Where do you get your ideas?
The often asked question is actually a sensible one, although it usually results in eye-rolling from an author because of its frequency, plus the impossibility of giving a coherent answer. For a start, one idea makes a short story, not a novel. A book takes lots of ideas.
For me, the short but always honest answer is – all over the place.
For the long answer, here’s where I got the ideas for my up and coming Watergivers trilogy.
I guess it started when I was kid. We drank rainwater funnelled by guttering from the house roof into a galvanised iron tank. And one long, hot, dry Australian summer in the 1950s, a rat drowned and decomposed in the watertank – and we had to throw the precious water away. Until the next rain, stll a month or two away, we carted water from neighbours – who also went short because they shared. There’s idea number one: water is precious. I hardly remember a time when I didn’t know that.
As an adult I went to live in a country where the tropical rainfall is frequent and torrential, yet I often didn’t have water in my taps because we lived on a hill. I’d see people washing their cars at the bottom of the hill, wasting water, while I didn’t have enough water to cook my dinner. There’s idea number two: water distribution is uneven and unfair.
Then I spent five weeks camping inside a rainforest, studying the birdlife for an environmental impact assessement – knowing all the while that the area and the miracle of its biodiversity was doomed to disappear under dam waters to supply Kuala Lumpur with more tap water – so I could cook my dinner. That’s idea number three: having adequate water means sacrificing something. In The Last Stormlord, it is not the biodiversity or the land; the sacrifice is far more personal.
Next idea came I was flying 30,000’ over Iran on a beautifully clear day, and I looked down and saw lines of holes – they must have been miles long – feeding into villages. What were they? Why were they there? Back on the ground again, I did some research. Two thousand year old water tunnels still being used? Really? That was fascinating, and idea number four.
Then one December, I visited a town in the Saharan desert in Algeria. And there were houses built in the dry water courses, with strange slits in their garden walls. Why? And what happened to those houses when it rained? That December day they had their first rain for the year… Idea number five was born.
Back to Australia, and another plane, another scene: lines of parallel red sand dunes sliding past below for vast distances – and not a road or a house or a town in sight. And when the dunes finally dropped out of sight behind us, huge salt pans took their place, fed by dry washes – without a drop of water in sight. Yep, idea number six popped into my head. Moving sand dunes and vast salt plains…
And then an article in a newspaper about a scientist doing research on sand dunes that sang. Ohmigod, how could I resist writing about that. Number seven.
And finally an Indian man doing beautiful paintings with paint powder on the surface of water. Pure magic. Wow. Number eight.
Ancient water tunnels, moving red dunes, singing sands, salt pans, settlements in dry water courses, waterpaintings, precious water…I had my world. All I needed was the people to inhabit it.
That was easy – who could have the power in such a world? The man – or woman – who controlled the water, of course. And what better way to control water than with magic? The story of the stormlord, a waterpainter and two rainlords was born…
In Australia, you will be able to buy it about one month from now.
Glenda Larke is the author of the Isles of Glory trilogy, the Mirage Makers trilogy and now the upcoming Watergivers trilogy, which starts with The Last Stormlord, coming in September 2009, and which will be freely available to read online (for two weeks) very soon. Visit Glenda’s website.