Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Inspiration - Where do you find it? by Savita Kalhan

Children have often asked me where I find my inspiration and the answer is never a simple one word response. Inspiration can be found in so many different places that sometimes it’s almost impossible to answer the question without waffling on or sounding as though inspiration and ideas for books really can easily be found anywhere and therefore I’m never stuck for a story idea.
 As it happens, it’s fairly rare that I do get stuck, thankfully, because I got into the habit of writing down story ideas as they’ve occurred to me, even when I might not use them for a long time.
An item in the newspaper or a documentary on TV can trigger an idea, a character, or a storyline. Sometimes it’s a story someone has told you, a conversation overheard in a coffee shop, or even an idea that occurs while standing in line in a queue.

Places can definitely be inspiring. Last autumn I went to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan, somewhere I had wanted to go for a very long time, (probably since I first watched Indiana Jones!). It was an amazing trip. We travelled down from Amman on the old King’s Road along the silk route, taking in the highest point in Jordan, the city of Petra and then eventually on to the lowest point of Jordan, the Dead Sea. Unlike Indiana Jones, I had no inclination to gallop down the Siq in Petra, but wandered down it at a more leisurely pace on my own two feet.

On Mt Nebo
At the Dead Sea
Dead Sea salt formation

The highest point in Jordan

The Siq

John William Burgon’s 1845 poem Petra was inspired solely by a description of Petra. He had never seen the city.
It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.
But equally an idea for a book can be triggered somewhere far more mundane – when I’m working on my allotment, or gazing out of my kitchen window at the view of the woods.
A personal experience or an event, a photograph, a picture, a piece of music, a name, the list is endless, and the story ideas can be too.
The question of what inspired a particular book is far easier to answer. The inspiration for The Long Weekend came from a flyer that went round local schools warning parents that a big flash car had been seen outside schools and had tried to snatch children at pick up time.
And, as with John William Burgon, you don’t have to see something with your own eyes for it to inspire you to write.
Twitter @savitakalhan


Sue Purkiss said...

Lovely pictures!

Savita Kalhan said...

Thanks, Sue. Jordan is an amazing country, and Petra is just simply wondrous.

Anonymous said...

I have been to Petra, when I was younger xx I loved it - it isso beautiful xx I can see why you found it inspiring xxx

Savita Kalhan said...

Katie, yes it is so beautiful, and it's a memory that stays with you for a long time. I'd love to be able to use the setting in a book one day...