Guest Blog: Ideas and Inspiration
Every book begins with an idea. Inspiration, some call it. Others claim to have a muse—inner voices that won't stop talking, or a secret world locked in their minds, clamoring to be released.
For me, inspiration often comes from images that pop into my head, or from a song that speaks to my soul, or from an old tale that my brain twists into a fresh "what if?"
Loathly Ladies and the Otherworld Demons
The idea for Korrigan, my first novel, finds its roots in a few different places—the first being the Arthurian myth of Sir Gawain and the "loathly lady," who was old and ugly by day and beautiful at night. I pondered the tale, turning it over in my mind. What if, instead of the woman being old during the day, she took on another loathsome shape—that of a horrific Otherworld demon?
And then I saw a scene in my head, sharp and clear as reality—a teenage boy in a sunny forest, facing off against a writhing, pale monster with a mouthful of jagged teeth. The boy has no idea that the monster is actually the girl he loves.
That was the first scene I wrote for Korrigan. And then I didn't write anything else for a couple of years. I lost the document with that first scene in it, and life intervened with all its messes and mayhem.
Until the summer of 2018, when on one sweltering Southern afternoon, I began to write. And I haven't stopped since.
Changelings and Tricksters
I delved into the intricacies of Irish lore and discovered the myth of the korrigan, connected to the idea of changelings and cradle-robbers. I developed my own version of the korrigan, a cursed group of women who steal years from humans, especially helpless babies.
Then I found him. The Far Darrig, the Red One, the trickster of Irish myth. He sauntered out of the dark corners of my mind, red-clad and smirking, silver eyes shining with mischief—and I knew he was going to be something special.
Speeding Trains and Summer Nights
After that, writing felt like clinging to the side of a speeding freight train. The more I explored, the more little-known myths I uncovered, and the story unfolded so fast I could hardly keep up with it.
The scenes just kept coming—not chronologically, so I wrote them out of order and filled in the pieces when they were revealed to me. Honestly, it felt as if the characters always existed, somewhere in another dimension, and I was simply uncovering their story.
I don't like to admit how fast I wrote Korrigan, Druid, and Samhain because some people believe that speedy writing is low-quality writing. It can be, but it doesn't have to be.
I didn't really pause between the books—I wrote and wrote, fiercely, anytime I had a few spare minutes. I played with my kids and took them outside for summer fun, but whenever they watched a movie or when their dad came home from work in the evening, I sat down at my computer and poured out all the pent-up words in my head. It was an incredible high and a wondrous release.
Finally, when the trilogy was finished, I breathed. I gave it to beta readers and incorporated some of their feedback. I tweaked and polished and edited and scoured the books until they shone. And then I sent them out into the world.
Self-publishing was the best route for my trilogy. I’d completed it exactly as I wanted it, and I couldn't wait to share the story. I do wonder sometimes if I should have queried it and gone the traditional publishing route—I really think it might have sold. But it is what it is.
When it's time to decide what to do with your manuscript, weigh all the options, choose the one that seems best to you, and don't look back! But don't let fear rule your publishing choices. Resist it all: the fear of querying, or fear of being stigmatized if you self-publish, or fear of low sales if you go with a small press. Each path has merit, and only you can choose the right one for your story.
More Sources of Inspiration
Every author's process is unique. Every writer has ways of renewing the creative well, boosting motivation, or jump-starting inspiration.
For me, music plays a huge part in my creative process—especially for my Fae trilogy—but even now, for my current works-in-progress. On my website, you can find the "secret playlists" that I've made for each of my published works. While they might not jive with everyone's taste, something about each one of those songs informed an aspect of the book, stimulated a new scene, or reflected a character's motives or conflict.
I don't always listen to music while writing, but I use a set of songs throughout the day to keep my mind in the creative zone for a particular story. I can't even count the number of times a song has inspired bits of dialogue or entire scenes.
“Nature is another source of intense creative renewal for me.”
I also use visual inspiration. I have files of reference photos for various characters, places, and objects—and while I don't stick to those exclusively, they help me stay grounded, add concrete details, and maintain the atmosphere of the story. I frequently make aesthetic collages using images I find on Pinterest—you can see some of them in my Twitter feed or on Instagram.
Nature is another source of intense creative renewal for me. In Korrigan, Druid, and Samhain, the forest and the mountains are more than a setting—they take on importance and meaning for the characters. If I'm stuck on a plot point or confused by the turn a character has taken, I usually need to get outside and be active with my kids for a while, and let the beauty of nature unlock those frozen gears in my mind.
What inspires you creatively? Music, art, movies, TV shows, books, nature, or people? If you have an idea itching in the back of your brain, put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard as soon as possible. As Henry David Thoreau said, "Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience."
Rebecca F. Kenney is the author of Korrigan, the first book in the YA contemporary fantasy trilogy "Secrets of the Fae." Korrigan, Druid, and Samhain are her debut novels in this genre, inspired by her love of YA fiction with a dash of the supernatural and an irresistible romance. When Rebecca isn't writing what she loves for fun, she writes what other people want for money. She lives in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina—a hip and happening city that is also the setting for Korrigan—along with her handsome blue-eyed husband and two smart, energetic kids.