Friday Salon Tweet chat 3rd September How the creative arts inspire our writing

The Girl with a Pearl Earring – A painting which inspired Tracey Chevalier’s novel of the same name

Participants: Kathleen Marple-Kalb, Beth Hudson, Maria Johnson, Gerald Hornsby, Eva Seyler, Karen Heenan, Niamh and Rebecca Schmid, Cheryl Witing, Andrew Roberts, Marianne Scott, Ileana Renfroe, Annie Kirby, George Beckman, Deborah Klée

Please introduce yourself and tell us if you have an interest in, or practice, another creative art alongside your writing.

BethHi! I’m Beth Hudson, fantasy author from the American Midwest. I am a musician as well as a writer, primarily vocal. I also play guitar and a little bit of piano, harp, and recorder.

Gerald: Hi, Deborah and all! I’m Gerald. Is gardening creative? I like growing vegetables and herbs. I love making bread (although mostly in the machine). I’m not really that ‘arty’. Or ‘crafty’. I do like photography and video. Also, I love modern art. It never inspires me to write anything particularly, but I love looking at it.

Cheryl: Hi I’m Cheryl and until I read this question, never thought of my writing as a creative art! I feel there is no beginning to my talent. Any attempt to be creative always ends up looking more tat than Tate!

Beth: (To Cheryl) A lot of creativity goes into non-fiction — how you explain things, what you choose to say and what you don’t; there’s a lot of room for expression there.

Cheryl: I try to use analogies and build a picture of events/circumstances. A lot of what I observe in life, watching others stimulates ideas.

Karen: I’m Karen from the very soggy East Coast of the US. I write historical fiction, and I also cook and sew. I make a lot of my own clothes as well as items for craft shows. I used to draw, but I was never as good as I wanted to be, and focused on writing instead.

Kathleen: Hi there! I’m Kathleen! I live in the US, I write mysteries — historical and contemporary — and I don’t really do any other arts, though I draw and dance a little

Beth: (to Kathleen) Those are other arts! You don’t have to be a professional to find them inspiring!

Deborah: Hi Kathleen. What sort of dance?

Kathleen: Just video workouts — barre for the alignment and discipline — Latin dance for cardio and fun! For me, the music and movement open up my mind and I get some of my best ideas!

Anita: Hello All. I am Anita. I have a special interest in ‘creativity.’ What it is; what it isn’t and how to use it in your writing. I trained as a dancer and filmmaker but I also have an interest in art history.

Maria: Hi, I’m Maria! I write historical fiction and fantasy. As well as writing I enjoy photography and adult colouring books. I enjoy sketching sometimes, too, but often just get annoyed at the results

Eva: Eva! I am a compulsive creator… i knit, crochet, sew, draw, cook. I have had limited spoons this year so I don’t indulge as much as I would like, but knitting is my go-to lately.

Andy: I’m Andy, and I like designing miniatures in Hero Forge. Since my drawing skill never left the “doodling stick figures in the back of school books” stage, it’s the best way I can visualise my characters or do fan art. (see the end of this page for image).

Ileana: Hi, I’m Ileana. I am a cozy mystery author working hard on several new series. Love to travel, salsa dancing and crafting when not reading.

Niamh and Rebecca: Hello! We are Niamh and Rebecca. We both play classical piano as well as writing.

George: I am George. I play the piano. I’m not great, but whatever note I hit is the one I wanted. Here is a song I wrote for our 50th. “Happy to be here with You.” (You have to watch my book trailer to hear it: youtube.com/watch?v=rrywpB…)

Has a painting or a scene/image in a film inspired you to write a story? Maybe there is an idea that you have not yet put to paper, or a story told?

Gerald: I’m afraid my inspiration comes mostly from news and social media – stories about crime, politics, etc. Something cropped up this morning when following a Twitter thread, which inspired me, so I made some notes and popped it into the “Ideas 2021” folder.

Anita: This painting by a friend of mine inspired The Art Forger’s Daughter. My friend painted it for a film we made called the Letter Writer. The film was based on forgeries during WWII in Amsterdam which were sold to the Nazis as genuine Vermeers.

The painting Anita refers to in above comment.

Maria: I’m sure lots of the beautiful scenery in Lord of the Rings inspired me when later writing my historical fiction. Going to Haworth on holiday a couple of years ago inspired me starting a historical fantasy featuring the Brontes (also the BBC movie To Walk Invisible)

Karen: Nothing specific, but that doesn’t mean I’m not subconsciously accumulating information. I think more than anything it’s dialogue that sinks in, and it helps me with the different voices I need to come up with for my characters.

