|Photos courtesy of the publisher|
I’m really pleased to be doing a guest author slot for Dizzy C! It is great to have the opportunity to choose the topic, so I am going for one that people often ask about – which is ‘Where do you get your inspiration?’ It’s not a very easy question to answer come to think about it, and everyone’s different, but here goes from my perspective…
My novel, Pictures at an Exhibition, is about love, loss and tragedy, set against a contemporary and historical backdrop. It also has a strong, central theme, which is the Pictures of the Month scheme that was run by the National Gallery during the Second World War. Whilst most of the National Gallery's collection was put into storage outside London, one masterpiece a month was put on public display so that - despite the risks of invasion - people could still have exposure to something in the way of culture. My book follows the path of two different women through their visits to the National Gallery to see some of these paintings and tells their stories along the way.
I can remember exactly where I was when I got the idea that became a whole novel. I was on a walking tour, the theme of which was London during the Second World War, and the tour guide mentioned the National Gallery’s Pictures of the Month scheme just in passing. I’d never heard of it before, and straightaway I knew it would make a brilliant theme for a novel. I don’t think I even stayed till the end of the tour, I was so excited! I was even more excited once I had done some research and found out that the paintings that were displayed during the War were mostly still in the National Gallery today.
This theme gave me something very real – and true - to hang on to, and I built a story around it. So that was my inspiration! The truth is I have quite a lot of curiosity and I am always on the look-out for little things that many people just pass over, but I store in my head for later reference. Often my inspiration comes from being out and about in London, on the bus, on the streets, observing all those people leading completely different lives. Everyone I come across seems to look like they have a story written in their face. In the past, I have written short stories on the basis of just a second looking into a stranger’s eyes on a train or in a restaurant and thinking I have seen something there. Sometimes I come across something big enough to start a novel – but sometimes it might only be enough to write a sentence.
As for the bigger question of plot, for the most part this just comes out of my head, as do the personalities of the characters and how they think and behave. I know people who say that they have no imagination at all, and I believe them! Many authors say that they create characters that actually speak to them and direct them. It’s a vast spectrum, and in my view there is plenty of space for all sorts of writers in between. My writing life might be easier if my characters did speak to me, but it is certainly true that the more time I spend with them, the more real they become.
You can find out more about Pictures at an Exhibition at www.camillamacpherson.com,
and I tweet at CamillaMacphers.