Today’s post is part of the Ravinder Randhawa blog tour and Ravinder has very kindly written a guest post on the inspiration for her books. For more information on Ravinder and an opportunity to win a copy of her novel Dynamite please see below but for now – Enjoy!
Where does the inspiration for your books come from?
This is a difficult question: inspiration is an elusive thing to pin down or quantify. The initial beginning may just be a sentence, an idea, a memory, photograph, an incident or a social injustice. Whatever it is, it’s only the impetus, the first turn of the wheel, the starting pistol. But after that initial heady rush, writing is a process of hard graft and serious craft. Writing a book, knitting together those witchy, elusive, intangible black marks is almost like trying to pin down a shadow, a flickering butterfly.
My first novel, A Wicked Old Woman, began almost unconsciously; the first line developed into a short story; that short story grew into a novel. People say everyone has a novel inside them; perhaps that’s what that first novel was, an outpouring of the most immediate story in my mind, which at that time was the story of a young Indian woman who’d grown up in England, covering the immigrant experience, the culture-clash, and ideas of feminism and racism. A Wicked Old Woman has been described as the ‘first intrinsically British-Asian novel,’ by Professor Nasta in her book Home Truths.
Beauty and the Beast, my YA novel (originally titled Hari-jan) was commissioned by Mantra publishers as a British-Asian teenage romance, and was the first of its kind. If a novel is commissioned with a particular theme then I wonder if it’s right to apply the question ‘where did the inspiration come from?’ I think it still is, because the work is not a journalistic piece of work or an academic study but a work of the imagination, a created story which doesn’t exist literally in the world, but yet, is still of the world and for the world. That strange, amorphous thing ‘inspiration’ must be at work somewhere, perhaps subliminally and unconsciously, for that novel to exist.
My current work, a trilogy: The Fire-Magician was sparked off by several things. I suppose unformed ideas that had been sitting in my mind came together and coalesced. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, which had hovered in my mind since I first read it, a photograph I saw at an exhibition by a young British photographer who’d been travelling around India, and an article in one of the Sunday supplements about a group of travelling entertainers. All these fed into the Fire-Magician, which then took on a life of its own of course.
As that old saying goes, writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. So true, but that cocktail produces the witchy marks on white paper (or a screen) which engross, engage and transport us, sometimes to strange shores and sometimes through strange doors. But they’re worth every bit of that inspiration and perspiration.
A book is almost a magical artifact. On the one hand a paperback is nothing more than black marks on a page or black marks on a screen – and on the other hand it’s the gateway to almost anything: from suburban streets to magical mountains, from everyday life to inter-planetary adventures, from innocence to experience, from tragedy to happiness.
What kind of witchy things are these black marks, that looking at them we can start to laugh or cry? Get angry or excited. Become frightened or afraid. Romantic or shocked. What magic do they carry that our minds and hearts are captured and captivated, held fast till the very last, full, rounded black dot which signals the end? Leaving us bereft and wishing for more. What spell do they cast to conjure up people that we fall in love with, talk to, gossip about and think of, long after the book has been closed?
What transformative things are these black marks through which we understand the world and ourselves a little better, open our minds and increase our knowledge, deepen our emotions and enrich our lives? What are they and where do they come from?
Inspiration? Imagination? Good hard knowledge? Craft, development, pruning? Emotions, intuitions, instincts?
Perhaps inspiration is rather like the wind that’s flown over forests and mountains, cities and villages, picking up dust and debris, litter and rubbish, sights and sounds, secrets and whispers, producing the first witchy word… to a completed story full of its own energy and passion, complexity and simplicity. That vague, elusive, indefinable, inspiration has done its work.
Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. She’s currently working on a trilogy: The Fire-Magician. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.
Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Loves good coffee and really good thrillers. Contact the author via – Twitter | Website | Facebook | Goodreads
For an opportunity to win a copy of Dynamite please enter through this Rafflecopter link and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour which you can find here. Thank you to Ravinder for kindly agreeing to write a guest post for my blog and to Faye Rogers for arranging it! 🙂