Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guest Post By Stephen Collina, author of Muffin Man

Stephen Collina, author of Muffin Man, writes on 'inspiration' and the spark for his first novel! Read on - Team Readers' Muse


How does inspiration for a thriller occur?

Finding inspiration for a thriller was, in my experience at least, neither a simple nor a single event. Yes, of course at some point there was the decision to focus on a particular issue. But complications of plot, nuances of character and matters of fact such as the existing political situation in the relevant location meant that the initial moment of “inspiration” had to be tempered at once with a large dose of reality – considering implications, thinking through possible plot lines, etc - before any further step towards a keyboard was taken. In fact the story resulted far more from a considered decision than from a moment of inspiration.

With my second novel “Muffin Man” I specifically wished to write a political conspiracy. I thus spent a great deal of time thinking and researching various political scenarios and settings about which I could write, before settling on the selected one. These included an Iranian setting (which I eventually used in just one chapter), a European setting (unused) and even an Australian and Indonesian one (also unused).

The initial but long-considered “inspiration” for that story was a feeling  - maybe even a conviction - that no matter how unpalatable the thought may be to Americans, their counter-intelligence services must have known of the 9/11 attacks in advance, even if they had few or inadequate details.  Furthermore it was in the interests of those counter-intelligence services to not declare their foreknowledge of it: at the cost of only a momentary embarrassment, the threat from Al Qaeda has subsequently justified a vast increase in their surveillance capabilities and expenditure.

Therefore the conspiracy chosen was a long-term deception of the American people regarding the use or otherwise of covert action, and the resulting manipulation of many countries’ politics. It was the observation that such a conspiracy must have occurred over many years and been set up several administrations earlier, that led to the timeframe for the novel and its starting point.

To complicate matters of inspiration even more, I wanted to write a conspiracy novel but not one in the fast-paced, shallow-character sense.  I wanted the story and therefore the conspiracy to emerge from the characters rather than being driven by events. Hence the novel is much more about the people involved in the formation and establishment of the secretive organization than it is about events, describing what their ordinary and less-ordinary lives must be like or have been like, and what led them to become involved.

There was one final source of inspiration: at least some of the participants would have been coerced into joining, using either a sexual transgression or the threat of a drug dealing-related conviction. Both ideas are used in the story.

By contrast to all the above, the idea of writing my first novel came to me easily and in an idle moment. This was a history piece set in an area that I knew well close to my birthplace. Once started the story pretty much wrote itself through recall of various characters and events from my early childhood, using them to describe just how alien that old, isolated world of the 1950s has become. And the idea for my third novel was borne of a fascination with two events: the crossing of the American West in the 1840s, and my perception of our society’s current lack of direction or purpose.

The word ‘inspiration’ seems much more fitted to the course of those than it is to the conspiracy thriller, at least as written by me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for taking part in the tour and hosting Stephen!


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