by Maurice Broaddus
The whole idea of inspiration fascinates me. In my quiet moments, I believe that I don’t have much of an imagination. So many of my stories and characters spring from my own life that I often feel that I’m not so much “writing” as I am “transcribing.” Also, I consider myself a spiritual person, thus created in God’s (the ultimate Creator) image, thus I could say that the Holy Spirit is my Muse. So in a sentence, life is my ultimate inspiration and writing is my mission.
When I wrote King Maker, the first book in what would become my Knights of Breton Court trilogy, it sprang from those two things coming together. I was a volunteer at a ministry called Outreach Inc, which works with homeless teenagers. I was teaching a creative writing class and was encouraging the kids to imagine themselves in different settings. It became quickly apparent that they could barely imagine themselves surviving to next week. Life had stolen their ability to dream . . . but they still had stories to tell. I threw out the line “you could be anything you want, princes, princesses, knights” and that stuck with me. What if they were, right where they are? From wanting to share their stories, my novel was born. That’s the way it typically goes with me. My stories spring from my life in a bunch of different ways:
-My identity: We all have those existential moments of wondering “Who am I?” Wrestling with that question plays itself out as a theme in many of my stories. From my short story, “Family Business” (Weird Tales), where I contemplated the idea of being “The Other” within my own family; to “Warrior of the Sunrise” (The New Hero, vol. I), where issues of race, spirit, and family collide.
-My faith: Matters of religion and personal faith fascinate me and form a good part of who I am. They play in my imagination and pop out in interesting ways, such as my novella, Orgy of Souls (Apex Books), as I wrestled with the idea of the role faith plays in how we choose to live our lives. Or the idea for my anthology series, Dark Faith (Apex Books).
-My tragedies: Writing is my therapy. Writing allows me to put some distance between me, what’s going on, and what you are feeling. I am able to examine it from a variety of perspectives (not just what the main character is going through but how it impacts those around her/him). I can talk things through using my characters, dig deep within and plumb their hearts and hidden feelings and truths. My story, “Rainfall” (Cemetery Dance), springs to mind as a recent example of this.
-My children: nothing delights and stirs your wonder like listening to your children. As I hang out with them and their friends, I feel the need to memorialize this time in words somehow. I can literally feel the mental gears turning as I think about how to capture their lives and spirit in story.
As writers, we give up our lives. We cut open our emotional veins and bleed all over the page for our readers’ entertainment. There is a certain amount of fearlessness and abandon as we put ourselves out there, exposing ourselves. We are the court jesters speaking truth to power.
I am surrounded by reminders of who the ultimate Author is. In some ways I see myself as joining in His creative work and mission whenever I create a story. I am also keenly aware that I’m often working out my spiritual journey as much through my art as through my faith. Life is wondrous, even the dark sides of it, and there is a beauty not only to Creation but in the act of creation.
Most importantly, I live an interesting life. I meet people, encounter strange situations, and have weird dreams. We all do. So pay attention to the life that you’re living. There are stories all around you just waiting to be told.
About the Guest Author
Maurice Broaddus has written hundreds of short stories, essays, novellas, and articles. His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, including Cemetery Dance, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine. He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology series (Apex Books) and the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot Books). He has been a teaching artist for over five years, teaching creative writing to elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as adults.