Something I’m often asked in interviews and by readers is what inspired me to write a book. Where do I get my ideas? It’s a difficult thing to pin down because there are so many elements involved, but I’m going to try to answer as fully and honestly as I can.
My source of first inspiration is myself. Not that my life is so very interesting, but what I mean is I’ve been a lover of stories for as long as I can remember. So when I’m brainstorming for a new book, the first person’s approval I seek is my own. What kind of story would I like to read? Because if I’m not writing stories I enjoy, then there’s no point.
My second inspiration is always my readers. This is the “performance” side of my writing. I’m not comfortable on stage or behind a microphone, but for some reason crafting a story to tell the world is my niche. In a way it feels safer than standing on a stage, all alone and vulnerable. Yet one of the first lessons you learn when you’re published is that not everyone is going to love your baby as much as you do. I always tell novice writers they better have thick skins because the world can be cruel. However, for all the slings and arrows lobbed in my direction from time to time, the experience of hearing from a happy reader is thrilling beyond words.
I’m also inspired by all the great writers who have come before me and those working now. I don’t think there’s ever been a time since I was eight or nine years old that I haven’t been reading fiction. I finish one book and pick up another. I also enjoy re-reading my favorite books/series. Glen Cook, Robert E. Howard, Robert Heinlein, Leo Tolstoy, H.P. Lovecraft, and many others — these are the foundations of my universe.
Whenever I read a story, I find myself picking out bits to mull over. Maybe it’s a scene that really connected with me or just a turn of phrase. I’ll find myself thinking about them long after I finished the story, wondering how I can absorb them and use them to improve my own writing.
And I hope I never stop this process of learning because writing is something you’ll never completely master. There will always be something new to read, to experience, to love. And that inspires me to keep pushing myself to get better all the time.
The world inspires me. That’s not just some rainbows-and-unicorns trippy statement. I pick up nuggets of stories just by watching people around me. At home, at the mall, at a restaurant, at conventions — wherever I find myself, stories abound. I don’t use even one percent of the information I take in. There’s just too much.
But it forms the background for my style, like a million voices whispering in the back of my mind as I’m writing. Informing me, guiding me, keeping me on the right track. It’s these observations that allow me to write about people and places I’ve never actually seen, to fabricate new personalities and fantastical worlds. When people ask me where I got the idea for a character, I’m always tempted to say look in the mirror, because that’s true to some degree.
Lastly, there is an element of inspiration I can’t explain. It’s the thing that wakes me up from a sound sleep at three in the morning and demands that I go back and fix something I wrote earlier that day. It’s the thing that pulls that perfect word or phrase from out of thin air. It’s also the thing that lets me sink so deep into the writing that I lose track of time and place. There is a magic in writing. It’s a connection to an inner power beyond quantification or analysis, but you know when you feel it. That, perhaps most of all, is what truly inspires me to do what I do.
For those who ask “what inspires you” because you’re searching for a unifying answer, a silver bullet that will unlock publishing success, I wish I had a better answer. I never had to search for inspiration to write. It’s been part of me from the beginning. It starts with wonder and curiosity about the world and extends like a lighted highway through an unknown land. And I hope the ride never ends.
Jon Sprunk is the author of the fantasy epic Blood and Iron as well as the Shadow Saga trilogy (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master). He’s also a mentor at the Seton Hill University fiction writing program. For more on his life and writing, check out www.jonsprunk.com.