Saturday, June 16, 2018

Searching for Inspiration

By Vicki Delany

THE SPOOK IN THE STACKS, published on June 12 by Crooked Lane Books, is my 30th published book.  Wow! Seems like a lot.  It is a lot.

What thirty novels means, is that I’m running out of ‘ideas’.  Ah, yes, the proverbial ‘idea’.  At the beginning of my writing career I had SOMETHING TO SAY. My standalones (Burden of Memory, Scare the Light Away) discussed, in broad terms, the changing role of women and effect of events of the past on the present. The first Constable Molly Smith book (In the Shadow of the Glacier) was about forgetting the past, and asks if that is ever desirable or even possible.  The eighth Molly Smith book, Unreasonable Doubt, was about a man who’d spent twenty-five years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and asked how could that happen.

It’s not so much that I don’t have anything to say any more, but maybe that I don’t want to write about it.  So now I write cozy mysteries, which really don’t have anything much to do with the larger pictures of redemption, justice, revenge, etc etc, although they do have a lot to say about character and friendship.

Which means I am sometimes in search of inspiration. One of the ways I’ve found it is in the world of classic novels.

Case in point: My lighthouse library series, of which The Spook in the Stacks is the latest. One of the premises of that series is that the book the classic novel reading club is reading is reflected in the plot of my book.  In Reading Up A Storm, they’re reading Kidnaped by Robert Louis Stevenson.  

Reading up A Storm opens with a shipwreck during a storm, and ends with an idea to capture the bad guy taken directly from Kidnapped.  The Spook in the Stacks is set over Halloween, but because this is a light, funny mystery I didn’t want to use a true horror novel. So I hit on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Bracebridge Hall by Washington Irving. (Warning for those wanting to read along: Bracebridge is long, and very dull.) Two men vie for the affections of the rich man’s (grand)daughter. An idea straight out of Sleepy Hollow.

Vicki Reading (not exactly as shown)
Vicki Writing (not exactly as shown)

In the fifth book, Something Read Something Dead (coming in March 2019), cousin Josie is planning her wedding and the club is reading The Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers.

Once I had the idea, or the inspiration, I made it my own. My books are not an attempt to recreate these classic works, but maybe just to pay homage to them.

As well as giving me ideas, they’ve made me re-read some of the world’s great books.  And that’s always an inspiration.

What's your favourite classic novel? Maybe I can use it in the Lighthouse Library series one day.


Unknown said...

Wow.30 books! I can think of author, who I've read all his books and that's John Steinbeck. Oh, and how I forget Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sybil Johnson said...

30 books is impressive! I just finished Reading up a Storm. Really liked it. I'm looking forward to reading Spook. Not sure I have a favorite classic novel. Maybe Oliver Twist or Pride and Prejudice.

Donna S said...

My favourite classic is "Jane Eyre" and I liked "The Woman in White" too. Congrats on writing 30 books!

Vicki Delany said...

I haven't read The Woman in WHite, although I absolutely should. I loved The Moonstone, also by Wilkie Collina

Christopher Huang said...

I must confess that I absolutely hated "The Woman in White". Or, at least, I hated the way it resolved its plot. To its credit, though, part of this was because of how strongly it made me feel about the main villain.

I think my favourite old classic is probably Anthony Trollope's "The Warden".