Where do you get your ideas from?

Someone asked me this grand old standby today and as usual I had to admit that I have no idea. All of the stuff cooking away in my mind serves up stuff every so often; given that I’ve always been a fan of the fantastic, I suppose that the ingredients are a combination of things from the genre.
I was always going to be a fantasy writer. After all, the first stories we are exposed to are fantasies, from fairy tales to Alice in Wonderland, Oz to Dr Seuss, hungry caterpillars to Gruffaloes. And remember, for a long time, fantasy was confined to children’s fiction (although I never forgave C.S.Lewis when I discovered that the Narnia stories were Christian allegories) — with the exception of that grand old tradition, the English Ghost Story. Only when The Lord of the Rings became popular did fantasy for adults start to appear in quantity.
For a large part of my writing career, I have been writing ghost stories, using the tropes of the world of M.R.James. My first novel was of that world, and I still make the occasional foray into it. It wasn’t until the appearance in my life of Captain da Silva that I suddenly became a writer of dark, slightly crazy fantasy, and I think that Joss Whedon holds a large part of the blame for that. As, probably, does Terry Pratchett. Most fantasy before that was decidedly po-faced, the “high heroic” stuff being the worst offender. Sir Terry was all about the funny for a long time, whereas Joss put the funny into a horror situation right from the start. (You’ll also notice that my writing style owes much to Raymond Chandler, for which I make absolutely no apology.)
So somehow all my years of absorbing fantasy, horror, and sf muddle around in my mind and come up with stories. I don’t always know what’s going to happen — make that, I rarely know what’s going to happen. And I find that’s rather awesome, not to mention tremendous fun.


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