Guest - Maree Anderson: Inspiration

Today our special guest is Maree Anderson. Welcome, Maree!

Inspiration: just another word for a bloody good idea!
By Maree Anderson

My first effort at writing a manuscript was tragic! I was on a bit of a chick-lit reading bender at the time, and having been told I was a relatively amusing person (okay okay, borderline sarcastic), and having dealt with some pretty awful personal crap over the years, I figured I should be able to write something witty and funny and poignant. Right?

Luckily for acquiring agents and editors everywhere, I never got past the first page. And I believe it didn’t work because there was no true inspiration behind the idea, no compulsion to shriek, “OMG, how awesome would that be to write about?! Crap, why can I never find a pen when I need one? Honey, get off the damn computer ‘coz I need to start writing this or I’ll freaking well explode!”

For me, writing didn’t “work” until an idea smacked me upside the head, complete with an opening and ending scenes, and characters that wouldn’t let me sleep because they were yammering in my head. That first manuscript ended up being a high fantasy about a blind seer -- probably about as far removed from chick-lit as one could get, LOL.

So where do you look for inspiration? How do you coax that capricious, stubborn-ass creature from the hole it’s crawled into?

Here are some sources of inspiration that have worked for me.

My very first manuscript ended up being the first in a fantasy trilogy, and the second story was inspired by a well-known saying:

“Power corrupts. And absolute power, corrupts absolutely.”

Hey, I thought, what if my seer’s daughter hasn’t inherited her mother’s powers? What if she craves power so much that when she gets everything she wished for it’s a curse, not a blessing?

The final story in the trilogy was inspired by this phrase I stumbled on while surfing the Net:

“From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. And when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.”

That triggered the whole concept of “soul-mates” and a hero who travels between worlds to find the love of his life, and then is forced to give her up and erase all her memories of him.

An interest in crystals spawned another series of manuscripts. Some of the crystals had such raw, masculine-sounding names—wulfenite, kyanite, malachite—that they triggered stories about Crystal Warriors, men cursed and imprisoned in their namesake crystals.

A travel article about slick-rock bike tours, and Utah having the second highest incidence of lightning strikes in America, inspired me to write When Lightning Strikes. It’s a tale about lightning-riding aliens, who prolong their lives by healing the bodies of people who’ve just died in a lightning strike, and merging with their departing souls.

I spotted a magazine photo with a woman cuddled up to a guy, blissed out on his scent. I’ve still got the clipping and the article is about men’s fragrances. Here’s its by-line:

“In a world of equal opportunities, men are smelling as good as women—well, nearly”.

From that clipping, I ended up with Scent Of A Man, a manuscript about an innocent young man who exudes pheromones that make him irresistible to women.

When a friend of mine acquired an old dance card, she brought it to our RWNZ chapter meeting. The final dance on the card had the name scratched out, and you should have heard the incredibly varied ideas people came up with to explain that crossed out name! The ideas spanned multiple genres, too.

My office notice-board is covered with sayings, phrases, poems and notes. Here’s a good one from a Nora Roberts book: “The sulky stink of death”. There’re even a couple of quotes from The Economist -- not exactly my regular reading material ;-) I don’t try to figure out why they caught my eye, I just know that one day they might inspire a story.

Even Demons Get The Blues, was inspired by the TV series Saving Grace. Grace is a cop whose coping mechanisms are booze, cigarettes and sex…with her married partner. She inspired me to write a heroine who’s not at all a “nice” girl, one who has committed a terrible crime, lost everyone who mattered to her, and fills the gaping hole in her soul with booze and sleazy one-night-stands. Her hero needed to be someone with a dark soul of his own, someone who wouldn’t be put off by the things she’s done. Hmmm. Perhaps a demon? Yeah!

Leisa and Rez’s story became my first publishing credit after Even Demons Get The Blues finaled in the 2009 Red Sage Alpha Male Novella contest.

My second Demons novella, LET SLEEPING DEMONS LIE, was a May 1st Red Sage Presents release. And to celebrate that release, I’m offering one commenter (chosen at random) a chance to win an electronic copy.

Since we’re talking inspiration, here’s how this story came to be.

Naamah, a minor character from Even Demons Get The Blues, was so vivid and mouthy and “real” that it broke my heart to cut back her scenes. Hell hath no fury like a felinoid demon scorned, and knowing Naamah, I suspected she might just haunt me forever. So I expanded on a deleted scene in which Asmodeus, the Demon King, punishes her, and voilà! Naamah got her own story.

Because Naamah’s a cat-demon, I couldn’t resist pairing her with Brennan, a leonine shifter. LET SLEEPING DEMONS LIE is essentially cat-demon vs lion shifter, with some truly heinous were-hyenas thrown in to spice things up. Kick back and watch the fur fly, baby! *evil laughter*

(If you’d like to check out the reviews, or read the prologue and an excerpt from Let Sleeping Demons Lie, please visit my website and click on the links in the My Books page:

So I challenge you to keep an open mind, and go forth and be inspired. You just never know when a bloody good idea for a story—or anything else, for that matter!—is gonna slap you upside the head.

So who’s brave enough to share something that inspired them? Doesn’t have to be writing-related, either BTW. My mom’s an artist, and we’re always swapping stories. C’mon, curious minds would like to know! (But if you’re too shy, then feel free to ask me a question instead -- I love answering questions, LOL!)

I’d like to thank my lovely hostess, Nicole, for inviting me to guest blog on Fierce Romance -- it’s been an honor!


