One of the most common questions people ask authors is regarding their inspiration. I can’t fully pinpoint every aspect that inspires me. Inspiration comes from everywhere. I’ve been inspired by movies, books, TV shows, stories of actual people, folktales, fairy tales, nature, brainstorming with fellow authors... inspiration is all around us if we pay attention to it.
When I was in my early twenties, I moved to a town called Dalbeattie. It is deep in the heart of Dumfries and Galloway, a very natural part of the central belt of the UK. Surrounded by rolling hills, thick forests, and stuck in a small granite stone town where everyone knows everyone, and the hourly bus schedule is a forty minute ride to the nearest bigger town, I relied upon the internet, my parents, and nature for company.
This quaint town was the influence behind Gracehill, the town my main character, Abigail, grew up in. Gracehill is also a small village where everyone knows everyone and with all the buildings constructed of granite. My parents’ home was a five-minute stroll away from Dalbeattie Forest, and it was easy to sit in there and soak it all in. If I ever felt stuck imagining Abigail’s trek through the forests of Aronia, Dalbeattie forest was the place to go to understand her journey and try to envisage it.
After leaving Scotland and heading off to Korea, I got a whole new experience of culture and life on the other side of the world. Korea had a whole new influence on my writing. My first job was in another small town—starting to see a pattern here—with no connected subway stations and about a handful of English speakers living there. Except for my coworkers or the random foreigners I bumped into, I was pretty much isolated and entertaining myself with—you guessed it—the internet and nature. This town didn’t have as great an impact on setting as Scotland did—it is voted the most beautiful country in the world after all—but it had an influence on cultural aspects of my world. I grew up in typical towns surrounded by typical Brits, so to move to a whole other culture was a great opportunity to venture out of my comfort zone and incorporate it into my writing.
There are definitely some particular locations in Korea that I can wholeheartedly say influenced certain places in my books. I don’t want to give too much away because of plot spoilers, but the layout of a palace in book two was influenced by a palace I visited in Suwon, South Korea. Another location is a park on Jeju Island that is filled with strange stones that, on the cloudy day I visited, looked so foreboding I had to incorporate them into my story. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I walked through a forest to get a sudden inspiration and find the nearest spot to sit! Location is so important in the development of my work. Even if Aronia isn’t a real place, there are definitely realistic places hidden in it.
Moving to Asia and noticing how beautiful Korean people are inspired the appearance of the Fae and the Faelti. Talking with the locals and hearing either their personal tales or folktales is also a great source for character and cultural development.
There are so many elements to my books—especially connected to cultural development and rituals—that come from either the UK or Asia. There are folk stories that I’ve heard or historical sites I’ve seen, that have played a huge role in character development. One example relates to the dwarf rituals. In Korean culture, there is a special ceremony held on a one-year-old’s birthday party. The child has a number of objects placed in front of them and the item they pick represents whom they will become. Some typical items could be a stethoscope (doctor) or microphone (entertainer) or pen (professor). I used that same idea for whether a dwarf becomes a scholar or a warrior (book 2).
If I am ever stuck and can’t come up with any fresh ideas, the best thing for me to do is take a trip to a new place or historical sites or a nature spot that is so isolated I am practically the only person there and can’t be disturbed by others—or my cell phone alerts.