Monday, 30 May 2011


I've done quite a few interviews over the last couple of months and one of the most frequently asked questions is 'Where did you get your inspiration for The Forest of Adventures?' I've always answered this quite easily; I talk about my love of the Pre-Raphaelites, of reading Mallory's Morte de Arthur, of the brilliant YA books I have read in the last couple of years etc. But in the last couple of weeks I have been thinking about this question on a slightly different level.

The notion of a Muse has been talked about in several blogs, tweets and interviews with fellow authors. I also watched the brilliant TED lecture with Elizabeth Gilbert where she talked with passion and humour about our Genius / Muse - so I asked myself 'Is The Knight Trilogy' the result of a Muse? If so what 'is' my Muse?'

Now to be honest, I always thought my Muse was a good bottle of Malbec but since making the bold decision to write 'properly', I write a lot of my material early in the morning - which kind of makes the Malbec a little socially unacceptable. (And strangely without it, my ideas are clearer, more focused more tame-able into an actual story.)

With me, the Muse kind of banally ambushed me rather than revealed herself in a glowing white ethereal light.

It all started so ordinarily; pushing my three month old daughter down New Malden High Street after we'd met her daddy at the office for lunch. I walked into WHSmiths and picked up a notebook. I had no idea what I was going to write in it; maybe a journal of my new motherhood. It started raining, Roo had just dropped off to sleep and so I knew I had at least an hour of stillness and Costa Coffee just happened to be the next doorstep I came to.

I hated the whole 'mothers who coffee shopped scene' - I'd tried it once and felt completely alienated and out of it. I couldn't bear the total absorption with everything *baby*. I loved my new born daughter, she was (still is) a miracle and we understood each other from the moment we first looked at each other - we didn't need anybody else. So it was with great relief I could pull out my notebook and apologise for having to do some 'work' when kindly invited to join a group of new and super keen mummies.

Now whether at that moment my Muse came in, grabbed a latte and sat opposite me and told me this story, I can't say, but all I do know is my pen started to write and I recognised that what it was writing as a story that had been with me for years - not in story form, certainly not structured, more like a whole collection of scenes; like a photos stuffed in a memory box.

Within the space of three months (of almost crazed obsessive writing) the scenes came together and I had a sketch of a novel which I then set about researching. I've always been a complete geek and I'd finished my Masters Degree the year before making me very used to 'studying'. So amongst the nappies and bottles and hundred other things needed in the nappy bag, would be my notebook and books on Medieval life, Holy Grail conspiracies, Arthurian Legends and antiquarian books on British folklore.

What I wasn't prepared for was characters, as in how characters become real in your mind; holding conversations with you, moving around scenes, communicating with one another when you've got your back turned but that is a whole different blog post.

And so back to the question of a Muse - if I have one, she is part of my essential spirit. She is my past, present and future: my eyes, my heart - everything I have ever felt or will feel. Now I'm still not certain as to whether she exists (even in my imagination ) but what I am certain of is 'There a more things in heaven and Earth Horatio / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

BTW : Do click on the link to Elizabeth's amazing lecture: it may just change the way you think about your writing life.

1 comment:

  1. Ooo, thought-provoking. What IS my muse? A little voice that whispers while I'm reading random stuff, I think. Though the Malbec is one of my favorite wines, I can't claim it for my muse either. The little green fairy, perhaps? Nope, that one is detrimental to the creativity, sadly. Ah, well.

    And thanks for the link! Checking it out...