Maree Anderson

To buy a copy of Let Sleeping Demons Lie, please visit Red Sage Publishing:
13 Responses
  1. Hi Maree, great post. Very insightful. I don't always know what inspires a particicular book, but occasionally I do. For the most part, first scenes seem to pop out of nowhere and take me on a journey. Sometimes I can track back to what triggered that first scene, sometimes not.

    My current book stemmed from reading about a Lady Highwayman from the Cromwellian era and the local superstitions about her ghost. No, not a paranormal, just a very clever Regency lady. lol

    I think the written word is a great way to start the subconscious churning.
    Fun post!

  2. Eliza Knight Says:

    Great post! History and present day life inspire me. I love to watch documentaries, visit sites, and often the things I see will inspire me. Sometimes its as simple as taking a walk and the wind blows my hair a certain way, or someone says something to me that triggers a scene. For the most part, my scenes come to me in bits and pieces and I build from there.

  3. Lilly Cain Says:

    Hi Maree,

    I use just about anything for inspiration - I play a little game when searchign for an ideas - the "What if" game. I think we all do. :) Some things that have been helpful are dreams. I write them down. You never know what is in your subconscious.

    And sometimes I just wrtie until things get going. You can always cut later. :)


  4. Carly Carson Says:

    I get my ideas from things I read, though I can't always retrace the thought. My favorite twists usually come about while I'm writing and I'm kind of amazed when they pop up. lol

    I'm reading Maree's current release right now, folks, and she has my favorite kind of hero - tough, with a sense of humor and a heart. What more could one ask?

  5. Lee Says:

    I have to agree, I can't start on a story unless I have beginning and an end. Then like you, I'm on fire to get it written.

  6. Hi Ann -- the pop out of nowhere scene... oh yes, I can relate to that! Led to many a sleepless night until I finally gave in and started writing the book, LOL. I love the sound of your current book -- and the inspiration for it. A Lady Highwayman...awesome!

    Eliza -- I really must start watching the History Channel & taking walks! Hard to be inspired when you're huffing and puffing on a treadmill in a gym ;-)

    Lilly -- I've had some spectacularly weird dreams that I wish I'd jotted down before they drifted away. For me, I find my subconscious is a fabulous tool for discovering plot holes and dodgy motivations. I wake up going, OMG, how could I not have realized that?! I love your "write until things get going" comment. As someone famous (Nora R?) said, you can't edit a blank page.

    Carly -- you pantser, you! LOL. Don't you love it when you're writing away and something awesome you never expected ends up on the page? It's like your fingers are possessed!

    And I'm so thrilled you think that Brennan has "heart". Yay! That's the best feedback I could ask for!!

    Lee -- OMG, that ending scene is kind of crucial for me. If I can't visualize the end, doesn't matter how wonderful the idea is, I just end up stuck... and resorting to the evil outline *shudders*

    Thank you for stopping by, ladies. You're all inspiring! Just need to kick these revisions into touch so I can start looking for the next idea. Sigh....

  7. flchen1 Says:

    Hi, Maree! I'm definitely not a writer, but have toyed with various creative artsy things. Sometimes I'm inspired by something I've seen in a book (a pattern for something or someone else's gorgeous work) or once in a while, enjoying the great outdoors will provide a jolt of inspiration. And I imagine that occasionally eavesdropping can provide a world of inspiration for fiction writers ;)

    Thanks for sharing about some of your inspiration, Maree!

  8. Hi Fedora! Ah yes. Eavesdropping. Don't leave home without being prepared to listen in, LOL.

    Patterns -- So, do you sew or knit or needlepoint? My sewing skills are basically mending and hemming -- not very inspiring. But I used to knit and crochet. Haven't done either since the kids were babies, but Daughter is rather obsessed with Totoro (a Japanese cartoon bunny) and they're so goshed darn cute that I'm considering tackling a crochet Totoro for her. Got the pattern from someone on Twitter, would you believe? Gotta love that Twitter.

  9. flchen1 Says:

    Ooh, crochet! My poor mom tried to teach me needlecrafts when I was a child, and I managed to break a crochet hook (granted, it was a plastic one, but still--those suckers are tough!) and sew a kerchief to the carpet. I finally learned when I was in junior high, and still make things occasionally--I tend to avoid things that are to be sized, but there are so many super cute amigurumi (sp?) patterns. I've since learned the basics of knitting but am not very good at it! Too many needles! ;) I'll have to Google Totoro :D (Gotta love that Google, too!)

  10. Totoro's pretty much an institution in Japan, Fedora. Daughter bought a couple of stuffed toys back with her and I would happily have one for myself! In fact, if you check out my Facebook photo albums -- Totoro's Great Adventures -- you'll see we took a Totoro all round the South Island with us and snapped loads of photos. Amazing how inventive you can be with a stuffed toy, LOL.

  11. Nicole North Says:

    Thanks so much for being our guest, Maree! I enjoyed your post!

  12. flchen1 Says:

    Ooh, just sent you a FB request :) Thanks!

  13. Thanks for inviting me to be Fierce for a day, Nicole -- it was a pleasure!

    And before my daughter headed off to school this morning, I asked her to draw a commenter at random. The name she chose is:


    Lee, congratulations! You've won an electronic copy of Let Sleeping Demons Lie, so please get in touch with me (maree AT mareeanderson DOT com) and let me know your email address.

    A big thank-you to everyone who visited and commented on my post. You made me feel very welcome!


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