Starry Nights and the Creative Process

Hi, and welcome to my post on the SFR Brigade’s Midsummer Blog Hop–your chance to read great posts and win wonderful prizes (more on that below)! The theme this year is “Starry Nights” — and as soon as I heard it, I knew what I’d be writing.

Even as a newbie writer, I’ve discovered that people are fascinated with the writing process. A question common to most writers is, “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer is generally pretty complicated–ideas can come from a snippet of conversation overheard, a news article, a bit of science, a “what if?” question. They can spring whole into the author’s head as a story, or as a character begging for a story. Or they can be sparked by a photograph.

In the case of my novel Spark Rising, it was a series of photos called “Darkened Cities,” created by photographer Thierry Cohen, that led to brainstorming that led to a character, hiking through the southwestern US desert that I love. It was night, and starlight swirled all around her, lighting her way. That vision, of course, fed into weeks of character sketches, plotting, and research into eco-terrorism, nanites, the US petroleum industry and protection districts, and a grab-bag of conspiracy sites (all of which likely have me on a watch list somewhere!). But it all began with those breathtaking photos.

It’s funny, because the scene that I imagined, and ultimately wrote in a short story prequel to the novel, was of a young woman in the wilderness. It would seem that those darkened cities would have little to do with the quality of starlight for her. But in the back of my mind, I knew that the world had gone dark and the same starlight that lit her path was now visible the world over. Not only was it more visible, but how the survivors of this world felt about it defined who they became.

Excerpt from Ghost Story:

Darkness fell over their camp, and their eyes adjusted to the gradual loss of light. They were aided by the brilliant blanket of stars that lit the sky above them. As always when she was out at the same time as the stars, Lena stared up at them, tracing the bright whorls and shapes with her eyes. The Natives believed there were answers and truths hidden in the stars. The old people, those who had died before the Second Dark Ages, had scoffed at such things. Lena wasn’t sure which was the truth, but she found peace in them. That was enough.

“You don’t mind the stars?” Ghost asked her. His quiet voice from where he lay on his side a few feet away barely disturbed the night.

Lena looked up at him. “Mind the stars?”

He nodded. “Some don’t like them. They remind us of how small we are. And alone.”

Lena chuckled. “I’ve had a long time to get used to the idea of being small,” she said, referring to her child-like height, “and I prefer being alone.”

“Why are you alone?” He stared, waiting.

Lena used her index finger to trace star shapes and swirls into the sand beside her. “I was always alone,” she finally answered, “even when I was surrounded by family. They knew I was different from the beginning, I guess. In the relo-cities, different is dangerous. When they sent me for my testing year—” She glanced up to be sure he understood. “They send us to be tested when we’re five years old, to see if we are Sparks?”

He nodded understanding.

“When they sent me,” she continued, “I was supposed to pretend to be weak.” She looked down at the shapes she’d drawn into the earth. She drew the side of her palm across them, wiping them away. “But I couldn’t. I forgot. So my father made me hide, instead. I lived like that, hidden in the house, until he died. After that—” Lena shrugged. “I left. And there is nothing that could ever make me go back. No one will ever tell me who to be or how to live ever again.” Her voice had risen, but the wind snatched the remembered fury and helplessness and carried them away. She could feel Ghost’s eyes on her and, sheepish, she shrugged. “I got tired of hiding.”

“I can imagine.” He shook his head. “But it’s good that your family was able to resist the blood price. I didn’t think your kind—city dwellers—had that kind of loyalty. So that’s something to be grateful for, at least.”

“Blood price?”

“The blood price the Council offers for girls like you?”

Lena swallowed. The wind chilled her cheeks. “What are you talking about?”

I tried to imagine what it would feel like to live in a world that had been devastated by forces the average person didn’t understand. What would it be like, as a tiny human looking up at the vast, star-whorled sky, to be reminded of our place in the universe? And how could that shape those survivors? The answers to those questions became a novel.

I hope you found this glimpse into the creative process fun — and that you were as inspired by Thierry Cohen’s photos as I was! To be entered in a random drawing here on my personal page, please leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite sci fi inspiration — whether it’s a book, a movie, a science article, or a photograph.

Thanks for visiting! Both Spark Rising, my debut novel, and Ignition Point, a free companion book of short stories set in the same star-lit world, will be released this year. Please consider following me here or on my Facebook author page for updates. And have a blast on the blog hop!

Those of you not participating in the blog hop, please reconsider. The stories written and the prizes provided by the author members of the SFR Brigade are amazing, ranging from $25 to $100 gift cards to amazon or Barnes & Noble PLUS 11 to 41 ebooks!