Beth: Many years ago, I bought my husband a large and beautiful piece of fantasy art that he’d admired at a convention. It was a haunting piece, and I asked him what he thought the story was. He told me, and I wrote it. I still think it’s one of my best short stories.

Andrew: One of my short story ideas was based on a scene in The Mask of Zorro when Antonio Banderas is trying to steal a horse from the local militia. youtube.com/watch?v=EzBhL4…

Kathleen: I’ve always liked the duels in old movies…and always wanted to get in on the action — which inspired my historical mystery main character, a woman who sings men’s opera roles.

Eva: This is hard because I absorb and am inspired by so much I can’t always untangle it… it was a mental image of my own brain that set off The War in Our Hearts, though!

George: Not sure a painting gave me the image. I do love romance, so this one is great:

How does music influence your writing? Has it inspired a story or scene? Do you play music when you write to create a mood?

Ileana: Yes, I listen to jazz (instrumental) music while writing and it seems to heighten my creative juices.

Gerald: I often play music when writing, but without lyrics. For a few years, I’ve written to modern dance music, like trance or euphoric or chillstep. But this is more to isolate me from my surroundings. I write better when not distracted by real life

Eva: OH BOY YESSSS So, I usually have some go-to “writing music”: Chopin etudes/nocturnes, Beethoven’s pastoral symphony and his piano concerto “Emporer”. But for The War in Our Hearts, music is such a big deal to the MC that I created a playlist on which I dumped all kinds of music from WWI and the 30 years or so preceding it. As the story took shape and I continued to curate the playlist, I was able to select ones that would make it into the story itself. It’s a perfect era to quote from since it’s all public domain! If anyone is interested, here’s the final playlist: youtube.com/playlist?list=… And yes, there are modern songs on it too, those are not actually quoted in the book but Very Fitting 

Kathleen: (to Eva) You are SO right! I was only able to use song titles for my radio mystery because it’s contemporary.

Karen: I can’t write with music, though once I reach the editing stage I can. I just can’t make fresh words with anything distracting me. It was difficult because for Songbird I had to listen to a lot of period music, but it was research – I still couldn’t write to it.

Maria: I love music when I’m writing. I have an acoustic guitar playlist and a fantasy reading playlist on Spotify I flit between. I also had a big writing music playlist I made from lots of different scores etc which sometimes helps with different moods/scenes

Beth: I usually just float along and play whatever happens to be in my head that day. The tunes in my head swap out so often that they don’t tend to bother me.

Kathleen: I usually don’t write with music — but I think about plots while I’m driving and listening to the radio. It’s the “soundtrack” for my contemporary mystery — the MC is a disc jockey who plays love songs at night.

Cheryl: I am a girl of silence! I would get too distracted by music and nothing would get done!

Andrew: Oh yes. I have playlists dedicated to specific settings. I often listen to either classical music, video game and film scores, or bardcore mixes. Any kind of instrumental, really.

Beth: I do everything better to music. I play it low when I write, and it stimulates my idea factory. I looped a single song when writing a particularly intense scene. I have written short stories inspired by folk ballads, when I thought I had something new to say.

Kathleen: (to Beth) That’s really cool! Music really can inspire a great scene!

Niamh and Rebecca: I think we tend to do it more with music than images/scenes. But that being said we absolutely love seeing how people get inspired by pictures. We have a friend who wrote a fantastic fantasy off of a very suspenseful art piece.

George: Oh, my, there it is. Music. Uncle T plays the piano in my book. Set in 1959, Margo listens and dances to Jailhouse Rock, Mr. Blue, Get a Job, Put Your Head on My Shoulder— Each Wednesday evening#LineByLineTime has a “going out song.” youtube.com/watch?v=uvxagN…

What other creative influences have inspired your writing?

Anita: It’s creative people who inspire me. I am fortunate to work with artists across many disciplines. Theatre is probably the most evocative for me and contains within it many creative skills from stage to backstage. I have tried quite a few!

Karen: Somehow, sewing always ends up in my stories. Bess and her handmade gown; Robin’s search for a wardrobe to show his status; Margaery’s wardrobe for court. In my 1930s WIP, Ava, my main character, is actually a seamstress, so it’s not a random insertion this time.

Anita: I have a wardrobe assistant in Divas, Dogs and Dreamers. The wardrobe is so often the heart of the theatre.

