Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author & Giveaway: Jacqueline Carey on Inspirations & Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a new series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today we have fantasy author extraordinaire, the unparalleled Jacqueline Carey! Jacqueline Carey is the author of the bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series, the “post-punk desert bordertown fable”/contemporary fantasy Santa Olivia, and the newest book in her Kushiel universe, Naamah’s Kiss. She also happens to be one of Thea’s all time favorite authors. Please give it up, ladies and gents, for Ms. Carey!

Jacqueline Carey’s Inspirations & Influences:

“Where do you get your ideas?”

For many authors, this is a most-asked and least-loved question, because the truth is… we don’t always know. Inspiration can be a ridiculously tough thing to pinpoint. The Kushiel’s Legacy series is a vast, sprawling tale that unfolds over six volumes and encompasses intrigue, adventure, romance, epic battle, feats of self-sacrifice, dire magic and complex mythology; and I’m kicking off another trilogy of more of the same with Naamah’s Kiss. So when people ask where these ideas come from, I tend to get that blank deer-in-the-headlights stare, not having the faintest idea where to begin.

One of my favorite examples of the nebulous nature of inspiration comes from Ursula K. LeGuin in a preface to The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, a short story centered around a moral dilemma that blew my youthful mind when I first read it; as well as cheering my heart by virtue of being the one work of science fiction/fantasy in my Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, suggesting that the genre I loved was worthy of literary consideration after all.

At any rate, LeGuin’s inspiration for this seminal story began with a single word, “Omelas.” A word that came from reading a road sign for Salem, Oregon backward. Oh, there was far more to it in the end… but that was the initial spark of genesis. A road sign, read backward.

Such is the ephemeral nature of inspiration, which comes from anywhere and everywhere. Some sources are easy to identify. An idyllic vacation in the south of France inspired the setting of Terre d’Ange; that’s simple enough. Others are harder to track. Research into pseudepigrapha like “The Book of Enoch,” with its tales of fallen angels and divine retribution, inspired the framework of the mythology – but my central deity, Blessed Elua, came about in part through my misremembering an entry in “The Dictionary of Angels,” and in part through remembering Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a nonfiction book on which the premise of The DaVinci Code was based.

There’s a lot of esoteric information rattling around in my head, and a lot of unconscious associations formed in there.

Santa Olivia, released last month was obviously influenced by politics and current events; less obviously, by Love and Rockets, the series of graphic novels by Los Bros Hernandez; not obviously at all, by my secret long-standing desire to write a book set in a conflicted bordertown and my covert affinity for the sport of boxing. But at the heart of the novel is the concept of a young woman genetically incapable of feeling fear, and I haven’t the slightest notion where that came from.

In Naamah’s Kiss, the divine bear worshipped by my heroine Moirin and her mother’s folk doubtless has roots in Richard Adams’ Shardik, while the sequence set in my alternate China owes a debt to sumptuous films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero and House of Flying Daggers; although I would never have been able to bring aspects of my vision to life if it weren’t for a trip to China, where the splendid landscape itself served as inspiration.

Ultimately, I find inspiration is a matter of being observant and keeping my mind open to new ideas from any source. Just the other month, I was at the Art Institute of Chicago, and in the Antiquities gallery, came across a beautifully detailed model of a boat meant to ferry the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Something clicked with my not-yet-fully-articulated plan for the final volume of the new trilogy, and I thought, “Hmm, I might just need such a boat.”

And if I use it, I’ll have one more concrete answer to the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” The Art Institute of Chicago, of course!


Jacqueline Carey is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Kushiel’s Legacy series of historical fantasy novels and The Sundering epic fantasy duology.

An avid reader, Jacqueline began writing fiction as a hobby in high school. After receiving B.A. degrees in psychology and English literature from Lake Forest College, she took part in a work exchange program and spent six months working in a bookstore in London. While living abroad, the desire to write professionally emerged as a driving passion. Upon returning she embarked in earnest on a writing career, which came to fruition a decade later. During this time she worked at the art center of an area college, gaining a strong background in the visual arts. Jacqueline enjoys doing research on a wide variety of arcane topics, and an affinity for travel has take her from Finland to Egypt to date.

She currently lives in west Michigan, where she is a member of the oldest Mardi Gras krewe in the state. Although often asked by inquiring fans, she does not, in fact, have any tattoos.

You can read more about Jacqueline Carey on her website HERE.

A huge thank you to Jacqueline for the article! I’ll have to check out some of the mentioned influences now.

