I see all kinds of things when I drive around town. After a few minutes of “what was that?” or “how cute” or “I have to remember that place is there” I go on about my day and forget all about my drive. But not author Ally Blue. Her creative mind is always going and those little snippets of randomness has become some of our best reading moments.
Here are just a few of her driving adventures.
Hello there, all you fans of MANtastic Fiction! I’m Ally Blue and I’m here to talk about inspiration 🙂
Every author knows what it feels like to be inspired—that particular zing of excitement when the muse kicks you in the pants and sends you scrambling for your computer, your phone, your iPod, a piece of paper, hell, even a pen to write your brilliant idea on your arm before you forget it (yes, I have done that). All you readers out there know that feeling too. Readers are creative people by nature, whether you realize it or not. I know you’ve had the “lightbulb moment” at some point.
I’ve been published since 2005—or 2004, if you count my short stories—and I’ve had a lot of inspiration from a lot of different sources, some of them decidedly odd. My novel Eight Arms To Hold You, for instance, was inspired by a bumper sticker. I was driving to work one day and noticed a very strange bumper sticker on the car in front of me. It was an octopus—grayish blue and stylized, with white eyes, on a white background. There were no words on the bumper sticker, just this weirdly compelling octopus. I could not stop thinking about it, or what it might mean. Of course with my overactive imagination, I figured it had to be the emblem of some kind of secret society. LOL. From there, the whole concept of Eight Arms was born, along with the basis of the plot. It got twisted around from the whole “secret society” idea, but yeah, that’s what sparked the whole thing.
Another unusual inspiration I had—and some of you have undoubtedly heard this before—came from a grocery store delivery truck. I was on my way to work, and the delivery truck was up ahead of me on the interstate. It had a cartoon drawing on it that I thought was an onion. This onion was smiling really big and had its oniony arms spread wide. It looked very happy. I couldn’t help thinking that The Happy Onion sounded like the name of a vegan restaurant. Which would, of course, be run by a big ol’ granola-crunchy vegan hippie-type, complete with ultra-liberal values, a long braid and a beard. And of course he had to fall for a high-strung, type-A corporate type. By the time I caught up to the truck and realized my onion was in fact an orange, my characters were already alive in my head and The Happy Onion was born.
My latest release, Graceland, had a somewhat more conventional beginning. It was inspired by the song of the same name by Paul Simon. I was driving home from work (are you seeing a pattern here?) and listening to my iPod like I usually do in the car, when Graceland came up on the shuffle. I happened to be pondering the thorny question of how to create a coherent book out of my ideas for a Big Beautiful Man character and book where a diabetic Cherokee main character falls for a nursing student. It sounds easy, but for some reason the whole getting-them-together bit never gelled for me until Paul Simon and his awesome song gave me the brainwave for a Cherokee Elvis impersonator. Don’t ask me why that did it, but it did. I’m not about to question the gifts of the muse, LOL.
My other inspirations have included an incredibly cool privately owned “castle” in Chapel Hill (Love, Like Ghosts), a cute truck driver I passed on the road (Easy), a particularly bloody and horrible dream that happened to include a large, ominous house (Oleander House), an awesome chandelier (The Mountain, coming this fall from MLR Press), and a summer evening full of fireflies in the grass. I wondered if they might be something more than what they seemed, which gave birth to the book called (what else) Fireflies.
At this point, I’ve forgotten the inspiration behind some of my books and short stories. Which is sad, I think, but there’s so many of them. I hope there’ll be many more in the future as well. I love getting that inspirational kick in the pants 🙂
Ally is offering up a digital copy of Graceland. To enter, comment below about something cool you’ve seen while driving around. A bumper sticker, funny shaped tree, father stuck in traffic with 3 rambunctious kids …
Open until Thursday, July 19th at 11:59 pm (PST). Winner will be selected and notified on Friday.
Ally has added a print book to our GRL Reading Challenge Grand Prize. Remember to post your list for your chance to enter.