Where does my inspiration for The Madison Chronicles come from?
I’m currently writing and editing book two of The Madison Chronicles while book one— Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf— is going out to agents. So, before you can get your hands on it, here’s a blog about some of the tv shows, films, books, and people that inspired me to write this series.
I’ve been inspired by thousands of different things for these books and stories. The major ones that kicked it all off are below, so check them out. Since I’ve been writing this series I’ve discovered, re-visited, enjoyed and been inspired by: The Hunger Games (books), The 100 (tv), The Maze Runner (books), Catherynne M Valante, Return to Oz (movie), Supernatural (tv), A Song of Ice and Fire : Game of Thrones (books and TV), Abi Elphinstone, The Mortal Instrument (books), and the Harry Potter Series, to name but a few. Hopefully, a little fragment of what makes all these books, shows and people (and the ones below) brilliant will come through in my writing. I live in hope.
So, it begins…
The Madison Chronicles started as a very small idea. I had blackouts in my early twenties and I was always left wondering what happened in those moments. What happened to all the memories? Where did they go? Were they forgotten, lost? I thought the same about the subconscious memories we have during sleep. Where did they go? Could they be retrieved? Initially, I wrote about a character that went around collecting forgotten memories, stuffing them inside her huge pockets and feeding off them later, like some sort of memory spider. This expanded into a larger story after I become obsessed with the book that inspired The Madison Chronicles the most…
His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (HDM) trilogy was a book I came to through recommendations from several friends. It was a story that re-kindled my love for writing and got me back in front of the page, writing down words, molding worlds and playing God. HDM is about Lyra, a young girl, who goes on a fantastic adventure to the top of the world with an armoured bear and a rare truth-telling instrument (an alethiometer) to find her play-mate Roger. But Lyra soon finds herself travelling across dimensions into strange new worlds and battling the forces of good and evil.
The world of HDM really captivated me as, in Lyra’s universe, each person is accompanied by a daemon: the representation, in animal form, of their nature, their soul. Children’s daemon’s, like Lyra’s (called Pantalaimon), can change form as they grow, before settling on a specific animal when they reach adulthood. Some of my favouites included: Lee Scoresby’s arctic hare, Hester; Lord Asriel’s snow leopard, Stelmaria; and Serafina Pekakala’s goose, Kaisa.
“Sadie watched her new friend as he studied the world around him; his first glimpse at the magic of the universe… Oliver pulled the crimson scarf up to cover his mouth and looked out over the Shadow Valley. He watched the stars twinkling in the sky. He seemed fascinated, tracing them with his wide eyes and long fingers, as though joining the dots.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 6
The Madison Chronicles (TMC) was greatly influenced by many of the concepts in HDM. Magical instruments, powerful friendships and the ability to separate some part of ourselves, and make it real. Sadie’s imaginary friend Oliver is a new take on the relationship between Pantalaimon and Lyra. Belief is at the centre of TMC. Belief can make things real.
The work of Steven Spielberg has inspired me far more than any other film-maker. His love of space, the supernatural, adventure, and the power of story really struck a chord and dragged me from my bed every morning as a kid to watch one of his films.
My sisters and I would watch E.T., Indiana Jones, The Goonies, Gremlins, Innerspace, Jaws and Back To The Future regularly on Saturday and Sunday mornings (as well as endlessly viewings of Star Wars (IV, V & VI) and a variety of musicials).
Later, I obsessed over Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, and the Transformers movies. Steven’s work always reminds me of my childhood; of playing and creating and being free. I hope it continues to do so.
“They moved across the room like fleeting spirits and found their way to the grand piano. Lifting the edge of the dustsheet, they scrambled underneath. Sadie imagined they were adventurers sitting in their own private tent on an expedition across the Winter Continent: tracking the Wampus Cat or a Chupacabra or a scamper of Bogeymen.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 3
Terry Pratchett’s incomparable Discworld Series took over where Fighting Fantasy left off and really helped me to love reading and stories. Integrating mystery, fantasy, adventure and comedy, Terry created a magical world inhabited with hundreds of great characters: Rincewind, Captain Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, The Patrician, and, of course, the Luggage.
Among my favourite Discworld books are the titles that serve up Death as the main character: Mort, Reaper Man, Hogfather, Soul Music, Thief of Time. Death’s character would always speak in capital letters and have a typically sideways, Pratchetty view of the world. Death even had the final words of Terry’s Twitter feed after he passed in 2015. It simply read, THE END.
