Today I’d like to welcome Prue Batten, from the Falconer Facebook Club, author of the Triptych Chronicles, the Gisborne Saga and the Chronicles of Eirie. Prue is an award-winning historical and fantasy fiction author and she;s talking today about where she finds inspiration for her work.
“Nothing’s safe with me. Seriously…
Almost everything I see has potential for a story.
People AND things.
The other day, I was talking to a vacuous and eccentric someone and I noted expressions, mannerisms and the content of their words with the idea that they could be a character at some point. Good or bad character, it makes no difference – every time there is that little bit out of the ordinary, it’ll be noted and stored in the memory boxes of my mind. I suppose there’s a possibility that maybe it makes me the eccentric one for being so curious and for filing ephemera that might or might not have meaning at some point.
But whatever the case, inanimate things, things of strangeness and beauty, are the true lightning sparks for my imagination.
Way back in 2008, I had a fantasy novel published called The Stumpwork Robe. On reflection, it was perhaps the most awful title one can imagine. But for some reason it caught on with readers of niche fantasy. The inspiration was the superlative raised silk embroidery of world renowned embroiderer, Jane Nicholas. As I stitched under her direction, I thought ‘One could hide secrets under these flowers and insects…’
That was the genesis of the first and second books in a quartet called The Chronicles of Eirie.
Not long after those books were released, my son returned from Europe with a gift from Venice – a millefiore paperweight. I became enthralled with its beauty and read about the creation of millefiore canes for the glass flowers and thought ‘One could hide secrets inside those tiny tubes…’
More segreta! A Thousand Glass Flowers was conceived…
What followed next closed the quartet beautifully. I’ve always been interested in the history of paper and textiles, and I heard about a Japanese papersilk called shifu and managed to find some that had been made by a contemporary paper-artist. Historically, the samurai would write vital messages on paper, then strip it into fine shreds and weave it with silk fibre into shifu which was then used for robes and such, so that messages could be transported in an unsuspecting and inventive way across war-torn Japan.
Segreta again! And there it was – The Shifu Cloth.
Can you see? Anything’s possible! Even with historical fiction. All it took to spark my first hist. fiction trilogy, was a quotation about Guy of Gisborne from the Robin Hood legend: ‘Calle me Guye of good Gysborne…’ from Childe Ballad #118 The operative word was ‘good’ and it took me on an absolutely epic adventure.
In the second trilogy, a series about revenge, I found one elegant quotation: ‘The strong man is one who controls himself when he is in a fit of rage.’ Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Hadith 6313 And there it was – rage and revenge rife in a setting of twelfth century trade.
It was that simple…
Late last year, as I wondered what to write after the final in the historical fiction trilogy ‘The Triptych Chronicle’ was completed, I looked up to the top of my bookshelves. Sitting coyly was my Dad’s small wood and brass Chinese cabinet of drawers. It has a secret compartment and a lock and key and has always charmed me. My sewing friends are currently embroidering pieces for their own handcrafted ‘cabinets of curiosities’ but I haven’t time to join them in the project as I have books to write. And suddenly, the little Chinese cabinet whispered – ‘Me! I’m your Cabinet of Curiosities!’ and so it was that the idea and title of my next hist.fantasy was born.
Even as recent as last week, I was visiting a shop in New Norfolk, Tasmania. It’s called the Drill Hall and is filled with all manner of exciting eclectica. When one walks into the shop a thousand stories sit waiting for those canny enough to listen. I found a rusty little French folding chair and the vibe when my fingers touched it was something else! A little story began to whisper.
Like I say, perhaps I am the eccentric. Who knows?