I love to hear about what other writers are using to inspire them visually (and aurally) in particular projects. Jennifer Crusie always creates a collage of inspirations for each book in progress which struck me as a great visual aid to keep you on point. I’ve never been organised enough to do that, and yet I always get the urge to make a quilt inspired by each book… heh, maybe someday.
I did enjoy Rowena’s post on the visual images she used to inspire King Rolen’s kin, though. My current project, the Creature Court trilogy I am writing for HarperCollins Voyager, is bursting with visual influences and inspirations, to the point where I am closer than I have ever been to making fabric art using some of the pictures.
The city of Rome is one of my biggest inspirations – it’s one of the few genuinely old cities I’ve ever spent any time in, and having spent a month tramping around it looking at temples and statues for my doctoral thesis, it lodged itself firmly enough in my mind that I was able to transform it into a fantasy city that has weight to it in my head – with a few fairly recognisable landmarks and far too many liberties, using a real place to centre it made me believe in the city of Aufleur far more than any imaginary location I have devised before.
(also setting my books in a single city means I get to indulge in horseless fantasy, my favourite type)
The fashions of the 1920′s are one of the most powerful influences – not only because of the look of many of the characters, but also because my heroine is a dressmaker and pretty much sees the world through clothes. The style of the city of Aufleur does not correspond exactly to any aspect of 1920′s Europe, America or Australia, but I have tried to use as many evocative elements as I can to create a world that at least indulges in some of the lesser-used historical iconography. I’ve been using bits and pieces from the 1930′s and 40′s, Victoriana and Ancient Rome as well, but it’s the 1920′s that seals the ‘look’ of the characters to me and I have great hope that the publishers will agree when it comes to cover art time.
(plus, AWESOME FROCKS)
Then there are the creatures – I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic animal lover (my daughter’s daycare recently took the kids to a pet shop on an excursion and I freaked out she might want a pet, luckily she’s robust and held out because um NO) but this whole story was sparked off by a little brown mouse I came upon unexpectedly in my writing room one day (halfway up the printer table leg, looking guilty as hell) and given that the story revolves around oh, shapechangers then it’s kind of important that I get to grips with the animalistic side of my characters. I have been collecting old fashioned illustrations of the various animals featured in the books (woodcuts of werewolves are my favourite) and once spent an entire day looking at pictures of, yes, mice. It counts as work, okay!
I don’t just use images to spark off inspiration and keep my head firmly in the city of Aufleur, though. I’ve been using music pretty heavily, collecting a writing soundtrack over the last several years which includes musicals (Moulin Rouge, Cabaret, Chicago), Berlin cabaret music, World War II songs (anything that makes me think of the Blitz is relevant!), and a lot of modern music which just conveys the right feel for characters or scenes.
My play list includes songs ranging from Cody Chestnutt’s “Look Good in Leather” and Pony Up’s “Dance For Me” to Grace Jones singing “Storm” and the amazing Ute Lemper singing anything she wants to. And um yes, it’s getting so every single character has their own individual playlist…
The best benefit for me of using music is I can put on the earbuds and instantly be in the right mindset for my characters. While I love to collect images suitable for Aufleur, it’s the music I reach for when I need an inspiration top-up. A year ago, I would have laughed at myself.