Often people ask me where I get all my stories from. There is a short answer which states that I don’t actually know. But as often is the case, the short answer doesn’t do the question justice, so here is the long answer.
Perhaps it has something to do with the writer’s mind or imagination. The first time someone asked me the question how on Earth I dreamed up all those stories, I wondered where that question came from. Only then I started to understand that not everyone is able to sit down and put a story on paper.
What makes someone write? Is it a creativity bug? Is it a form of soul-searching?
I think it’s something that lives in everyone, but that comes out of a person in different ways. Some people, like Will, Robert and myself, write stories. Some people paint. Others create amazing gardens or statues. Everyone has a way to display that creativity. Doing sports, like running, playing soccer or ice skating comes from that same source, I think.
This might be a strange link, but as with creativity, people who do sports or gardening are exploring boundaries. How far (in colour, shape, combination of plants and styles) can I take this garden? How far can I kick or throw that ball? How much faster can I run? And for writers these boundaries are on the inside.
For me they are unclear, most predominant when I write fantasy books like the Naked Crow series. I have spoken with people who claim that writing fantasy is the simplest thing because you can do anything. True, but for me there are limits. If you do anything there is a real danger to lose the reader. Fantasy-related things that for the writer may be crystal-clear might (probably will) confuse the reader because the reader misses most of the thought- and emotional background the writer has when he/she writes down the words for a story.
When I make Sheila move to her golden country I feel it’s necessary to keep that country recognisable. Not only for the reader, by the way, but also for Sheila. Imagine her arriving in a place that totally stuns and confuses her. What would that do to a reader if the main character of that part can’t even comprehend what’s going on?
For me that is such a vague boundary. I want to push it, to see how far it goes, but at the same time I have to remember the people who read the story. If they switch off and put the book aside, then my attempt to make a story more fantasy-fancy has failed.
So that’s the long answer. As you see, I still don’t really know where the stories come from, but I will keep exploring that realm, I will dig deeper and make more stories happen. Maybe I will never find out the source, but that’s fine. As with many things, the goal of that journey isn’t the most important part. It’s the journey itself, and the treasures that are there, along the way, that make it worth the while.