October Theme: Inspiration (Tracy Barrett)

Kidsand adultsoften ask where authors get their ideas, the inspiration for their books. I tell them that the ideas are out there, but that the author is the one who says, "Ooh, there's a story in that!" All of my novels have started with a question, something that nags at me and won’t let go until I’ve exorcised it by writing about it. But I'm sure that in each case, those same questions (the ideas, I guess) have occurred to lots and lots of other people. They just happened to catch my attention in a different way. Inspira- tion, for me, is the point at which an idea rubs up against some- thing individual in me, in you, in any writer or painter or actor.

The Sherlock Files: What would Sherlock Holmes have been capable of if he had had the resources of modern technolo- gy? Kids are much less resistant to new gadgets than most adults, so why not put metal detectors and GPS's and other devices into the hands of some young detectives and turn them loose on Sherlock's unsolved cases?

I'm hardly the first person to imagine Sherlock Holmes in the modern era. Case in point: The wonderful BBC series Sherlock has a similar premise, but oh, how different it is!

King of Ithaka: I read a review of Marga- ret Atwood’s Penelopiad, about Penelo- pe, Odysseus’s wife, and what she was up to while her husband was hanging out with nymphs and witches and monsters (very happily, at times—Odysseus isn't my favorite character from the Greek mythological canon) on his way home from the Trojan War. Immediately, I wondered, “What was his son, Telema- chus, doing all that time?” My idea was similar to the one I imagine inspired Atwood, but since I primarily think from a teen point of view, I fixated on a different character.

Dark of the Moon: The myth of the mino- taur has always bugged me, and it turns out there’s a reason for that: The story as we know it is a garbled retelling by Greeks of a ritual and traditions from what was to them a very foreign country, the island of Crete. Greek travelers to Crete couldn’t make sense of what they saw, so it’s no wonder that they told a confused tale when they got home. My own retelling is an imagined re-creation of what the original story might have been. But it's not the first retelling; the Greeks did that and gave us the myth that we're familiar with.

If we're lucky, the friction caused by the rubbing-up of an idea against the individual artist will create fire.


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