Friday, March 7, 2014

When Good Muses Go Bad

I suppose I don't mean bad, exactly; when muses run amok, they generally take one in a direction that turns out to be, in a word, inspired. That is, after all, their job. But there are moments in a writer’s life when the muse can be exasperating.

I’ve spent the last eight years being obsessed with Russia, including attempting to learn the language and living there for a month, all because my muse decided to drag me along on her little madcap adventure. I’m not actually complaining, but to sane people (i.e., non-writers), this level of obsession must look a little odd.

With my Russian angels and demons books wrapping up, I found myself floundering—a bit at sea*, as it were—not sure what to do next. When an idea finally did start taking hold, I wrote a few thousand words but had to stop because there were two little things I just couldn't figure out about this new story: the Where and the When. There’s only so much you can write without delving into these important elements before you’re just writing nonsense. (A bit like my blogging. But I digress.)

I let the story simmer for a few weeks and worked on other aspects of the writing job I’d been neglecting, such as marketing, scheduling tours, and designing swag. In other words, torture. Meanwhile, someone innocently posted an interesting tidbit on Facebook about the lost land of Cantre’r Gwaelod off the coast of Wales and the submerged forest that recently emerged out of Cardigan Bay lending credence to the tales.

Submerged forest at Ynyslas, Ceredigion

And dammit, the muse woke up. I suddenly had my Where and When.

It was one thing learning Russian (and a whole new alphabet). But Welsh spelling and pronunciation is something I’ve been cowering in fear of since the first time I saw Cymru written on a building in Torchwood. (Although I’ve also been in love with the accent since Eve Myles’s Gwen Cooper first opened her mouth.)

I tried to persuade my muse in another direction, but she’s having none of it. And the most annoying part is that I can hear her chortling with glee. Muses may be inspiring, but they are also sadistic, perverse, and way too pleased with themselves when they come up with something guaranteed to drive a writer to drink.

At least the muse isn’t insisting on something truly untenable, like having clowns in the book. Because clowns are right out. (I have a feeling I really shouldn’t have written that “aloud.”)

*My muse thinks she's a laugh riot

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