By Natalie Nera
There are many ways you can be inspired to write your story. Inspiration comes from perception but ultimately, it differs from person to person. Naturally, I read a lot and every day. I am not restricted to one genre because you can learn a lot from reading crime, thriller or romance even though your goal is not to write in those genres. However, there are many of their techniques you can use as building blocks.
My short story The Journey (about to be published by The Selkie) started with a newspaper article about the colonies of people trying to get to the USA. I ended up writing about a woman going into a lager to Siberia. It is not as big leap as it sounds. That article prompted me to look at the photos and materials I collected during my two and a half years in Lithuania (2002 – 2004). I spent several evenings pondering over the faith of those poor people in the 1940s simply picked up at night and transported to Siberia, many of whom never survived the journey. I viewed many old black and white photos of that era. History repeating itself.
When I presented the draft I was quite happy with, I was told that the love for Chekhov is palpable from the whole story. It is true that I love Chekhov, – and I am lucky enough to have read his works in the original -, he is probably one of my most favourite authors ever. I admire his modernity, his timeless style, his knowledge of the human soul. Some writers who were big in the 1980s feel dated today. Chekhov, even after more than a hundred years, feels contemporary. But that was entirely subconscious.
One thing I did in full knowledge, was the structure of the story. I used the structure of romantic novels to build sexual tension between the heroine and a stranger she encounters on the journey. The difference is, of course, that the dubiousness of his background and doubts over his true mission never go, and there is no happy ending.
When I wrote my first novel, the first publisher I addressed said that she did not like crime stories as a low genre. She did not read more than three pages. You may say that I failed as an author because I did not engage a person who decided not to publish it. However, the publisher failed as well – she let her own prejudice get in the way of reading the novel and seeing that the crime genre was a device and in fact, if the work belonged into any box, it would be best described as social satire.
I am not the best writer in the world but I like learning from the best. And what the best writers show the rest of us is that there are no small or low genres, and there is always something new you can learn.