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And continue on the SFR Brigade Midsummer Blog Hop.

20 thoughts on “Starry Nights and the Creative Process

    • Which was your first? I am always curious about what brought people to my favorite genre!

      I was about 10 when I first started reading it, too — I cut my teeth on my brother’s Anne McCaffrey and Edgar Rice Burroughs hand-me-downs.


  1. My inspiration comes from everywhere, and the path to what I end up putting on paper is often twisted and the result of me trying stuff out looking for the right character or set-up. My most recent finished novel, the hero appeared out of nowhere while I was reading Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Ash’s past put my imagination in overdrive with me asking myself what if someone was as sought after as Ash, but enjoyed it? A couple days later I had Lorin and a new insight into a part of my space opera world I hadn’t really planned to explore.

    Die-hard Dark-Hunter fans who read the novel will probably pick up on the inspiration, but I’m okay with it. Cuz if Ash showed up and asked me to run away with him I’d go without hesitation.

    When I need to charge the muse I watch Farscape. One of my favorite shows, and so much going on.


    • I love those moments, Rachel! And I agree — I’d go, too. 🙂

      You are now the second person this month to recommend Farscape. It’s one of the few sci fi shows I missed. I need to go put it in my queue right now. Thank you for the reminder and for participating!


  2. I have to say Star Trek fascinated me. I always thought it would be great to fly amongst the stars. Stargate really had me hooked on visiting other worlds. My first scifi romance was Finder’s a Keepers by Linnea Sinclair and it is now my favorite genre to read.


    • I agree, Suzie! I loved so many of those early shows, especially Star Trek. Linnea Sinclair’s storylines make me feel that same otherworldly sense of fun and adventure, too. Thank you so much for visiting and participating!


  3. Like previous commenter JonesStar, I am still inspired by the first Sci-Fi book I ever read as a child. It was Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl. It opened up a whole new universe to me!


  4. Inspiration, huh? Anne McCaffrey was also my inspiration to be a writer – I can honestly say I’ve read *almost* all her books! As for what inspires my writing, I tend to absorb everything around me, pick out my favorites and mash them together to create new stuff.

    By the way, loved that excerpt! You say the book isn’t out yet? Really? Well, phooey. Got a release date yet?


    • I really think Anne McCaffrey shaped a lot of us. She was an amazing writer.

      And I’m THRILLED that you liked the excerpt. This particular excerpt is from Ghost Story, one of the shorts set in the same world and sharing some of the characters that populate the novel. It will release later this summer! *deep breath* 🙂

      There is an excerpt from Spark Rising, the novel due this autumn, here on the blog, as well. And I anticipate posting excerpts from the openings of both the story and the novel here in the coming weeks. Exciting times, and it’s all going so fast! I hope you’ll watch for release info–I’d love to share that excitement!

      Thank you for hopping in, Crystin!


  5. I always say everything can be inspiration, though it mostly comes down to images, music, films and books. But a lot start off as dreams. Even sleep doesn’t stop the muse.


    • I absolutely agree. For me, it’s not dreams, it’s that twilight stage just before I drift off. And I’ve learned to keep a pad close to hand — if I’m too tired to jot notes down, the ideas are long gone in the morning.

      I wonder if it would be the same were it dreaming? Are they easy for you to access in the morning?


  6. Wonderful excerpt and a look into your process. For me, I try to draw inspiration from everywhere – from fictional things like star trek, to real science and new technology. Sometimes, I also just star up at the stars and wonder.


  7. Lovely excerpt. Inspiration comes from all over. The first SF book I ever read would have to be a James Blish Star Trek because my Dad let me start reading his copies when I was about seven and tired of Nancy Drew. I’ve loved the stars since I was really young because Dad would take me along to his college astronomy lectures sometimes. Lots of slides and even a mock up of voyager.


  8. Wonderful excerpt! Inspiration comes from the most unusual places. The idea for my survival race series came from watching Animal Cops on animal planet. There were horses penned up and left to starve (I think the owner moved and left them behind) and I thought, how would humans feel is someone–aliens perhaps–penned us up and treated us like this? I don’t remember what happened in the rest of the show, I was too busy thinking up a new story. 🙂


  9. I’m really not sure what inspires me! I get ideas and then just run with them, and they come out of nowhere… though usually while I’m in the shower 😉


  10. Star Trek has fascinated me since I was a young girl. I have watched those episodes so many times. And, I am thrilled with the new cast as well–this last Khan was amazing!


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