One of my favorite bits of trivia that’s tossed around about the Twilight series is that Stephenie Meyer started writing the novel after having a dream about a vampire and a girl sitting in a meadow talking. Sometimes this is mentioned with a sense of awe, as if the dream itself were some type of sign from the gods that her story needed to be told. Don’t get me wrong — it obviously did need to be told, to millions of people, including myself. I read Twilight at least three times during my maternity leave, and I loved it. But really, it was just a dream, of the same variety we all have, every single night. It was the execution of that inspiration that really mattered.
But it got me thinking about inspiration, and where my own characters came from.
Before I wrote A Wicked Little Rhythm, I’d written a novel about four vampire brothers living in the suburbs. I eventually put it on the shelf, but I’d planned to write a sequel. My misunderstood villain was going to be a rakish guy named Jack. Once I put the vampires away, Jack still insisted on having his own story. At the time, my husband had just gotten Rock Band (the PlayStation game) for Christmas. I scoffed at it, like I do most of his PlayStation games, but he eventually convinced me to play the drums.
I loved it.
Seriously. I can now play half the songs on Expert.
Now that I’ve typed that, I don’t know if it’s impressive or depressing.
But the point is, I thought a bitter, angsty-with-a-reason musician would be hot. Drums made him hotter. So I started thinking about musicians, and music, and trying to add a fantastic element led me to the Muses of Greek mythology. From there I looked at the twelve Olympian gods, and Jack was born.
Jack says a lot of things I wish I had the guts to say. If I were a man, I think I’d be a lot like Jack. He’s quite possibly the easiest character to write.
I knew I didn’t want a kick-ass heroine. I’m more personally intrigued by women who can succeed in a man’s world without throwing around a bunch of karate kicks and profanity. In the vampire brother’s sequel, I was going to create a love interest for one of the vampires, and I was going to name her Sarah. She was going to be shy and hesitant, and in the first draft of A Wicked Little Rhythm, Sarah was almost tragically shy and introverted. I’m secretly shy and introverted (though I expertly hide it) so it took me a few drafts (and some expert advice from Bobbie) to find Sarah’s fire.
Because of her shyness, I wanted to give Sarah a talent that was directly opposed to a woman who has spent her life under her mother’s thumb. So I put a sword in her hand.
Gus is one of my favorite characters. When I introduced him, I had no idea what his talents were going to be; I just needed a wingman for Jack. In the aforementioned Rock Band, Mike played a guitarist, whom he’d named Gus. Once I had a name, I still needed a talent. At the time, we were watching American Idol, the season when David Cook won.
Now I’m not going to lie. I thought David Cook was hot from day one. Still do. Hot. And that voice? Sexy. Hot. Have you heard that low sultry part in the Light On song? When he’s saying, “Leave a light on when I’m gone….” I’d leave the whole frigging house on. Hell, I’d go turn on the dome light in the car.
I might need a minute here.
ANYway, I needed a talent for Gus. David Cook had a sexy voice, and wasn’t breaking any mirrors. Then American Idol got to the silly episode when everyone has to say something embarrassing about themselves. David Cook said he was known for being a “word nerd.” I almost fell off my couch. And that became Gus’s talent.
Soren is another one of my favorite characters. I can’t say too much about him without revealing spoilers, but I will say that I named him after the Prince’s unflappable yet underappreciated assistant in The Prince and Me, one of those movies that didn’t make a lot of money but made me swoon anyway.
And there you go. Rock Band, American Idol, and a crappy old Julia Stiles movie.
I suppose you could say I was inspired by pop culture.
It’s no dream, but I’ll take it.