Posted: February 15, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I’ve struggled this week, I’ll be honest.  Between the day job and various other holiday-themed distractions, it’s just been hard to enjoy any free time I’ve had.  I don’t think I’ve gotten any solid writing done because it’s been tough to stay focused.  So, in that vein, I wanted to talk about inspiration.

What inspires writers?

For me, especially lately, it’s been music.  And not always the songs you would expect.  In college, I began stories while listening a lot to Rich Mullins.  His imagery is captivating, his lyrics are inspiring.  More recently, it’s been hard rock.

While writing The Dark Communion, for whatever reason, I listened almost exclusively to Breaking Benjamin.  The darker, more haunting melodies set the overall tone, I think, for the book.

However, the first chapter I wrote was what became chapter 8.  As Swyftt is driving home, reflecting about his past, his daughter, his wife.  For me, that chapter really made Swyftt real.  It showed that he had layers, that his pain was justified, that he wasn’t just a hard-ass action hero with no regard or remorse.  He had those things, just chose to shut them down.  That chapter become the emotional linchpin, and even though I wrote that chapter over three years ago, to this day, whenever I read it again, I get emotional.  That chapter was inspired by the song “Weight of the World” by Blue October.  At the end of the song, he whispers, “Let’s go.  Let’s really, really go.”  And I felt the emotion in that song and sought to capture it.  I was fascinated by the desperation that line represented to me, and it came out as a parent’s aching hopelessness.

When I was really young, I lost a brother to Leukemia.  I watched my parents as they helplessly watched him die.  That’s the most desperate I’ve ever seen a life.

When I wrote The Stars Never Rise, I craved Incubus.  Two songs particularly, “Oil and Water” and “Anna Molly.”  With the title of Anna Molly, naturally, it conjured images of Anna, Swyftt’s daughter.  Some of the lyrics fit, also, and the song became almost an anthem of the book.  Incubus wasn’t as dark as Breaking Benjamin, not as heavy, had more energy, and I credit the music choice to the different feel in the books.

Book 2 is less horror and more action.  There are certainly darker moments to it, but for the most part, it comes off as just this crazy, fun ride that builds on everything the first book introduced.

This new short story I’m working on, which features priest Finnegan, was inspired from Lady Gaga’s song “You and I” after driving around in my wife’s car for a weekend and listening to her music.  Something in the first verse really sparked for me.  A relationship that had been walked away from.  I knew, given Swyftt’s past, it wasn’t something I could use for him, but Finnegan came to mind, and I grew excited about the idea of exploring his history.

The main place I draw inspiration is from reading.  Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s The Relic, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-house Five, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, anything by Lee Child.  Easily the most influential book for me has been J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.  But there are so many others: Narnia, Harry Potter, X-men comics, the nonfiction of John Eldredge.

Growing up, I was huge into Frank Peretti.  This Present Darkness was such an engaging book, and I remember as I read through it the first time in seventh grade, I would call random friends and read them passages that I was particularly taken with.  Then in high school, back when America Online was the go-to ISP and chat rooms mattered, I remember that Saturday night.  I was at a friend’s house.  It must’ve been 3am, and I was the only one awake and surfing some random chat room when I ran across the username Peretti777.  The people in the room were making a big deal about him, saying, “Oh, you’re not really him,” etc.  I watched for awhile and read their taunts.  It wasn’t long before that person logged off.  In a flash of inspiration, I sent Peretti777 an email that said, “For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume you’re him.  Is there any advice you could give me?”  I attached a poem I’d written.

I went to bed shortly after, woke up and went to church.  I logged back on sometime that next day, and to my surprise, there was an email reply.  He liked the poem, and said, “Keep writing, and God will anoint you.”

I don’t know if that person was really Frank Peretti, but I like to think so.  In my heart, I believe it was.  And I never forgot that.

I’m not going to claim that I’m anointed.  But I will say, that the Holy Spirit has been possibly my biggest source of inspiration through the past three years.  I’ve felt him as I’ve written (yes, even the swear words) and seen Him fill in plot holes, rewrite dialogue, and take characters in directions I never would have dreamed…yet somehow, it’s all worked out better than I could have ever planned.

So no matter what you’re struggling with, no matter what you’re looking to do, just know that inspiration comes in many forms and from many unexpected places.  I’m excited to see where the next inspiration will come from.

  1. Josh says:

    Hey Joey, very awesome! I’d have to agree with you how music can have such a huge effect on the tone of writing. I’ve learned that from all the poetry that I write. I love how you say the Holy Spirit, I know He has anointed your writing, since the beginning I’ve felt Him on your words! God is going to use you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine! I’m very excited for you bro! I love ya and extremely proud of ya!

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