Giveaway Information:

We have FIVE copies of Ms. Carey’s newest book, Naamah’s Kiss up for grabs. The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada, and will run until Sunday June 28 at Midnight (PST). To enter, leave a comment here naming your biggest source of inspiration (as a reader or a writer) – movie, book, painting, video game, you name it…

Good luck!



  • Jacqueline C.
    June 25, 2009 at 2:08 am

    My biggest source of inspiration would definitely be my own life experiences of the experiences of my friends and family.

  • Jenni
    June 25, 2009 at 5:08 am

    I’d have to say that my biggest inspiration is my fiance. No matter what I do, he’s always there to pick me up, and if not for him, I think my life would be so boring and uneventful. Since being with him I’ve tried things I never thought I would, and I’m glad for that.


  • Heather (errantdreams)
    June 25, 2009 at 5:47 am

    I take inspiration from anything and everything—like Ms. Carey said, from a landscape or movie to a road sign. Sometimes I find the inspirations that grab me hardest are the most random, that have come from asking myself the most seemingly mundane questions about a character.

    I don’t usually enter book contests because I have so much to read… but this one’s for my husband, who considers the Kushiel’s Legacy series one of his two favorite series of all time. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read it yet, but I definitely look forward to doing so!

  • Christina G
    June 25, 2009 at 6:12 am

    I would have to say my greatest inspiration is my mom. My Dad left when I was 4 and my brother was a month old and my mom, who is from Italy barely spoke english, but she managed to raise my brother and myself all on her own. She is my best friend and is always there when I need her.

  • P.M.
    June 25, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Its kind of weird, but my biggest source of inspiration has been my teachers, who inspired me to go to college and become the first person in my family to get an associates degree, and, soon, a bachelors degree.

    (although I guess part of that inspiration came from working at olive garden; watching people come in and thinking, “wow, I bet they know calculus”, and feeling kind of inferior. 😳

  • Sara M
    June 25, 2009 at 7:22 am

    I’d have to say that my biggest inspiration is people watching. Not only does it give you really good insight as to how people talk and act, you never know when someone is going to do or say something weird/intelligent/etc that just sparks something. Sometimes I just like to enjoy my coffee by people watching instead of reading.

  • danielle
    June 25, 2009 at 9:00 am

    my biggest source of inspiration would have to be anything by Robert Cormier, Neil Gaimen, kurt vonnegut and any Quentin Terrentino movie 🙂

  • abookinhand
    June 25, 2009 at 9:45 am

    My biggest inspiration has been first, my Dad and then my Husband and children. Without them I’m nothing.

  • Alexa
    June 25, 2009 at 10:05 am

    My biggest inspiration are the things that I see, like the people and scenery surrounding me.

  • Carol
    June 25, 2009 at 10:36 am

    I think my biggest inspiration would be Nancy Drew. I think she really started my love of reading.

  • Sarah
    June 25, 2009 at 10:53 am

    This is going to come out sounding horrible, but, when I did want to be a writer, my inspiration was how many bad books I’d read. I thought, but why didn’t they do it the way thats in my head?!

  • Nadia
    June 25, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I get inspirations from everywhere and everything, but currently, it’s Beethoven Symphony #3 (Eroica).

  • Tiffany M.
    June 25, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    My biggest inspiration for writing is other writing and stories. When I read something wonderful, I want to do something similar. And, when I read something not-so-wonderful, I want to do it better. The feeling of accomplishment is also inspiring. But mostly, the ideas of stories in my head and other writers and stories inspire me.

    I have yet to read anything by J. Carey, but have given her as a gift. I would love to have a copy of this for myself. ^^

  • Memory
    June 25, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Urgh, this is tough! I think I draw a lot of my inspiration from art and architecture. I love vivid colours and bold lines. I adore stately monuments, old ruins and houses that incorporate natural elements. I get a lot of my ideas from thinking about paintings or spending time in old places.

  • orannia
    June 25, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I’m not eligible to enter (as I live on the other side of the world 🙂 ) but I just wanted to say that was a fascinating post Ms Carey! Thank you! (And thank you Thea & Ana!)

    As for my inspiration – it’s hope…the hope that the next day will be a better one and that I’ll continue to discover and enjoy the little things (because the world is such an amazing place)…like watching the spring bulbs appear (it’s winter where I am).

    Oh, and can I just say even the little bit of China I saw (Beijing) was amazing! It was so different – I couldn’t stop watching everything 🙂

  • Tynga
    June 25, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Well I do some Painting and I have to say novels and DeviantArt are big inspiration!

  • Maya M.
    June 25, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I really like that author-with-treeroots photo. Very evocative.

