Monday, April 20, 2009

What Inspires You to Write?

When doing chats or author interviews, one of the first questions asked seems to be a variation of, What inspires you to write?

My short answer is one word: travel. My longer answer is that traveling/moving initially reinforced my love of reading. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, my earliest playmates were fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became my portable pals. An only child, I began writing at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating my own happy endings – usually consisting of large families.

As an adult, writing has become my “second” job, where I squeeze in time between my day job and “life.” When I travel, however, I’m freed from my daily concerns. Everything is new. Not only does travel open my mind, travel triggers my muse. I admit it, I’m a peripatetic writer.

The inspiration for UNTIMELY PARTNERS was a trip my husband and I took to Teotihuacan, Mexico. Traveling always gives me ideas for stories. The locations spark ideas/plots/characters/conflicts. You could say that geography is the basis for my ideas.

For instance, a double rainbow that occurred on a walk in Teotihuacan was the inspiration for one of the opening images of UNTIMELY PARTNERS. A white dog that I met at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun actually became one of the central characters in the plot.

When my husband and I lived in Taiwan, political events occurring in the news and actual incidents that happened to me merged to become the inspiration for SOVEREIGNTY OF THE DRAGONS. Again, it was the geographical place, as well as the local flavor that inspired the story.

What’s my advice for inspiration for writing? Travel to an unfamiliar (or exotic) destination; be open-minded; experience all you can…just taste life…literally and figuratively! Add imagination, stir well, and serve up as a novel.

When doing chats or author interviews, another question asked seems to be a variation of, What are some promotional tips for other writers?

What works best for me is establishing working relationships with other authors in my area. Join local writing groups; speak at authors’ meetings, or give readings at local clubs, all the while quietly promoting your name, not just your latest title. Word-of-mouth and networking really do open doors, which lead to new speaking opportunities that ultimately help sales.

Karen Hulene Bartell

© Karen Hulene Bartell 2009 all rights reserved

UNTIMELY PARTNERS: published by Lyrical Press, Inc.

Contact me at my web site: I’d love to hear from you!


nerinedorman said...

Travel is also one of those magical cues. My day-job involves editing travel articles for a newspaper, so I'm always learning about other parts of the world.

When I do get an opportunity to travel, it shows me different parts of my country that also somehow find a way into my fiction, not to mention my own travel editorial.

Reading and travelling are both methods to escape from the mundane into a different world.

s.w. vaughn said...

Great advice, Karen - I'm traveling to "exotic" NYC this week, and it's always an inspiring trip!

I really like that you mention promoting your name and not just your books. That's really so important when it comes to promotion.

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

Nerine, yes, I can so relate to travel finding a way into your fiction.

Traveling, not only "opens" your mind, it seems to expand your imagination - and propel you to write.
You're lucky your "day job" allows you to mix your love of reading and traveling!

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

Yes, NYC is my favorite US town. I moved there at 18 to find fame and fortune. Although the fame is still illusive (no matter how much I promote my name ;^) - NYC is a wonderful amalgam of cultures - and a perfect place to be inspired for your next WIP!

Marta Stephens said...

Karen, how wonderful of you to joint us today on Murder by 4!

The great thing about inspiration is that it sometimes comes out of nowhere.

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

It's a real pleasure to be here, Marta, and, I couldn't agree more about inspiration magically appearing. Maybe it's something like falling in love - it happens when you least expect it!

Kim Smith said...

Hey Karen! Great post, btw. I agree wholeheartedly about new places inspiring writing. I have written the bulk of two books on trips. The problem today is, I haven't gone anywhere in so long my writing is suffering! So, I hope I get a vacation this year or my readers will be hurting for work from me :D

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

Hah - I love your attitude and approach to writing, Kim! Yes, there's something about being out of your daily routine that sets the scene - literally - for writing.

Sheila Deeth said...

There's always virtual travel too, and just the walk round the green where the kid's failing to fly a kite, and the white dog's chasing a goose, and the cloud looks like an elephant...

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

You're right, Sheila, with a good imagination, your mind can take you anywhere.

Cheryl said...

Excellent article. I don't travel as much as I would like, but the Outer Banks of North Carolina would make a great setting for a book or books, and at this point it's almost like a second home to us because we vacation there each year.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Karen, you are right on about travel being wonderful inspiration for the Muse. I find that even a local jaunt can get those creative juices flowing. Best of luck with your book and thanks for joining us on MB4. ;o)