I have added it to the large list of anomalies witnessed in the Veils of Fate, and while I don’t know exactly what this veil will mean yet, I do know that it will be featured as part of a prophecy seen by Elijah.

us
Me and my muse–weren’t we adorable? I don’t know how he’s managed it, but somehow this guy has put up with my nonsense for twenty-one years this week.

The truth is eureka moments, sudden sparks of genius, don’t happen often.  Most people don’t have phone-wielding insomniac muses hanging around to be the light bulb that shines over their head on a regular basis, even in their sleep, so they have to work for inspiration.  Not that I don’t work for inspiration as well–last week’s post on research hinted at just how much effort goes into finding the small hints of insight that fit within the puzzle I’m building by cutting out random shapes from reality and cobbling them together to make a picture that isn’t completely clear, even to me because my personal journey is about learning.

For the most part, great ideas are born out of this slow building of understanding.  It is this slow building that allowed the image of a young Kazakh sayatshy girl to stick with me for months, until one day she became just a small facet of a character who makes her debut in book two of the series.  This is how Stavanger, a city in Norway I’ve only visited through the miracle of the internet, became the place where years ago someone important to my characters died, though this man will only ever be mentioned as a ghost that walks through a conversation.  Sometimes the slow building lasts for years, as in is the case with the history of fairies in New Zealand.  In book two, I incorporate some of the traditional Maori tales into my own.  And occasionally the fragile threads of a dozen other ideas come together as an actual spark of genius, to answer questions I’ve had for a very long time and been unable to find the answer just by searching, as is the case with Namcha Barwa, a mountain in Tibet also known as the Breast of Vajrayogini.

A lot of truly great stories, both real and imaginary, have inspired my work.  I hope that one day people look back on the stories I write and find inspiration as well.

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