Writing a book is a daunting challenge. Writing your first book is terrifying. There are days when everything runs smoothly but equally, there are days – lots of them – when you feel that you will never be able to write another word. Believe me – I’ve been there, convinced that I should just walk away from the whole stupid idea. But having made that decision, after all, the saying is that everyone has a book in them, where do you get the idea, the inspiration that encourages you to start. Well, for example, Jules Verne was reading a newspaper in a café in Paris when he came across an advertisement that offered tourists the chance to travel around the globe in 80 days. This was unheard of at the time and his novel was the result.
J.R.R. Tolkien by contrast was hard at work grading exam papers when he came upon a blank sheet. For some reason, he wrote down the first thing that came into his head – “ In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” He had no idea what a hobbit was or why it should live in a hole but it sparked the idea for a masterpiece.
The stories about the inspiration for great novels could form the basis of a novel by themselves but before I explain where my ideas came from, let me tell you about perhaps the most tragic of beginnings. A friend of Thomas Hardy earned a place at Oxford University but failed to get his degree. He left Oxford but three years later tried again at Cambridge. It took him over thirteen years to complete his studies during which time, he battled against alcoholism and depression. He finally committed suicide by cutting his own throat. Hardy later suggested that this man was the inspiration behind Jude the Obscure.
I cannot even claim inspiration. My first novel came about because of an idea. Years ago, I lived in Cumbria – very close to the Scottish Border. I used to visit Drumlanrig Castle which was near to Dumfries in the Borders. It had on display a Da Vinci – The Madonna of the Yarnwinder but it always struck me how sparce the security systems were compared to the major galleries in London and Paris. One day, the Leonardo was stolen and amazingly, visitors to the Castle that day, had seen two men climb out of a window with the painting under their arm.
Not far away from the castle is Glenkiln reservoir which at about the same time, had large bronze sculptures by artists such as Rodin and Henry Moore scattered on the surrounding hills. It always amazed me that someone didn’t just turn up one night with a JCB and a truck and take them away.
Sadly, years later that is just what happened to one of them and subsequently, most of the sculptures were removed. It is such a pity because seeing them in this beautiful, natural environment was always a thrill.
To complete this story, one day I read about the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. It was an amazing story and obviously struck a chord with me. Maybe there is a criminal mind somewhere in my head just waiting to burst out.
These ideas stayed with me for a few years until one day I decided to write a book about a painting. Mirrors was born.