Friday, 8 January 2010

Inspiration Corner - Karen Ball



I am starting to think about the next book I might write. Inspiration came to me one dark winter afternoon as I switched off my computer from writing a third draft of my current project. I had music playing and leant back in my seat to listen to the same song over and over. It set up such a strong mental image in my head and touched my heart – I could almost feel the story taking shape in my mind as I listened to those four minutes, 55 seconds. But part of me feels embarrassed. How could a Christmas pop chart single from a woman who nearly won a TV talent competition be the source of a book? Could I ever admit it to anyone without blushing? Okay, it was Susan Boyle and her cover of the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses. There, it’s out in the open.
Susan’s story has touched many hearts and been the source of hot debate over potential exploitation. People have crowded round computers to watch her on You Tube and the States has embraced this Scottish woman as the modern poster girl for the American Dream. Why has she had such an impact?

For me, it’s the story of achievement against staggering odds. Bullied at school, with learning difficulties and living in an isolated community, she walked on a stage to audible sniggers from the audience. Then she started to sing. Despite all the people telling her ‘no’ she went ahead and had a go at ‘yes’. I think everyone can relate to the feelings of not being good enough, of insecurity and self-doubt and we all hope we could be as brave as Susan and have a happy end to our own story. (I’m quite sure there are dark clouds in Susan’s life, too, and hope that she has the support network she needs.) Her story is a fairytale, and we all love a fairytale.
It still amazes me how different arts and crafts cross-pollinate. A song inspires an idea for a book. When I need to rest from writing, I pick up my knitting. Knitting makes me think of the next dress I could sew. If I’m cooking, I want music playing to sing along to. All of these different activities crucially feed each other. It goes further. When I’m out running, I’ll spot a hole in my plot. Cleaning my teeth remains one of my best thinking times of the day. And the violent cursing and pedalling of inner city cycling allows me to work off the frustrations that otherwise would get in the way of anything being achieved at all.
Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not necessarily a thunderbolt or a lightbulb. And, let’s be honest, inspiration is the easy bit. It’s what you do with it that matters. A large dollop of stubborn determination, a slice of good old-fashioned craft, a ... oh god, can I make this stretch any further! You know what I mean. It’s about getting the damn thing written. But thank goodness for inspiration corner, full of surprises and unexpected ideas.
There’s one last thing that most of my activities, including writing, have in common. They take a heck of a lot of patience. Fortunately, I have lots of ripe swear words I can use when no one’s around to listen. Inspiration, patience and swearing. They sound like the ingredients for a book!
What have been your most unusual moments of inspiration? Can anyone beat SuBo?
Visit my website at www.karen-ball.com.

10 comments:

Stroppy Author said...

Can't beat SuBo, Karen :-) Inspiration tends to come from glimpsed things, oddities, overheard phrases or - increasinly - typos!

Sue Eves said...

How brave of you to reveal your inspiration secrets. I don't think mine beats SuBo but I understand what you mean about other activities dusting Inspiration Corner.

In October, I was photographing a resident plump spider in a web attached to my garden shed when my dog barked and something happened that triggered a picture book idea. That's as far as it's got at the moment. Like you say - it's what you do with it...

Nick Green said...

Every one of my books has been inspired by a song, sometimes at the start, sometimes halfway through the writing. Some develop whole soundtracks in my head. I will admit to James Blunt as a recent inspiration!

karen ball said...

Thank you, Nick! I am not alone, then...

Gillian Philip said...

Yes (she mumbled, blushing), I've been inspired by a James Blunt song too. And some other REALLY cheesy ones. I remember aeons ago making up a story to the whole of ELO's Out of the Blue album (beat THAT for uncoolness!) Right now it's Mika...

I'll stop now before I embarrass myself any further.

karen ball said...

Love it, Gillian! A whole ... album.

Nick Green said...

Well, Gillian, personally I think Jeff Lynne could eat Lennon and McCartney for breakfast. Nothing wrong with ELO!

Rachel Ward said...

You're right, Karen, with SuBo it's the combination of her voice and her story. I go weepy whenever I hear her - I just find her almost unbearably moving. My family think it's hilarious and strictly ration my use of her CD so that I don't spend the whole day in tears.

There's alot of fun to be had in picking the soundtrack to the book you're writing, and sometimes the music picks you. Of course, at the back of my mind, I can't help thinking, 'This would be great on the soundtrack of the movie of my book...' Well, we can all dream a dream...

karen ball said...

What a lovely and moving comment, Rachel. Thank you.

theresamilstein said...

Our writing always comes from inspiration, and we can't always control where it comes from.

One winter, I saw mist wrapping around trees around sunset; an eerie sight. A first sentence popped in my head, and I couldn't wait to get home and begin writing.

But I also have an embarrassing inspiration. Last winter, I was watching America's Next Top Model and there was a woman who looked fourteen, with huge eyes and baby doll face. She loved blood, and that dichotomy made me want to write a vampire character that looked like her. So I did.