    Highway sign read backwards? That’s pretty amazing. I’m also amazed by stories of authors who watch the same movie I did and end up with an entire, salable manuscript from it (Loretta Chase: Casino Royale = Your Scandolous Ways, Sherry Thomas: The Painted Veil = Not Quite a Husband) whereas I ended up with a mere blogpost. 😀

  • mindy
    June 25, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Inspiration for me comes from history; I’m especially fond of their written legacies– Norse sagas, Marco Polo’s accounts, Suetonius’ biographies, Han Fei Tzu… I get itchy just thinking about how much material you can draw from history. I especially love travel literature, or literature that describes far off lands, where the authors themselves may have never been to those places they write about, but that never stops them from filling in the blanks with totally bizarre and wonderfully strange ideas.

  • Kristen
    June 25, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Hmm… My biggest inspiration as a reader… That’s a tough question but since I really want Naamah’s Kiss, I will have to answer it.

    I was hooked on reading long before this, but I think I’ll have to go with Jane Austen. When I was in high school I read Emma and after that I was hooked on her writing. I made a friend in college largely because we were both huge Jane Austen fans, and reading Persuasion at the time in my life I read it had a huge impact on me.

  • Wicked Zombies | Literary Escapism
    June 25, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    […] Jacqueline Carey, author of the Kushiel’s Legacy series and Santa Olivia, by The Book Smugglers […]

  • Tiah
    June 25, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    As a reader my biggest inspiration was the book Twilight. Don’t laugh, let me explain! I never read, ever. I did not even like books and owned zero. One day I complained to my friend of how bored I was and she lent me her copy of Twilight to read. I read it and an love was born. I don’t know what it was but something in me just clicked. I immediately starting searching for more books, mostly paranormal and fantasy stuff. My house is now overflowing with books that I love and need to read. I even have my two boys starting to love books. My 1 year old crawls with a book in his hand!

    Speaking of my boys, my little guys are my inspiration for my life. I am a better person because I am their mom.

  • bridget3420
    June 25, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    My biggest inspiration would have to be the Bernstein Bears books. They are what got me hooked on reading as a child and I’ve been a faithful reader ever since.

  • Lgbunee
    June 25, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    The first book I actually remember reading and loving was Dracula (I stared very young)!That has been my inpiration for continiung to read books that have been considered “unsuitable for girls.”

  • Teresa W.
    June 25, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    My biggest inspiration is my mom beacause she is always there for me!

  • Victoria
    June 26, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Most of the images I use to define religion, myth, and fantasy literature originate (for me) in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, which I read and reread as a child. I can go back now and see the flaws and weaknesses of the books, but there’s something in them that still stirs my inspiration soup pot.

    Thank you for offering this contest!

  • Jane Halsall
    June 26, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I remember being a junior in college with nothing to do of a Friday evening and went to the movie showing at the Student Union of The Marx Brother in Duck Soup. I was blown away by this old black and white film that was just such an eye opener about what people find universally funny. Unlike today where everything is available all of the time, access to oddball movies only happened on places like university campuses or in art theaters. Great stuff then and now.

  • Zee
    June 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    oh, this is a hard question – I think this is tough because it’s hard to separate the thing that inspires you from what it inspires you to be (my kids inspire me to be a better mom; that book inspired me to see this movie or read this other book, etc.) But I really want a copy of this book (I LOVE the Kushiel books) so here goes…
    As a reader, I’d say my biggest inspiration comes from mythology. I remember reading greek mythology when I was a kid and it’s pretty much the fundamental building block for everything I like to read now: heroes and heroines, epic quests, truth, justice, romance, etc.
    Thanks for the review and the giveaway – I’m looking forward to this book!

  • Joseph
    June 26, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    As a writer my biggest source of inspiration are epic movies like Star Wars.

  • Kate A
    June 26, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    My biggest source of inspiration would definitely be my family.

  • Collette
    June 26, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Wow, tough question. There are many things that inspire me as a person but I think the thing that inspires me as a reader is the knowledge of the next great book (for me).

    I may read many books before I find one lures me into the story, refusing to surrender me until long after I’ve finished the book but it will come. And after that, another one will come. It’s that knowledge that inspires me and keeps me reading.

  • Mermaid2x
    June 26, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    My biggest source of inspiration as a reader and journeying soul is Ursula LeGuin. I am from Portland, Oregon as is she and many of her themes in books are set in this part of the country. Another inspiring author was Andre Norton (no longer with us). Thanks for the wonderful interview!

