Monday, 11 March 2013

What's your inspiration?

It's common for writers to be asked who or what inspired this story, or that character.

But when it comes to being a fiction writer, I'm not often asked why I choose to spend hour upon hour in front of my keyboard in solitary contemplation of a world known only to me, among people only I've ever met in my imagination.

At some point every writer makes the decision to do just that and there was probably someone that inspired them. For me it was my Grandma Olive.

My grandma was, in an era when the world had not yet shrunk to the size it is now, very well-travelled, and a gifted story-teller. Using a blanket, she would rig up a contraption in the backyard clothes line which we called chair-aeroplane, sit me in it, and swing me around until it stopped.

We pretended I was landing in some foreign country. Using this as her muse, Grandma would launch into incredible descriptions of the landscape and the locals, the sights, smells and feel of these exotic places, and I, of course, was the heroine of every story!

Now, Grandma was rather eccentric though I didn't realise it at the time. Each evening, she allowed herself a single can of beer and a short, very skinny little cigar. When my chair-aeroplane landed, I would join her on a bench in the backyard, and as the sun dipped behind a bank of trees, she would take a sip of beer, puff her cigar, stare into the distance, and begin.

Nothing was ever written down, nothing recorded. Grandma narrated directly from a combination of personal experience and boundless imagination.

Among my adventures, I have galloped a camel in the shadows of the Great Pyramid of Giza, flown my helicopter into the depths of Diamond Head, scaled the Empire State Building, dangled from a rising span of the Tower Bridge to rescue a kitten, shopped at a Persian bazaar and found a genie lamp, and pushed my cart along the cobbled roads of Dublin with my friend Molly Malone.

I was also the first person to fly solo to the moon!

My Grandma left us to continue her journey elsewhere some 15 years ago now, but I am the privileged beneficiary of her wondrous legacy. Thank you Grandma Olive - the greatest story teller to have never written a word - and my inspiration.

Tell me about your what point did you decide you wanted to be a writer and who or what inspired you?

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