Deborah: I have found clothes come into my stories: Angie sews new clothes from old, The Borrowed Boy – Bea stages a recycle fashion show, Just Bea, and the protagonist in my latest novel wears vintage clothes.

Eva: I have Aveline constantly doodling on every flat surface she can find. This was partly inspired by Rose Casson from Hilary McKay’s series but it was also fun to make some of her sketches myself.

Sketch by Eva Seyler as mentioned in comment above

Beth: Books, certainly. I get many ideas from other writers. I was inspired by a small scene from a video game, which I’ve never gotten around to writing. Ideas from movies/tv, which often tend to be about how I would put my spin on a character.

Maria: Reading. I know I’ve been inspired by Lord of the Rings and our own @marianlthorpe that have made me a better writer

Marianne: My stories are influenced by places I’ve visited. The safe house in “Finding Ruby” was inspired by Rothchilde mansion in Southern France. The whole story strange from it.

Kathleen: I get some of my inspiration from history and music…but on a much less elevated plane, I also get good ideas from some TV shows. I’ve learned a lot about plot structure and relationships in a close ensemble.

Annie: I make up a playlist for each piece I’m working on – usually chosen to evoke a particular mood but sometimes because it’s the music the characters in my stories are listening to.

George: Books and poems. I reference Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, Twain, and Emily Dickinson

Which novels you have enjoyed reading which took inspiration from the arts.

Eva: The aforementioned Casson books by Hilary McKay are fantastic. Middle grade technically (my kids LOVE them) but absolutely delightful for adults as well. All of them are great but I have a special fondness for #2, “Indigo’s Star”.

Beth: I enjoyed S. Jae-Jones’ “Wintersong” which was inspired by the movie “Labyrinth.” I also love the Tufa series by Alex Bledsoe, which take inspiration from music, and Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories which are centered around Appalachian folk ballads.

Maria: In some ways my answer is the same as Q4! Both Tolkien and I think @marianlthorpe were inspired by language, mythology etc. I think Marian has drawn (pardon the pun) from architecture/art from ancient Greek and Roman culture too.

Anita: This is hard to pin down. I enjoy the creativity of language and story from authors like Joanne Harris and Matt Haig. It is probably landscapes that inspire me the most.

Kathleen: One of the things I really love is when art and literature are just part of the characters’ lives: poetry in Robert Parker’s Spenser, or any number of classic detectives who listen to opera while they think

Deborah: Bel Canto by Anne Pratchett which featured an opera singer is one of my favourite novels.

Which painting, passage of music, or other creation can always lift your mood or comfort you?

Anita: It is personal images and pictures of my family which bring me the greatest comfort. ‘Las Madres son apprendices de Angeles’ (Mothers are Angel Apprentices) was a card from my daughter, pictured on the left; drawn by a friend. ‘Teddy’ is my son; he loved trains.

The personal images and pictures of family that inspire Anita

Beth: Anything by the Scots folk groups Silly Wizard or The Tannahill Weavers.

Gerald: Breaking All Illusions by Dream Theater (modern prog rock). Or Solo by Clean Bandit.

Eva: I’m going with Beethoven’s Pastoral on this one. It’s somehow appropriate for every mood and every story.

Karen: (to Beth) That was the first piece of classical music I ever listened to. I was around 12, and it was a giveaway at a store. Even though I’d never listened to Beethoven, I had a policy of never turning down a freebie. And it was so good. Bonus points, my mom HATED it. She could nap through any music I had on – but if I put Beethoven on the turntable (in the basement, mind you), I’d hear feet hitting the floor within minutes, and the grumbling started.

Kathleen: Bad power ballads on the radio at night. Sometimes when I’m driving to the train for work, I’m stressed or upset about something, and some awful cheesy thing comes on and makes me feel better. (Not elegant, but honest!)

Cheryl: The Tortoise Trainer a painting by Osman Hamdi Bey, always makes me smile. It was in a cafe I regularly went to when I visited my colleagues @bezmialem. It says a lot about perseverance and never giving up.

Maria: I always find myself chilling out listening to my acoustic guitar playlist on Spotify (called Cozy Acoustic Morning if anyone wants to check it out) Of course as a Christian the Bible has been a huge source of comfort to me.

Karen: Leonard Cohen has a lyric for every occasion, and even if they don’t lift my mood, they give me something to think about and that distracts m

George: Neil Young—Harvest Moon My wife and I have danced in the kitchen more than once. Quote from Joan Vayo’s poem, Stone Shoes: Father <snip> I have you dancing in my kitchen here tapping the white floor with your policeman boots

One of Andy’s Hero Forge designs