Guest Blog by N.M. Pondus: Inspiration
I was honored that Mr. Yanez asked me to put something together as a guest blogger about what inspires me to write. First off, I suppose I should let you know that my name is Nemo Pondus and I write, as of yet still unpublished, Urban Fantasy books based on the Trojan War hero Diomedes.
My primary inspiration comes from my varied interests and my eclectic background. I am truly a jack-of-all-trades and master of none having been a scientist and a magazine editor among other things. Once I left the magazine world about six years ago, I began my own business. Unfortunately the business I chose is highly seasonal, leaving me weeks with very little constructive to do with my time.
About two years ago, inspired by modern authors like Tolkien, Jim Butcher and David Morrell, and armed with a lifetime of studying and reading mythology and folklore, I began writing to fill my down time. My interests left me little doubt as to the genre I wanted to work in -- fantasy, or more specifically urban fantasy.
I relied on what I knew to get me started. The idea for my first book, Humanity's Fist, came from an odd combination of my varied background and research on Strigoi -- the original folkloric form of modern vampires. I'm not really that into vampires, but I couldn't help but think about what would happen if you actually did shoot a creature that bullets, supposedly, couldn’t kill.
Specifically I couldn't help but imagine what would happen if something immune to normal weapons were hit by a modern large caliber rifle with high explosive armor piercing rounds? The damage these things are designed to inflict on structures or vehicles is immense, on personnel, it’s positively devastating. I don't care what the target was, it would suffer, if, of course it existed in the real world.
I continued to explore classical mythology, folklore and fairytales discovering stories about interactions between myths and supposedly real people, most notably in Greek and Roman mythology. I became enamored with the Trojan War and its heroes and their interactions with their deities and mythic creatures. Along the way, I came across a hero that no one ever talks about despite the fact that he was the most feared and skilled warrior involved in the war. His name was Diomedes, the only human in those stories to ever wound a Greek god in battle (several actually, including Ares, their god of battlefield chaos). He managed his epic feats with the help of another deity -- Athena, who was so taken by his honor and drive on the battlefield that stories say she offered him immortality and then stories say he just disappeared. My stories pick up where those left off under the assumption he was immortal.
The more I looked around, the more I found other stories like Diomedes', and tales about a myriad of creatures and beings with ties to the modern and real world. It also helped me a bit to tie my writing to things I was familiar with because I could make the real things I wrote about more realistic. Stuff I'm not as acquainted with, I research until I feel comfortable with it, but I don't shy away from an idea just because I'm not as familiar with it as I'd like. That's the scientist in me. I enjoy ripping into concepts and ideas and figuring stuff out. Plus I want the real stuff in my stories to be as authentic as possible. To me, it ruins the story when a writer clearly isn't familiar with the details of what they're writing about.
While I really enjoy reading urban fantasy along the lines of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, I couldn't help think about trying to do more than just place a fantastic world inside the universe as we know it. What I really wanted to do was use mysterious or unexplained real events and then make connections between myth and reality along the lines of Dan Brown and Brad Meltzer but combine that with a fantasy world rather than try to keep it strictly in a “real” world. That's what I try to do anyway.
I find my inspiration for my stories in a variety of places and I never know where they'll come from. I try to stay open. For example, at an art museum recently, I ran across a painting called "Il Ridotto" by Pietro Longhi and I began doing research on the masked and anonymous Ridotto parties in medieval Italy. The concept will undoubtedly appear in a future book. Exactly how, I don’t know yet.
Similarly, while watching TV I saw a brief spot about the Axe Man murders in 1918 New Orleans. In letters to the police, the murderer claimed to be supernatural and was never caught. The more I checked into it, as grisly as it sounds, it turns out there are a myriad of unsolved axe murders at the turn of the 20th century around the country. You better believe that'll be a future story line.
My point is inspiration can come from virtually anywhere and you have to be open to it where ever it may hit. The really fun part is being creative and figuring out how to use it, even if you can't see it right away. For me, it helps if your world is partly fantastical, too, because that allows possible explanations to things that seem to be unexplainable. And if its rooted at least in some small part in reality, the line between them blurs, making the possibilities that much more fun. For example, the massive countywide blackout in San Diego County in September 2011 presented an ideal backdrop to the beginning of my second book, still in progress -- The Hanner Brid. Sure, official reports said it was human error, but I say differently!
One last example as a way of explanation: In my first book Humanity's Fist, the main villain is the witch Medea from Greek myth -- you know, the one married to Jason of Argonaut and Golden Fleece fame. He dumps her and she becomes infuriated and kills his new wife and his new wife's father, some stories say she even killed her own children from Jason. She flees east with her remaining son Medus to the steppes of what is now eastern Iran. Presently there are any number of tribes in the area that claim decendency from Medus -- people historically called the Medes -- including members of a very real modern terrorist organization called Jundullah.
Et voilà, there's a story line ripe for the picking. All I had to do was make some connections to my fantasy world and figure out a way to use it in a story. I didn't even have to make it all up!
Finally, I keep track of any ideas and concepts that I find. Like I said, I never know when ideas might mesh with one another or fit into a storyline that does inspire me. It’s all valuable fodder for stories that just haven't been thought up yet. Whatever you do, keep track of your ideas and keep writing!