The Spark of Inspiration
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Heard that one before? That’s nothing. I found a picture that has so far been worth over 270,000 words.
I can’t show you the picture, unfortunately, since I don’t know who drew it or where it came from and I don’t want to breach any copyright that the artist may be entitled to. It landed on my Facebook page one day and caught my attention.
Let me describe the picture to you. It shows little Alice Liddell from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Dorothy Gale from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz sitting under a tree drinking tea. Alice is contemplating her tea cup with a rather thoughtful expression on her face. Toto the dog and Dinah the cat sit at their feet. The caption reads, ‘I’ve seen some weird shit.’
This picture got me thinking. What if Alice and Dorothy really did meet up? What would happen? I know there had been Alice and Dorothy mash-ups before, and certainly other books using the characters, but I was struck with the idea of an adult-oriented, horror story in which Alice and Dorothy join forces to combat some evil of a very deadly nature.
So I sat down to write what I thought was going to be a novella of about 40,000 words. Half-way through writing it Permuted Press became interested in the work and negotiations with them led to a series based on the idea. It took off from there and the story became what is now a trilogy of full-length novels collectively titled The Jabberwocky Book.
A single image led to an idea that led to two years of writing. You never know where inspiration is going to take you.
The work now consists of three books, the first of which, The Red King, is due out this month. The second book, An Unkindness of Ravens, and the third, The Looking-Glass House, will be published later this year and next year.
It was fun extrapolating the characters, and researching the time in which the series is set, Edwardian England. There was a real Alice Liddell, on whom the fictional character in Carroll’s books was based, and I thought about what sort of woman the fictional Alice might grow up to become, and also how her adventures might have affected her psychologically and emotionally. That was a lot of fun, too.
But none of that would have happened if that image hadn’t landed in my computer. I didn’t ask for it, it was just a picture someone (probably illegally) shared around. But it set something off in my brain that had me tapping away at a keyboard for a long time. Of course, if Permuted Press hadn’t put up their hand and indicated interest it would probably have stayed a novella and been less detailed and far less of a challenge.
Inspiration doesn’t just come from many sources – it can come from any source. Unexpectedly. That light-bulb moment where the writer asks the most magical question in the world: “What if…?”
Recognising the inspirational idea is the first thing. Hammering away at it until it resembles what you want is the hard part. That takes time and sweat and tears and not a little frustration. But if that initial spark of inspiration is there, it becomes easier, and (hopefully) a source of joy to others.
Russell Proctor is an Australian writer, but has also been many other things in his working life, including a lawyer, teacher, professional actor, medical project manager and even a pizza delivery boy. At present he is semi-retired, tutoring school and university students in the evenings and writing during the day. His interests include hiking, astronomy and cats. He has travelled extensively throughout the world, preferring out of the way places to modern civilization, for example having visited Antarctica, walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. He does not describe himself as a thrill-seeker, but certainly prefers his travels to include adventures rather than just “tourist traps”. A skeptic and futurist, Proctor has examined the methods and ideas of science and pseudo-science in his novel Plato’s Cave, which satirizes humanity’s endless quest for meaning in life and conflicting beliefs about the nature of reality. His professional acting days included working in film, TV and stage productions. He has also written and directed plays and musicals. Further information about him and his work can be found at his website, www.russellproctor.com.
LINK TO PRE-ORDER SITE FOR “THE RED KING”: