Joan De La Haye is well-known horror writer, with a new book out and a lot to say. I asked her to write about her inspirations and her creative processes… she thought that was hilarious, but she wrote the piece that follows anyway.
Hello my Freaky Darlings,
David asked me to write about inspiration and creativity which are probably the two topics that authors most hate being asked about. Mostly because we don’t have a fucking clue where we get it from. It’s just how our weird, crazy brains work.
Creative types, like writers and artists, just seem to think differently. We’ll be staring off into the distance, minding our own business, or watching people at a coffee shop. Yes, writers are voyeuristic by nature. It’s how we learn about our subjects – people. Stories, no matter what genre, are really just about people doing their thing in extraordinary circumstances. If the circumstances were mundane and boring it wouldn’t make for much of a story now would it?
But it’s the people that drive the story.
So … as I was saying … we’ll be eavesdropping on their conversations and something they say will prick that part of our brain and we’ll take that innocent conversation, or not so innocent conversation as the case may be, and we’ll run with it. I usually run down a dark and twisted corridor, with a knife. But that’s just me. My brain works in sick and twisted ways.
That corridor will then lead to other possibilities. There are so many doors along that dark and twisted corridor and behind each door is a different possible twist for the story to take. And while I’m running down that corridor, with knife in hand, trying different doors, I’ll also be wondering what if I smash that into this and then blow it all up. What’ll happen? Hmmm …
That overheard conversation may just have been the spark, but it’ll then collide with a story I may have read online or another conversation I overheard or had with someone. Yes, everything you say around an author will be used as story fodder at some point. Deal with it. It’s the price you pay for hanging around authors or having a cup of coffee within earshot of a writer. If you don’t like it … tough.
And then there are other times when I’ll just be minding my own business trying to sleep and I’ll be rudely woken up by these flashes of imagery playing in my mind like a movie and scaring the crap out of me. That’ll be the end of my snooze. I have to write it down because the very fact that it scared me means it’ll probably scare my reader and will make a bloody good book. And yes, that was really just a convoluted way of saying that my nightmares are also fodder for my books. Both the first scenes for Shadows and Fury came from a nightmare.
The fact is inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time. We just have to pay attention to when it strikes, grab on and just go with it.
Notice how, despite the fact that she says she doesn’t know where it comes from, that she describes a process that involves:
1. A quiet, observant time
3. Not trying too hard.
These are three key ingredients to have if you are seeking inspiration. People watching is inspiring because a) you’re not thinking too much and b) it allows you to make spontaneous, unforced connections between things.
The most important thing she says is: “We’ll be staring off into the distance…” This is such an important thing to do for all creative people. Kick your thoughts loose from their grooves, just let the wheels fly and don’t focus on anything until it clicks or sticks, then run like mad with it
You can read more about Joan and her work and keep up with her here: