Inspiration is a funny thing. It comes unexpectedly and often from the strangest sources, for me at least. Sometimes, the first conception of a story comes to me as little more than a feeling, a vague sense of something ethereal and emotive. It can be all too easy to lose that wisp forever. But if it can be caught, recorded in words, and examined, then the result can be great.
The inspiration for Macao Station originally came as one such little glimmer. I randomly imagined the loneliness of being in a remote asteroid belt, what it would feel like to be out there in that endless darkness, totally remote, with only those silent, processing rocks for company. Of course, I then went on to add the requisite layers of story: good guys and bad guys; detailed (and hopefully believable) setting; an impossibly dark and alien adversary . . . I eventually ended up 123,000-words-deep in the tale.
Other times, inspiration comes from more traditional sources – films, books, music, video games, artwork – and I’m often inspired by genres quite unlike that which I write in. Currently, I’m flitting between a few different projects, but the one I favour is a tale of space pirates, scheming corporations and boundless human greed, currently without a working title. The setting is sci-fi, but the feel I’m going for is that of complex political intrigue more in the style of I, Claudius, James Clavell’s Shogun, Game of Thrones or the real-world Hundred Years War. This is a type of story that I’ve always admired. I like the depth and complexity; I enjoy the plotting and untrustworthy characters. And if I can replicate that feeling within my corporate space-opera then I’ll be extremely pleased with myself. But it’s going to be a lot of work, and these little sparks don’t always catch.
Occasionally, I’m inspired by a glimpse of rusted metal, or the smell of a sea-breeze, or a walk in the woods on an autumn afternoon. That inspiration is a strange and fleeting thing. It comes from many directions. But what a writer has to do is seize it when it flutters past like some rare and fragile butterfly, then forcibly pin it to the paper. Then, and hardest of all, they invite the world to take a look at what they’ve caught and judge it by their own criteria. The process isn’t easy – it can be actively agonising – but it can be immeasurably gratifying, too.
And now, I have a butterfly to catch. Wish me luck. 😉