‘Where do you get your ideas?’
When a writer was asked this, at a science fiction convention I was attending, he said, ‘Well, there’s this company we authors write to. We send a cheque, and then about two weeks later the idea arrives in the post.’
Where do writers get their ideas from?
A month ago I was looking through an old school notebook, and I found the first draft of ‘Dragons Can Only Rust.’ I wrote it when I was fifteen years old, and the whole point of it was The Great Reveal. The story seemed to be about a flesh and blood fantasy creature, but when his Master opened him up, Gonard was revealed to be a robot. In the original story, the dragon was dismantled at the end. It took a friend of mine to ask, ‘Oh, why can’t the dragon live?’ for the short story to become the first chapter of the novel of the same name.
I can’t remember how all of the novel came to me. The green crystalline City emerged in my imagination when, as I was driving through the Peak District (England), I heard the Starship rock anthem ‘We Built this City.’ The combination of the song and the rocky peaks around me gave me the vision of green crystals growing in response to song.
‘The Dragon Throne’ and ‘The Unicorn Throne’ grew out of my reaction to the fantasy novels I was reading at the time. My feminist hackles were rising because, novel after novel, the men got to be knights and go on adventures, whereas the women ran the home and had to preserve their virginity for marriage. So I deliberately created a world in which both men and women could serve as knights, rule kingdoms, and it didn’t matter if you weren’t a virgin on your wedding day. Bringing in a unicorn as one of the major characters was originally meant as a way of emphasising that a Queen could still associate with a unicorn even if she were bedding her squire. That the Prancer would then develop his own character arc wasn’t something that I had foreseen.
My one off move into Christian fiction came from a friend’s fascination with Judas, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus. ‘How could he do that?’ she would ask. And so I explored how it feels to be betrayed, how one can betray with the best of intentions, and set the story of Jesus into our modern day world.
I only had the idea for my latest novel, ‘The Temptation of Dragons,’ on 10 September. I was driving to visit a family to talk about the baptism of their baby in my church. On the way, I was pondering a conversation I’d had with a senior clergyman some years ago. ‘Holy water is a protection against vampires,’ I had told him. ‘But what if a woman priest has blessed the water, and the vampire doesn’t accept the ordination of women?’ ‘Only you would ask that question, Chrys,’ had been his response. But what, I wondered, if he had responded differently? What if he had said, ‘Of course vampires aren’t injured by holy water. How could they be baptised if they were?’ And I pulled the car over and sketched out notes for what became the second scene of the novel.
It can be hard, though, to work out where ideas come from. I’ve sometimes taken a break from writing, wondering what on earth to put down next, when the scene suddenly appears in my head. Other times I can sit and stare at the computer screen and absolutely nothing comes.
Maybe I should have asked that professional writer for the name and address of where he sends off for his ideas…