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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Some answers to the perennial question

I just recently finished the page proofs for "Fealty" and thinking about the weird genesis of that story gave me the thought to post an answer to the most-oft asked question of those in the fiction trade: where do I get my ideas?

Instead of the pat answer most authors give— which all amount to "anywhere and everywhere."— I thought I might give some specific examples. A warning though, here there be spoilers:

  1. My first novel, Forests of the Night, began a long, long time ago when I read an article by Issac Asimov about the handedness of sugars and amino acids. The moment I read that, I wanted to write a mystery where that was a clue. The whole baroque genetically-engineered background was constructed to make that all work.
  2. Dragons of the Cuyahoga began when I read the novel In the Cube by David Alexander Smith. I really liked the "Future Boston" setting, especially the politics of having a US city being cut off from the rest of the country. . . I wanted to transform my home town in a similar fashion, but did a genre shift.
  3. The Flesh, The Blood and the Fire was a result of reading They Died Crawling by John Stark Bellamy II, a collection of true crime from Cleveland. The book's lack of coverage of the Torso Murders got me thinking. . .
  4. "Fealty" came about because I wanted to write a military SF story about a guy in powered armor who discovers his memory is not what it seems. . . but I couldn't keep it out of the cliché-zone (echoing everything from Robocop to Terminator)—so I turned it into a fantasy about a knight returning from the Crusades.
Lesson? Don't expect a piece of writing to have much to do with whatever initial impulse got you writing.