Soon after I released “The Crimson League” in April, I was talking on the phone with my older sister, and she told me she had finished reading it. I asked her if she’d liked it, and she said she had, and then she asked the question that I just dread when it comes to my writing: “Where did that come from?” Sometimes I’ll get it phrased a bit differently: “Where did you come up with that?”
I hate the question because the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know where the concept for my story came from. A really weird dream kind of got the ball rolling, but I don’t remember a thing about that dream, and the novel that became “The Crimson League” changed TONS from my original, dream-inspired conception.
What’s strange is that the question is completely legitimate. It’s not like it’s rude, or intrusive, or in violation of the cultural norms under which we operate. If anything, it shows interest and support for me and my craft. There’s no reason to grudge the question, and I don’t grudge it when it comes. Not at all. I’m just never quite sure how to answer it. I end up saying something like, “I’m not sure,” or “I really don’t know.” Then I launch into an explanation about how I started with the concept of a resistance group working against a sorcerer who usurped the throne, and how everything else flowed from there. It’s a response.
That response doesn’t explain how that original concept arose, though. It’s hard to explain where the concept for art comes from when the idea for a novel just…. hits you. Out of nowhere. That’s what happened to me. I was staying with my aunt for a week in late July, 2006; a major problem that I couldn’t solve, one that had prevented me from writing the novel for three years after that first dream, just went away. One minute I didn’t know how to get around an issue that was bugging me, and then I did. So I started writing.
It was an inspired moment. We all have them from time to time, so we can all relate to the wonder, confusion, and joy of an inspired moment. We all know there’s really no explaining inspiration when it hits. The Greeks had the muses, attributing the phenomenon to the gods, to the supernatural, because in terms of our everyday experiences, there isn’t a way to relate to such a sudden and unexpected jump in our mental awareness of ourselves, our world, and our art. I’m Catholic, so I like to think God is working through me and my fiction in some way; I believe my fiction is part of God’s plan for me, but I don’t necessarily believe he inserted the idea for the novel in my head out of nowhere, just when it occurred to me.
Maybe, now that I stop to think about it, inspiration is the perfect answer to that question I dread. “Where did that come from? How did you come up with it?”