Jennifer Fallon is the author of The Hythrun Chronicles, and one of Australia’s bestselling fantasy authors. She lives in New Zealand. You can find her online at JenniferFallon.com, facebook.com/Jennifer.Fallon.writer and @JenniferFallon. Her new book is The Lyre Thief.
The question I hate most in interviews and why…
When you are an author, inevitably you are asked “where do you get your inspiration?”.
Worst. Question. Ever.
The question drives me nuts because it implies that a story has somehow come into being from some external source that arrived unexpectedly one day, so the author sat down and wrote it out. I am not the only author who dislikes this question. I forget who it was (I think it was Neil Gaiman or Robert J Sawyer, but I could be wrong) but I read somewhere that he tells people a little Romanian sends it to him in the post each week.
The best answer I ever heard to the Worst Question Ever came from my accountant. When he asked where I got my inspiration, I rather crankily snapped “everything!” to which he rubbed his hands with glee and chortled, “That’s marvelous! That makes “everything” tax deductible!”
Tax deductions not withstanding, I don’t actually get “inspired”. I become intrigued by a theme and I explore that theme in a story. My Second Sons trilogy is entirely predicated on the idea that if an audience believes your characters had no other choice, then you can literally get away with murder, because the reader will feel that even the most awful thing was a perfectly acceptable action, because there was nothing else he could do. Turns out I was right. My hero does some appalling things in that series to which people invariably respond “poor baby”.
The Lyre Thief, and indeed the entire War of the Gods trilogy (which I am still writing), was “inspired” by the notion of unintended consequences. I like extrapolating the consequences of one small, seemingly insignificant action and look at how it affects others, days, years and sometimes decades into the future, like ripples on a pond after a pebble has been tossed into it.
In The Lyre Thief, the action was someone thinking they were saving a life. A decade later, that apparently generous act could well unravel the universe. When I play with unintended consequences, you see, I don’t muck about!
That’s what I work with when I’m writing. Not bolts of inspiration hitting me out of the blue, or little Romanians sending me ideas, just a big long game of “what if” really, because the fun is seeing where it leads.