by Richard Lee Byers
For me, there are two different kinds of inspiration or perhaps levels of inspiration. We can ask what moves a writer to write at all. We can also ask where he finds the seeds for particular stories.
My desire to write came from an early love of stories and a belief that I could spin tales of my own. I knew I had an active imagination and a knack for language, so why shouldn’t I follow in the hallowed footsteps of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. G. Wells, the first two writers (aside from Dr. Seuss) I remember reading?
Later, I found out there was some tough slogging to be had by treading in those footsteps. A writing career was hard work and demoralizing, too, when rejection slips and bad reviews flew my way and a new release failed to find an audience.
But I also learned that on those days when it’s going well, writing is satisfying and sometimes even fun. And, I heard from readers who liked my stuff. Together, those two things, combined with pure stubbornness, kept me going through the bad moments and keep me banging away at the computer still.
The inspirations for particular stories can come from many places and be specific or otherwise. I like learning about science, particularly astronomy and astrophysics. Given that most of my work is fantasy of one sort or another, you’d assume that little of that information turns up in it, and you’d be right. But I think the pure wonder involved in contemplating the collisions of galaxies, M theory, and stuff like that expands my mind and imagination.
I enjoy learning about pretty much anything, really, history in particular, and that’s information that sometimes does inspire a specific story idea or plot development. The results can be far more interesting and original than relying on genre tropes alone.
Fiction sometimes inspires me in a more specific way than the simple love of stories I alluded to before. My novel Pathfinder Tales: Called to Darkness pays tribute to my first literary hero Edgar Rice Burroughs. I analyzed how a Burroughs novel works and tried to hit similar beats and achieve a similar tone in a story all my own.
Similarly, I might not have come up with my “Brotherhood of the Griffon” Forgotten Realms series if I didn’t admire the historical adventure novels of Bernard Cornwell. His books help get me excited about the possibilities of a mercenary company fighting in Faerûn.
And when I read the urban fantasy of Simon R. Green and Jim Butcher, I realized, hey, I like this genre, and I bet I could write it. I cross-pollenated the conventions of the form with my love of poker and came up with Blind God’s Bluff.
Speaking of cross-pollination, if a writer has an understanding of multiple genres, he can sometimes come up with something good by combining them. I’ve read a lot of mysteries, and that’s no doubt why I used a whodunit as one of the major plot threads in The Rite. The Black Bouquet is both a sword-and-sorcery story and a caper novel, while Queen of the Depths is simultaneously heroic fantasy and a spy story.
So, okay. I guess that covers what inspires me. Well, except that I left out making the rent.
About the Guest Author
Richard Lee Byers
Richard Lee Byers is the author of forty fantasy and horror novels including Called to Darkness, his first Pathfinder novel, Blind God’s Bluff, the start of a new urban fantasy series, and Prophet of the Dead, the latest in a series of books set in the Forgotten Realms universe. He is also the creator of The Impostor, a post-apocalyptic superhero series, has published dozens of short stories, writes a monthly feature for the SF news site Airlock Alpha, and contributes to the Night Bazaar, the Night Shade Books authors’ blog.