A Guest Post by Jenn Lyons or Why Not to Ask a Writer About the Inspiration Behind Her Story
Today I have a special guest, Jenn Lyons, author of the newly released Blood Chimera here to discuss the inspiration behind her book. Of course, all of us speculative fiction authors tend to roll our eyes when non-writers want to hear how we came up with the idea for our book. We’re a strange bunch, most of us, and to nail down the nebulous, sometimes freakish vibes we get that spark a story idea and make it sound, well, normal, is often a task more difficult than novel writing itself! So I was more than delighted with Jenn’s snarky, offbeat answer to the vaguest of questions.
Whenever someone asks me where my inspiration comes from, there’s a part of me (a twelve-year-old part of me, the same part of me that can giggle for ten minutes straight at a really quality dirty joke) that wants to answer, “The appendix.”
“The what?” they’d ask.
I’d nod (while trying not to laugh.) “You know, the appendix? All inspiration stems from the appendix.”
“The tonsils too,” I’d tell them. “The tonsils are an important source of creativity. Hemingway never had his tonsils removed.* See what that did for him?” And then presumably they’d walk away while giving me odd looks and vowing to never speak to that crazy writer again. (Twelve-year-old me thinks that whole exchange is high comedy, by the way.)
Of course, if they didn’t walk away, I’d like to think the conversation might go differently. “But no, really, what was your inspiration for Blood Chimera?”
“Oh! I misunderstood what you meant,” I’d reply. “Vampire.”
“Any particular…wait. Vampire? That’s it. Singular? Not Dracula or Lestat or Nick Knight? Which vampire?”
“No particular vampire. The word itself. The word ‘vampire’.”
And there would be that look again, the one that would suggest that perhaps I might be more than a little odd. (Which is true.)
“The word vampire,” I’d continue, “isn’t really very old, and there’s a lot of debate about its origins. For a while, some scholar thought it originated from the Turkish word uber (which means witch, by the way,) while others think it may originate with a proto-Slavic word or even possibly a Proto-Indo-European word. The earliest recorded example we have of use of some variation of it (where the author pretty clearly meant it to describe a monster) was in 1047 AD, when a Russian priest transcribing the Book of Psalms took the opportunity to say some mean things about the noble who owned the book.”
“So the noble was your inspiration..?”
“What? No, that would be silly. This isn’t a historical novel, it’s a noir mystery set in Los Angeles. Don’t you see? Here’s this word, upir, which has changed and warped as it traveled across the Baltics, and its meaning has changed and evolved too. There are instances where it seems to mean witch, others where it seems to mean werewolf, and still others where it seems to mean deity – there’s a Russian Christian treatise that denounces worship of the pagan upyri which dates back to at least the 13th century. You asked me what my inspiration was? It’s this: the idea that humanity had this label for vampires that never really fit because we didn’t understand what we were describing. So variously we called them witches, or vampires, or gods.
“I unraveled that idea and ran with it. What if vampire, or werewolf, or witch, was just a label that we gave something we didn’t understand? And what if every culture out there had their own labels for the things they didn’t understand? And what if all those labels actually described the same race? A race of monsters that have always lived in our shadows, waiting for us to look the other way.”
“This is a horror story?”
“Oh heavens no. It’s a paranormal mystery centered around a kidnapping, with a hero who finds himself caught in the middle of an ancient blood feud, but if I had to condense my inspirations down to a singular point, that first prick of blood I wished upon, it would be the word vampire.”
On second thought? It might be simpler to stick with the appendix story.*That bit about Hemingway probably isn’t true. I’m a writer. I make things up all the time.
Blood Chimera will be available Tuesday August 12, 2014 in trade paperback and ebook formats through World Weaver Press as well as through other online book retailers. Jenn can be found at all hours at www.jennlyons.com or jennlyons.tumblr.com.