What inspires writers? My Favourite Read this Summer

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – Please note this is not a review.

It was both my editor, Elizabeth Turnbull at Light Messages and the below statement by a Goodreads reviewer about my recent release of The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley,

This is Susan Ornbratt’s debut, reminiscent of Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley, I highly recommend.”

that drove me to find out more about Kate Morton. Susanna Kearsley is next on my list. Nonetheless, I was curious, so I purchased one of her books, The Secret Keeper.

13508607The Secret KeeperWithin the first page, I was taken, held hostage willingly. I kept asking myself how my name could be in the same sentence as this gorgeous writer. I was completely smitten and could only dream of writing this beautifully. I adore descriptive language that can paint a picture around me, pulling me into a story. This is precisely what Kate Morton does, at least for me. I understand from researching that she weaves different time periods into all of her stories, suggesting that the past and the present are tethered together – an unavoidable connection really. They are multilayered, rich with characters and different places.

When I started looking at this more closely, that’s when I was able to draw some similarities between my work and hers. After all, my writing is descriptive to its very core. I often close my eyes imagining a landscape or a scene, then translate my images into words. A current storyline is often rooted in the past, where my present-day characters set out on a journey – one that connects the generations.   My instinct was to suggest that the calibre of Kate Morton’s writing was out of reach for the mere mortal, when I reminded myself of those lovely moments we writers have – those moments when we read something we’ve written and ask, “Wow, did I write that?” The best writers always make it look easy. 9781611531114_Cover.indd

In realizing the sprinkle of similarity Morton’s work held with mine, it gave me renewed hope and a kick to my stride. It reminded me how we writers are our own worst critics. We’re tough on ourselves and need to step back from time to time to look at the fantastic writing we’ve done – the product resulting from our initial inspiration – and forgive ourselves for the not so fantastic writing.  It goes without saying, yet needs be shouted from the rooftops every day to the hurried writers scribbling at their desks, “Read. Read every day.” Choose authors who inspire you. Choose authors whose writing forces you to re-read sentences, because those sentences make you melt or think or feel something you haven’t felt before or haven’t felt in far too long. Then breathe…  Our own words will come.

I’m only discovering Kate Morton’s work now, but I regard it as good timing. As writers, we draw inspiration from a variety of sources. We improve (one hopes) with every project. To avoid becoming stale, we must soak in inspiration whenever and wherever possible. I tend to be inspired by the environment, more specifically, the sea, shapes of clouds, the smells and sounds that come with the coastline, blue skies and green grass – the greener the better. I have a close friend who knows my taste well. She is as English as they come and enjoys sending me photos of country villages and family from years gone by. There are stories in those photos – I can feel them every time.

I love to watch people. Who doesn’t? All the quirky, behavioural tidbits a writer can absorb just by sitting on a park bench and watching. Inspirational indeed! I enjoy using people in my own life as inspiration for characters. I’ll never forget good ol’ Irish Auntie Essie, a mock Texan with her Jesus Loves spread across her suitcase. I could write a book about it. As my grandmother would have said, “Bless her”.

Films have been known to captivate me. As a teenager, I was wild about classics, including musicals. The actors and time periods fascinated me, especially the 1940’s. Fred Astaire, Greer Garson, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Doris Day, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Hedy Lamarr – I couldn’t get enough. I think I knew just about every word to the film, Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand (though that came much later in 1968), and oh… how I loved to mimic Lady Beldon in Mrs. Miniver. I used to tape scenes of my favourite films with my audio cassette player and play them back endlessly. It was their voices, I think, that inspired me.

Certainly as writers, we could probably build a mountain together with all the ways we are inspired. Films were my escape when I was young (still are in many ways), but I grew into reading and understood there was a magic in words that couldn’t be captured on film. It’s important to read books from a variety of authors, but I tend to swim in a pool of one author’s work before moving on to the next – pool hopping of sorts. It works for me and for now, it appears that Kate Morton is my summer and autumn pick. I am itching to get to another one of her stories. So imagine the joy I felt in seeing my book on the same shelf as The Secret Keeper in Barnes and Noble.  What an honour! FullSizeRenderThe Secret Keeper 

Although this is not a review of The Secret Keeper, I believe writers touch us all in different ways. Kate Morton’s rich language has modesty about it. It is not frivolous or garrulous but rather dynamic and vivacious. It has a certain melody that rises and falls, carrying its reader along the storyline. As a writer, I can only benefit from reading literature like this. It moves me, and in the end, isn’t that what we all want from a good book? I urge lovers of historical fiction to scoop up one of Kate Morton’s books. For me, I plan to indulge in more of them, take what inspiration I can and write whenever I come up for air.

So read, writer, read!

Then tell me, what book inspired you this summer?

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