Thursday, 9 August 2012

Kick-starting my imagination: the adrenalin of inspiration

Guest post by Benjamin J. Myers, author of The Bad Tuesdays series.
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What’s the use of inspiration if it depends entirely on the mood swings of a despotic goddess or the temperamental engagement of synaptic connections? If you want to use inspiration, you need it to be as reliable and direct as a shot of caffeine. Or even better, pure adrenalin. The plots of The Bad Tuesdays sequence span six books and have hurtled their twisting way through street crime, weird science, cross-universal warfare and cryptic mystery. Alongside my practice as a criminal lawyer, there hasn’t been time to wait for the arrival of ideas when it suits them: I’ve needed inspiration on demand.

I’ve used films and music as performance-enhancing substances. And caffeine. There seems to be an expectation that amongst a writer’s greatest source of inspiration there will be books. Certainly, reading is one of my greatest loves, but for the Tuesdays, inspiration lies in the vivid and immediate impact of films like ‘Alien’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Matrix’. Who hasn’t watched ‘Alien’ and prayed never to be stuck in a ventilation shaft with a perfect predator crawling through the darkness. Moments like that stick with you. And the shoot-out in ‘The Matrix’ - if you’ve seen the film you’ll know the scene. The combination of driving soundtrack and comic book combat delivers an impact that I’ve tried to transform into words.

I remember the early years of the comic 2000AD (no need to carbon date me). The stark, vivid, hard-lined graphics of strips like Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog combined with their sardonic humour hit me at an impressionable age. That impressionable age seems to have stayed with me, leaving me equally susceptible to Manga such as Min-Woo Hyung’s ‘Priest’ series and the grit and punch of graphic novels.

It’s the energy that powers these films and images that I draw upon: that’s where the adrenalin lies. This happens really powerfully with music. Maybe my senses are cross-connected. I love the sound of music: classical, metal, techno, dance. But when I listen, there are images also, vivid pictures, even narratives. Whole scenes have appeared from a single track.


I don’t listen to music when I write, I enjoy music so much, that that would be a terrible distraction. But I listen to music before I write, sometimes. If I want to convey a feeling which the music embodies, to draw from its power, or maybe to actually describe a piece of music which features in the narrative, I take a hefty dose of the music first. Bach, Philip Glass, Motörhead, The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers – they never fail me. There’s a gun fight in the first book in the Tuesdays sequence, Twisted Symmetry, which owes lot to ‘Ace of Spades’ in terms of bruising energy. In Blood Alchemy, Cole Porter songs served as an acoustic background to sinister events which take place in a secret laboratory, and in the fourth book in the series, The Nonsuch King, there really is a coronation of sorts to go with the anthem, ‘Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet.’ When it’s come to writing some of the heaviest action sequences in the Tuesdays and I’ve wanted something extra to get me in the mood, ten minutes filling my head with driving metal and my blood with caffeine has sent me to my work with a breathless vigour.

Which isn’t to say that the books don’t work: of course books are an influence. And in a slow-feed fashion, they have been an inspiration: Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ trilogy for grotesque and intricately conceived fantasy, Dickens for building character out of language, the writing of Ted Hughes and Ernest Hemmingway to show how raw words can nail down reality and Ursula Le Guin for conveying that soulful edge which aches within us when we visit imagined worlds.

But for sheer impact, for inspiration on demand, it’s films, images and music for me. The challenge of converting this into language, and using that language to convey this energy back to the reader has driven me through the mysteries and conflicts of The Bad Tuesdays. Now, having reached the sixth and final book, The Spiral Horizon, the time has come for a cup of herb tea.

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BENJAMIN J. MYERS was born in the Potteries in 1967. After studying Philosophy and Psychology at Leeds University, Myers attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He saw active service as a Troop Commander in the First Gulf War and is a qualified battlefield survival instructor. In 1993, he attained his Diploma in Law from the University of London and subsequently has been a barrister in a busy practice in Manchester, specialising in serious crime, often representing vulnerable defendants, in particular juveniles. He also lectures other legal professions on mentally disordered offenders and human rights. Married with three children, Benjamin Myers lives in North Cheshire.


Blog Tour Stops:
Haven’t I met you before? Where characters come from.
What happens when nobody’s watching?
Why Do People Do Bad Things? Bad Guys Have Their Reasons.
How to Write
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Science vs Magic: Making the Fantastic Happen

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