Monday, 8 October 2012

Just looking at the pictures

It goes without saying that reading is hugely important to the business of writing.  All writers want to be writers because of the books they read - often the books they read when they were quite young.

But certainly in my case, I think I get as much inspiration from looking at pictures!

Whilst I have learnt a lot about the kind of writer I would like to be (and the kind of writer I definitely do not want to be) from reading other authors, and of course learnt a lot about the craft of writing from them, when it comes to the kind of worlds I want to create in my books, much of the inspiration comes from television, cinema and still pictures - illustrations, drawings, paintings, photographs.

Many of my books have developed from a visual image.  In fact as I think of it, maybe it's true to say most of them have.

Death and the Arrow began life when I saw a crude little wood engraving of Death about to hurl an arrow at an unsuspecting man.  The engraving was 18th Century and it gave me both the beginning of the plot and the setting.

The Dead of Winter was to a large degree inspired by an old photograph reprinted in a Sunday newspaper supplement that I had kept for years before I ever thought of the story that would go with that image of a woman in white next to a house and a dark lake.

Through Dead Eyes has its roots in a detail of Brueghel's Children's Games that was reprinted in a schoolbook and which always gave me the creeps when I looked at it.  The detail showed a child - it's not entirely clear - holding a horrible, hollow eyed mask at an upstairs window.

That mask stared out at me for forty years before I found a story to go with it.  Maybe that's how I exorcise these ghosts and demons in my mind - I write them out of my head.

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