is the mother of inspiration...
Yeah, I know
I’ve misquoted, but, for me,
this version is more accurate. Inspiration or invention, most would
there’s not a lot of difference. I’d argue there
is. If you’re building hoovers
or cars, then you’re going to go for invention every time; if
you’re a writer,
then it’s inspiration you’re after. What
we’re coming to here – in a roundabout
way – is the one question sure to strike fear into the heart
of any writer, the
question that will make them squirm, the question they probably get
than any other. Yes we’re talking the big one...
would you give to be as rich as JK Rowling?
that’s not the question at all.
As you well know, the QUESTION THAT SHALL NOT BE SPOKEN is...
do you get your ideas from?
to this can be summed up in one
word, the very same word that started this article, in fact: necessity.
Unfortunately, if you’re doing any sort of author talk and
give a one word
answer, people tend to feel cheated. I don’t know why. My
answer came from Stephen King. When asked how he wrote a book, he
word at a time”. Absolutely priceless. As a writer, I can
relate. However, I
can also appreciate how the interviewer might have felt short-changed.
true, though. Ninety-nine percent of
my ideas come from necessity. The Judas
is a prime example of this. If it wasn’t for necessity that
exist. To understand what I mean, I’d like you to travel back
in time with me
to January 11, 2005. Steve
Brookstein (winner of the first X Factor...
remember him?) was at number 1 in the singles chart; Green Day topped
chart; and I was waiting nervously to hear if HarperCollins was going
to buy The Mentor. I can remember
that day like
it was yesterday, every heart-attack inducing, nail-biting second of
it. By the
time the phone finally went, the men in white coats were forming an
queue. My agent hit me with the good news first: HarperCollins had
offered me a
contract. I could sense a “but”...
there’s always a “but”.
‘But,’ she added,
‘they want a sequel.’
You see, The Mentor was written as a standalone
novel. By the time the
closing credits roll, I’d killed or maimed most of the cast.
A bit of a
let’s stop right there. What you’ve
got to understand is that by this point I’d spent five years
trying to get
published. I’d had rejection after rejection, knockback after
now one of the big boys was waving a contract under my nose. There were
options. I could uhm and ah and tell them, well, it’s a
standalone and I don’t
think that’d work. Alternatively, I could bite their hands
off, take the money,
and worry about what I’d do for an encore later.
Bit of a
So, there I
was, an author with a two book
contract. One book was already in the bag, but the other... well, the
‘Ewing’ and ‘shower’ spring to
mind. In the end, I didn’t have to perform any
miracle resurrections. Thank God. Once the shock of getting a contract
off and I’d stopped hyperventilating, I realised I
didn’t have one sequel, I
like to plot things out to
the Nth degree. I don’t. I prefer to
start with a “what if” and work
from there. In The Judas I asked
myself: “What if there was an assassin going around killing
off MI6 agents?”.
Obviously the big question this leads to is: why? (and if you want the
to that one, you’re just going to have to read the book). The
downside to the
“what if” approach is that it can be risky. One of
my earlier unpublished
novels revolved around the theft of £100,000,000. Reaching
the 150,000 word
mark, I still didn’t have a clue how my hero got hold of the
money. This wasn’t
a minor problem, this was a full-on NASA-style MAJOR MALFUNCTION.
six months of blood, sweat and tears in this project and it was all
about to go
tits up. The red alert lights were flashing, the sirens were wailing,
metallic voice was howling that I was about to lose my book. But I kept
faith, and a solution presented itself. You see, once again necessity
I’d got my “what if” for The
Judas established, ideas started
coming... and kept a-coming. The book sees the return of MI6 agent Paul
and opens with the brutal murder of a retired MI6 head of station.
afterwards, an MI6 director dies suddenly. It looks like a heart
attack, but it
isn’t. While investigating the deaths, Aston uncovers a
conspiracy that dates
back to the dying days of the USSR. Growing
up, I loved Tom Clancy’s Cold
War thrillers – I couldn’t get enough of them. With
The Judas I wanted to capture that
wonderful atmosphere of paranoia
and deception the best Cold War thrillers possessed. At the same time,
to create a novel that was both modern and cutting-edge.
Judas was, without a
doubt, the easiest book I’ve ever written. One idea seemed to
lead to the next,
and the next; the plot unfurled organically, as though it were a
breathing entity. On the other hand, The
Watcher (book three in the Paul Aston series), was probably
difficult. Yes, the ideas came easily enough, however, the actual
just plain hard work. I don’t know why. Just one of those
things, I suppose.
When I’m in first draft mode I aim to be at my desk by nine,
and I stay chained
to my computer until I’ve done at least 1,500 words. On a
good day I might hit
2,000 words, on a very good day 2,500. With The Watcher there were days
bailed out the second I hit 1,500 words, even if I was in mid-sentence.
what’s next for Paul Aston? At
this moment in time, I don’t have a clue. One thing I do
know, however, is that
when I sit down to write the next installment, I have every faith that
will strike when I need it to. It has to. Like I said at the start:
is the mother of inspiration.