Friday, August 14, 2009

What's your inspiration?

from Emily Bryan . . .

It's a question authors get all the time. Where do the ideas come from? Sometimes, I have no clue. It just pops into my head. But in the case of my current WIP STROKE OF GENIUS, I know exactly where the kernel of my premise came from.

Greek mythology.

No, I'm serious. I have a tattered, much-read 1898 edition of Bulfinch's Age of Fable or the Beauties of Mythology. (I am not making this up!) I've had it since I was a child. It might actually have been worth something except that it's in abominable condition. The pages are all withered and yellowed. I greatly fear it spent a good deal of time in someone's damp basement before it came into my greedy little hands.

But however poor the condition of the book, the stories inside (and let us not forget the extremely naughty classical illustrations!) are all intact. And the story arcs of myth and legend are worth revisiting and tweaking any time.

STROKE OF GENIUS is based on the Pygmalion myth in the same way that O, Brother, Where Art Thou was a retelling of Homer's Odyssey. In other words, very loosely.

In the Pygmalion myth, a sculptor falls in love with his own ivory creation and names her Galatea. He beseeches Aphrodite, goddess of love, to interceed. Since the statue is the spitting image of the goddess, she's flattered enough to grant his wish. She turns Galatea into a flesh-and-blood woman and the lovers have a long and happy life together.

So not enough conflict. But the bare bones are there and I can always think of ways for people not to get what they want in the way they want it.

In STROKE OF GENIUS, my hero Crispin is a celebrated sculptor, but my heroine is not a flawless block of ivory. She's Grace Makepeace, a Bostonian heiress who wants to wed a titled gent. Crispin decides to smooth her way into Polite Society, teaching her how to flirt (along with more about her body and the ways of men.) He has a firm "no virgins" rule, so the only way he can actually bed her is if she becomes a member of his "Unhappy Wives of Unattentive Husband's Club."

But Grace is not as malleable as marble. And at some point, when he least expects it, the "stone" he's trying to shape begins to reshape him. There is no Aphrodite to step in and save the day. Crispin and Grace will have to battle this out for themselves. For a sneak peek, please visit (While you're there, be sure to enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST Contest in celebration of the upcoming release of A CHRISTMAS BALL--my holiday anthology with USA Today Bestseller Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson!)

Now it's your turn to share. If you're a writer, what's the inspiration for your latest WIP? If you're a reader, is there a classic myth or legend you'd like to see retold with a twist?

PS. Be sure to mark your calendars for tomorrow, Saturday August 15th. I'll be blogging with Elisabeth Naughton and giving away a copy of Vexing the Viscount to someone who leaves a comment there. Hope to see you soon!


Carol L. August 14, 2009 at 5:27 AM  

Hi Emma,
Love that picture. Every time I see it I have to take a breathe. He's absolutely beautiful to me. :)
I can't wait to read Stroke of Genius
and find out about Crispin and Grace. Christmas in August is also on my list. Enjoyed your post.
Carol L.

EmilyBryan August 14, 2009 at 6:07 AM  

He really is, isn't he? Too beautiful for nature.

Hope you mean A CHRISTMAS BALL (instead of Christmas in August--that's my contest). I can't wait to see our holiday anthology hit the shelves! It was such fun to write.

Kathryn August 14, 2009 at 6:48 AM  

Mythology is a terrific source for inspiration.

EmilyBryan August 14, 2009 at 10:01 AM  

If you've read Christopher Vogler's THE WRITER'S JOURNEY, myths and legends take on deeper psychological significance. I pull that book out at least once a year. You start seeing all the waypoints of the hero's journey in every movie, every book.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner August 14, 2009 at 6:11 PM  

Great post, Emily. My inspiration comes from so many different places that I couldn't pinpoint one--but like you I have a starting point for each book. The Nvengarian books I wrote were inspired by mystery novels of the 1920s and 30s--at that time it was trendy to write about fictional countries in the Balkans that were important to England. Agatha Christie wrote one (The Secret of Chimneys) and Margery Allingham wrote one (Sweet Danger). The books were set in England, but involved the rule of these fictional countries.

So I had to write one too. :-) Because I wanted to do a historical/paranormal, my little country was a place where magic and shapeshifters were real.

I bring up Nvengaria specifically, because one of those stories is in A Christmas Ball. LOL Thought I'd help Emily promo her contest!

Ashlyn Chase August 15, 2009 at 6:36 AM  

Wow, you surprised me, and yet--I don't know why I was surprised by that. LOL.


EmilyBryan August 15, 2009 at 5:06 PM  

Jennifer, I can't wait to read your Nvengaria story in A CHRISTMAS BALL. I'm in awe of the creativity it takes to manufacture a whole country.

EmilyBryan August 15, 2009 at 5:07 PM  

Ashlyn, I'll show you the book next time you come for critique!

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