Seven Things That Have Inspired Me

Sandra Eterovic has inspired this post, by tagging me to reveal seven things about myself. (She looks at seven aesthetic themes that inspire her visual art, here.) (You can also find seven sources of inspiration for Christine McCombe, a composer friend, here.)

I thought I might share one source of inspiration for some of my books -- of course every novel has too many seeds to count, or even remember, but here are some that sprang to mind.

1) Blake's 7This dystopian British sci-fi series ran from 1978 to 1981 and I used to stay up late in a darkened house to watch it. The sets wobbled but the dialogue sparkled with wit and moral complexity. I developed a hopeless crush on Avon, the darkest and most cynical of all the characters, played by Paul Darrow. The character of Darrow in The Singer of All Songs was named in his honour, but the notion of a roaming band of outlaws, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, was the ultimate inspiration for Calwyn's motley band of chanters. (Blake's 7 was itself inspired by Robin Hood, Westerns, and South American revolutionaries.)

2) The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

I read this thousand-year-old Japanese notebook of personal reflections, observations and poetry as I was beginning work on The Waterless Sea, and something of the atmosphere and rituals of life in the ancient Japanese royal court seeped into the culture of the Palace of Cobwebs in Merithuros - elaborate wigs, poetry tournaments and strict rules of etiquette, as well as political intrigue.

3) Belly dancing classes
Bless my friend Heather who persuaded me to join her in a belly dancing class at our local Neighborhood House. For six weeks we self-consciously tried to shimmy our post-baby hips, convinced the instructor was staring pityingly at our pathetic Anglo attempts to gyrate and undulate. But Ozlem's instructions turned up in The Tenth Power as Briaali's encouragements to the stiff priestesses of Taris to shake their booty for the final dance of Becoming that heals Tremaris.

4) Kissed a girl
The story of Jem and Mackenzie in my first Girlfriend Fiction title, Always Mackenzie, was inspired by two (girl) friends who had conducted a passionate affair at school and attended their school formal together. Still the closest of friends, one is now good-as-married (to a bloke) with two kids, while the other is good-as-married (to a lovely lady) with one daughter. Love you both.

5) Quakers
While I was writing Winter of Grace I remembered attending a meeting of Quakers in North Carlton, and how deeply impressed I was by the silence and stillness of their communion with God. In the first draft of the book, Bridie ended up joining the Quakers, but in the final version I decided to leave her still seeking. I think their mediatative approach to worship and their staunch social activism would appeal to her, though.

6) Burnham Beeches

This beautiful old house in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne was the model for Eloise's enchanted Art Deco house in Cicada Summer. Though as far as I know there's no swimming pool.

7) Tarot cards
I've told fortunes since I was at school, but never found a way to include the tarots in a book until Penni suggested that India in Dear Swoosie should share my psychic gifts! India is a bit more psychic than me (though I have had some startling successes). For me the attraction of the cards is more the psychology that lies behind them, and the seemingly magical way that they elicit confessions that wouldn't appear in any other context. Hmmm.

If you've read this far, consider yourself tagged!


  1. I love this post kate - and burnham beeches! And the pillowbook! I will think of seven things and get back to you ... but right now I have to get away from my computer because I am getting square eyes.

  2. Burnham Beeches had a swimming pool - in the summer it was the centre of the social activities of the Nicholas family and their friends, plus underprivileged children that the family arranged to visit the property.

  3. Oh Kate!! Your post was such a super treat to read, I was squirming in my seat. I'm so glad to have tagged you and Chris, and to have had such a wonderful insight into the way other sorts of artists work. Thank you so very very much. I hope that you enjoyed doing it too. x

  4. I consider myself tagged, madam.
    I adore this post, thank for sharing!