  • Rob Charron
    June 27, 2009 at 4:10 am

    Hi 😉
    My biggest inspiration is the art of Michael Whelan. Every time I see a painting by him I am in awe and feel the urge to write.
    Thanks for holding this contest.

  • Sarah Kay
    June 27, 2009 at 4:12 am

    As a poet my inspiration comes from God and the world around me. As a card-maker my inspiration comes from the person the card is made for. As a book reviewer my inspiration comes from the author. As a mum, my inspiration comes from the love of my children, husband and mum.

  • Naomi
    June 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    It’s going to sound strange, but it’s my grandmother’s hands. She had unusually beautiful hands. They weren’t pretty. They were worn, cracked, rough, hardened, stubby fingered, sun-spotted, overly tanned hands. And they were beautiful. I watched her help calves be born. I watched her sew, play the piano, create jams and pies and gorgeous watercolor paintings.

    I want to write about, and read about, the hands that leave a mark, that earn their beauty through action, rather than appearance, and the people who use those hands are unbearably fascinating to me. That kind of competence is transcendent. Your hands might be lily-white, pale and perfect, but they’re only pretty until I’ve seen what you’ve done with them.

  • Tina Christopher
    June 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    That’s a tough one. I think it would have to be a mixture of my own life experiences, what I have observed around me as well as reading my favouritre authors like Angela Knight, J.D. Robb, Lora Leigh, Nalini Singh to name only a few.

    I think everything you see, read, observe, live through etc. just stays with you in one way or the other, so it is quite hard to pinpoint certain ideas and feelings.

    Thanks for a great post. I look forward to reading the others.

  • Dottie
    June 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    My biggest inspiration, outside of my children, is the environment around us. So interesting to just sit back and observe once in awhile.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Dottie 🙂

  • Kitten22
    June 27, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    This looks great! Please enter me!

    As a reader, my greatest inspiration is the library! It’s one gigantic TBR pile!

    BookcrossingKitten22 AT gmail DOT com

  • Roberta Harwell
    June 27, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    My source of inspiration as a reader was my grandmother. She was always reading something. Have a great day.

    house_mouse88 at yahoo dot com

  • zarifina
    June 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    My biggest inspiration is nature and music. When I see a beautiful landscape or hear a certain tune it inspires me to write.

  • Roxy
    June 27, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    As a reader, I would say I have two great inspirations.
    First is the Thief by Megan Whelan Turner. Read this in middle school have read it several times since then. The whole series is just wonderful. The plot and characters are outstanding!
    Second is Karen Marie Moning who has turned me into a crazy fan. I think at this point I know her books by heart having read them so many times.

  • Kimberly B.
    June 27, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    My biggest inspiration is my favorite author, Elizabeth Peters (who also writes as Barbara Michaels). I find her so inspiring because she got her PhD in Egyptology, then became a prolific writer of fiction. I’m finishing up my PhD (in history) and I want to combine academic and fiction writing careers.

  • Samantha
    June 27, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    My biggest inspirations, for life in general, are my dad and aunt, each for their own special reasons. 🙂

    Then I would have to say my biggest inspiration, in terms of artistic expression, would have to be the artist Marc Chagall. If you get the chance, look up his “Self-Portrait with Muse”…I love it!

  • Leah
    June 28, 2009 at 7:40 am

    I have read that you surround yourself with people who have qualities and values that you admire. My close friendships have given me the courage to be a better version of myself. One life long friend in particular has always been a truly unselfish, kind and loving person and continues to be a source of inspiration for me.

  • Carlene
    June 28, 2009 at 7:50 am

    My biggest source of inspiration comes from my daughter. She makes me proud and pushes me father then I thought I could go. Please inlcude me in your giveaway.

  • Belinda m
    June 28, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I would have to pick someone from real life and that person would be my mother

    Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat – join us at


  • Santitos Duology – Book Trivia
    November 22, 2017 at 6:58 am

    […] Santa Olivia was also influenced, but less obviously, by Love and Rockets, the series of graphic novels by Los Bros Hernandez; and, not obviously at all, by Carey’s secret long-standing desire to write a book set in a conflicted bordertown and her covert affinity for the sport of boxing. (Source) […]

  • Naamah Trilogy – Book Trivia
    November 23, 2017 at 10:41 am

    […] The divine bear worshipped by Moirin and her mother’s folk has roots in Richard Adams’ Shardik, while the sequence set in Carey’s alternate China owes a debt to sumptuous films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero and House of Flying Daggers. However, according to Carey, she would never have been able to bring aspects of her vision to life if it weren’t for a trip to China, where the splendid landscape itself served as inspiration. (Source) […]

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