Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Many Faces of Inspiration

My first book, Eliza, was published by Champagne Books on October 1, 2012.  People have asked me what inspired this particular story. Credit must be given to three sources, Jane Grey Swisshelm, a distant relative and a group of Benedictine nuns. Since Eliza is clearly a romance, the nun connection may sound a bit odd.
In the first case, a visit to my local library brought me to Jane Swisshelm. Browsing the aisles, I chanced upon a book about legendary women who had a significant impact on their community. In the middle of the nineteenth century she left an unhappy marriage. After leaving her home in Pittsburg, she settled in a tiny, Minnesota frontier town and supported herself by publishing the local paper. Her radical ideas caused quite a stir.  Knowing that a woman, in that period of history, walked away from her marriage and supported herself with a legitimate business gave credibility to the idea of my fictional heroine. 

The other inspirational points came to me when I explored my family background.  Around 1850, a young female relative left her family in Germany and traveled with her brother to the United States. During the trip, they separated and she made the final stretch of her journey alone to settle in Minnesota. About the same time, a handful of Benedictine nuns from Germany set up a convent nearby, in what was nothing but a forest. These women were resourceful, resilient and tough-minded. I funneled those traits into Eliza’s character.

In the end though, the book isn’t about Jane or German émigrés, it’s about a woman determined to make it on her own who falls in love with a man she can’t have.
Ask any writer where they culled inspiration for a story and the answers will be varied and surprising. My strangest inspiration came from a scarlet-hued ball gown. The garment was an 1890’s haute courtier design. I would have hated wearing anything so confining, but visually, the dress was stunning. This image led me to imagine where a woman might wear such a creation. From there, a story idea spiraled and a book evolved which I called, A Deadly Truth.    

Inspiration isn’t something planned. It just happens and when it does, it leaves me amazed.  









January Bain said...

Joyce, I know what you mean. You cannot plan inspiration but you can plan to be there when it hits.

The more I learn about my fellow writers the more I learn we are more alike than we know!

Best, January

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Right. When it hits a gift you can't afford to ignore. Good post.

Big Mike said...

Don't ya just luv the research component of creating a new novel. Ya learn so many new facts on historical, people, and locations.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

joyce said...

I do love the research. It's such fun. While things were different generations ago, the humanness of people remains such a constant.