The world building, scope and scale of the Discworld is something that I wanted to incorporate into TMC. I wanted the story to feel like it was located in a world not unlike our own, but entirely new, and different, and strange at the same time. TMC takes all the things we wonder about, believe in but cannot prove, hope and pray aren’t real, and strives to bring them to life. Terry’s Discworld worked brilliantly in this way. I’m planning to do an entire blog on Terry and the Discworld Series so come back for more on that or, better still, go and read his amazing books. You won’t regret it.
“Dusk falls over the Shadow Valley in the depths of a silver-white winter. A trickle of water springs from the earth, bubbling over rocks and stones, and joins the River Myr. Cascading over the lofty waterfalls at Hüntesgaard, it passes for miles between the Black Mountains, jagged and ancient, that stretch towards the starlight above.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 1
I’ve recently been re-reading all of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels. They are hugely inspiring and filled with brilliant stories about the Lord of the Dreamworld. Re-reading these made made me realise how much they subconsciously inspired TMC. Dealing with parallel universes and empyreal dimensions is a concept that both books share. Gaiman’s dreamworld, The Dreaming, for one, and theNyx (the world that exists behind your eyes) from TMC have a lot in common: complex, everchanging and unknowable.
I’ve loved pretty much every book that Neil has written: Stardust (also a film), Neverwhere (and TV series), Coraline (animated movie) and, my favourite American Gods (coming to TV in 2017). Gaiman’s infectious style of writing makes me believe in everything he says. He could tell me anything and I’d know that in some small part of the universe, or the deepest, darkest corner of my mind, that these things are really happening.
“She dreamt of black grass and stone towers. Bloodied arms and screaming voices. Magicians and conjurors with twisted faces and rotting teeth. Grit and sand and dirt and smoke. Three wretched faces, distorted and venomous. Fields of fire spreading to the horizon where men and beasts burned. Angels with red flickering eyes. Warriors and witches and seers. Wind and water and earth. The white sun and a red moon colliding in the heavens. A crone that screeched and hissed like a viper. Cages upon cages of wild animals, gnawing and lashing at their captors. Amber light and shrouded figures that moved like the wind. A leathery creature with razor sharp talons, its face hidden beneath a dark cowl, surrounded in a swirling dark mist.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 6
Being a man of a certain age, it comes as no surprise that Star Wars was my entire childhood. Oh, and Lego. The power of Star Wars has spilled into just about every facet of my life, conscious or otherwise, and I find myself quoting it at people or finding myself attempting to think like a Jedi (and try to move things with my mind). George Lucas’ vision is one that changed the world of cinema and storytelling and, now, continues to thrill and excite new generations of lightside and darkside followers, enthusiasts, devotees and Jedi / Sith Lords. You’ll find evidence of Star Wars throughout TMC (and more prominently in my debut novel Spritz).
The concept of the Force, of magic, is one that plays a huge part in TMC. Magic belongs to many things: music, memory, make-believe and stories. TMC is full of these, and therefore, full of magic and its endless possibilities.
“Behind the woman hung a dark curtain, suspended between two large glass cabinets. Inside the cabinets, objects of all shapes and size glimmered in the faint light: jars, bottles, vials and lockboxes, labelled and forbidden. Sadie wondered what sort of magics they contained.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 9
My first taste of J.J. Abrams was with through the excellent spy-action series Alias. Duplicitous heroine Sydney Bristow brings crime-fighting, puzzle solving and ass-kicking (think James Bond meets Lara Croft) to the seemingly endless stream of criminals and terrorist organisation across the globe. J.J. later moved onto the TV phenomenon Lost, Fringe, Revolution, Believe, 11.22.63, and the movies Cloverfield, Mission Impossible, Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness, and the brilliant new Star Wars movie: The Force Awakens.
J.J.’s television shows are something that always excite and inspire me. They are usually packed with great mythologies and diverse characters (especially in Lost) that set them apart from other shows. His focus on the supernatural, adventure and strong female leads is something that resonates with me and compels me to watch, study and reflect in my own work. J.J’s production company Bad Robot is always a sign of quality.
“The house began to spin. At least, that was Sadie’s first instinct. She dug her hands into the crate as Oliver dug his hands into her shoulders. It seemed as though the house was now spinning and rising into the air, leaving Sadie, Oliver and Vulpes sat in its shadow but, as she came to realise, the house had not moved at all. It was the floor that was rotating— with them on it— descending down into the darkness beneath the island.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 12
Next week: another FREE short story extract from The Madison Chronicles! Plus, I’ll be doing a more detailed blog about the Discworld and one about the music that inspires me while I write over the coming weeks. Check back soon or Like me on Facebook or Follow me on Twitter for updates. Thanks for reading.