Where does your inspiration come from? This is the most popular question I get asked when I visit schools. Actually that’s not true. The most popular question is this: Where did you get your night vision goggles and grappling hooks from? Just to explain, I turn up at schools dressed as a cat burglar.
Please don’t think I’m mad. My series, The Scarlet Files, is about a thirteen year old schoolgirl by day and cat burglar by night. She and her father return treasures to their rightful owners. There is a reason for me wearing this gear!
But the second most popular question is definitely this: Where does your inspiration come from? It’s a great question. And having thought about it lots, I realise that I can get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. I can hear a snippet of a conversation on the bus and my mind starts whirring. I can remember a powerful dream. I can see a painting or hear a piece of music.
I can watch a TV programme or read a paragraph in a fantastic book. In the shower, ideas flow into my head with the water droplets. Sometimes inspiration comes in that magical moment when I’m no longer sleeping, but I’m not quite awake either. On dog walks, my mind can wander.
In each of these cases, a strong image or cinematic scene flies into my head, igniting my imagination. I want to know what happened before that image and what happens next.
For example, before I wrote Cat Burglar, book one of the Scarlet Files, I dreamt a bracelet sucked into my bloodstream. I woke up with the image of the gold and turquoise disappearing into my skin. After I got over the initial queasiness of something alien disappearing inside of me, I started thinking: What could happen if a bracelet became part of you? Could you get some unusual power and what would you do with it? Then I thought: Where did the bracelet come from? And why was it made? The scene burned inside of me, and the seed for The Scarlet Files was sewn.
Before I wrote Mission Gone Wild, I was on a dog walk when a twig dropped out of a tree. All at once, in my mind I could see my main character, Scar, being pushed out of a palm tree. As she landed she… well I can’t tell you as that would be a spoiler. But with the scene firmly in my head, I questioned who pushed her out and why? In fact what was she doing in the tree in the first place? And what happened when she… (again I can’t say anything else!)
So for me, inspiration can come from anywhere, causing an image to explode in my mind. Suddenly I have a glimpse into a story and my imagination runs wild.