2020… a year of inspiration?

Personal

Inspiration has been a little hard to come by in 2020, especially if you’re a romance author who likes to keep things fairly light.

As a fulltime author, writing is my job and I treat it as such. No matter what mood I’m in or where my muse is, I sit at my desk and I write practically every day. If I’m not writing then I will be plotting a book, marketing, or doing administration.

When the pandemic came along and life began to really change and the “new normal” started to show itself, I knew that I was in an extremely blessed position. Working from home and having a mostly online social circle led me to believe that I’d glide through lockdown like a knife through butter. 

Not quite.

My in-laws are all in Sweden and at the time of writing this we haven’t seen them for eleven months; my young niece is changing by the month and I’m sure when we do finally see her again, she’ll be unrecognisable. As both my wife and I can work remotely, we travel a lot. Not just to Sweden to see relatives, but to all parts of the world. Day trips, weekend trips, even month-long trips. Planes, trains, automobiles, and even cruise ships. My mother once mused that my carbon footprint could probably snuff out Scotland, though we do donate to a carbon offsetting service to try to balance that.

It wasn’t until travel essentially ended for us, by Government recommendation and our own desire to stay safe and protect others, that I realised what an inspiration travel is to me. Of course, I had vaguely acknowledged how I was spurred on by the things I saw when out and about. But it wasn’t until all travel ceased, and no future plans were in the diary, that I realised my creative well was starting to run dry.

I write books back to back, which means as soon as I finish one I have to pick up the next one. I finished a book at the end of March, just as the UK was a couple of weeks into the first lockdown. Trying to plot the next book was an interesting experience to say the least. Once I got over the question of whether or not to even acknowledge COVID-19 in my next book (I decided not to), I had to choose what it would be about. This was when I first looked at my back catalogue and the inspiration for each story with any detail.

My debut novel, Flight SQA106 was inspired by a transatlantic first-class flight I was on. A Swedish Christmas Fairy Tale was, perhaps unsurprisingly, inspired by Christmas in Sweden and my wife’s love of Swedish folklore. My Lambda-winning mystery novel Huntress was inspired by our frequent stop offs at motorway service stations as well as the narrowboats that run on the canals in my home city.

For the first time in my writing career, I wondered if I was suffering from writer’s block. Something I didn’t really think existed until confronted with it. I quickly decided that it wasn’t exactly writer’s block, I could write I just didn’t know what to write. I started to realise that at least the core concept of nearly every book I had written had been born during a trip.

Sometimes the spark of inspiration was obvious, Lost at Sea is about a cruise ship and was obviously inspired by a trip on a cruise ship. However, Going Up is a story of a homeless woman in England finding her way back into work and rebuilding her life and that idea began through seeing homelessness in San Francisco. While Going Up doesn’t reference any of my travels specifically, the inspiration came from being away from my desk. Something I couldn’t do back in March.

In the end, I dug deep and referenced my handy little black book of ideas and managed to come up with a concept I was happy with. I ended up writing a book that was shortlisted for the Kindle Storyteller Award, much to my surprise.

As lockdown eased, I managed to get out of the house some more and inspiration started to return. Detour to Love, my upcoming Bold Strokes Book release, travels to Japan, Denmark, and Scotland primarily because I couldn’t. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and knowing that one day I’d be travelling again allowed me to feel inspired again.