“Inspirations and Influences” is a 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 rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.
It is with the utmost delight that we invited Susan Jane Bigelow back to the blog – as Ana is a SUPERFAN of her Extrahuman Series – to celebrate the release of The Spark, the EXCELLENT third book in the series, with a post on her inspirations and influences.
Please give up for Susan!
It feels like this book, and the Extrahumans series as a whole, comes from a million different places.
I had a ritual, back when I was in college. There’s a fantastic comic book store called Sarge’s in downtown New London, Connecticut, and every Wednesday I’d walk down there to pick up the latest and greatest. I’d stick them in my backpack and head across town to McDonald’s, where I could read Yukito Kushiro’s Battle Angel Alita, Sam Kieth’s The Maxx, Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, Peter David’s Supergirl and whatever comic book featuring Batman or his Bat-Friends happened to be out that week, all while chewing down on greasy McNuggets and fries. It was a good, satisfying, and stabilizing ritual, and it’s where I cemented both my love of comic book heroes and that brand of storytelling. This, I thought while re-reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman for the ten-thousandth time, is the perfect way to tell a story. So much of the way I tell stories, and the kinds of stories I like to tell, can be traced back to those titles. There’s a little something of Alita (Gally in the Japanese version) in both Dee and Penny, for instance.
I also draw a lot of inspiration from authors who know how to write a great SF/Fantasy adventure story and populate it with incredibly memorable characters, like Tanya Huff or Lois McMaster Bujold. I also can’t get enough of compelling, deep, and well-drawn worlds, like those of Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword or Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. I stand in constant awe of what all of these authors are able to do.
There’s also a lot of real-world inspiration for this specific book. When I finished the first draft of Fly Into Fire in late 2008, I knew I wanted to write a book about Dee next. I even wrote a scene where she sneaks out of Penny and Sky Ranger’s house and runs away to a wildlife preserve. But once I got her there, I found that I had no idea what to do next. It wasn’t just writer’s block, either; life got in the way, as it will. I went through transitions of many kinds between the writing of that first scene and the moment in early 2011 when I managed to pick it up again. At that point, my first book had finally been published, and my life had begun to stabilize again. I had a lot of confidence, and a lot of energy for writing. But, perhaps more importantly, the Arab Spring was underway halfway around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in squares to demand their rights, and the part of me that adds everything I see to the worlds I create wondered, “What if that happened in the Confederation?” And then, in the next instant, I wondered what would happen if Dee were in the middle of it. The story began to take shape.
This book turned out to be the biggest and most ambitious writing project I’ve tried to do yet. I probably wouldn’t have made it through if I didn’t have what I call my pace-book, a somewhat lighter adventure set in a different universe, to fall back on when things got especially tough with this one. I also owe a debt to the fantastic PJ Harvey, whose incredible album Let England Shake was my soundtrack throughout.
It’s been incredible to write this series. I love this world, which I’ve been building in one way or another since I was a teenager, and I love these characters. I’ve been working on other projects set in other worlds lately, but I doubt I’ll be able to stay away from it forever.
Thank you so much to the Book Smugglers for having me, and to all you wonderful readers out there!
The Spark, the third book in Susan Jane Bigelow‘s Extrahumans series (after Broken and Fly Into Fire) is now available in both digital and paperback form, wherever books are sold! And remember, if you purchase directly from Candlemark & Gleam at www.candlemarkandgleam.com, you get the digital version free – and DRM-free! – with the purchase of a paperback.
We have 3 bundles (one paperback, two digital) of Broken, Fly Into Fire and The Spark to giveaway! The contest is open to addresses in the US only for the paperbacks and to ALL, ANYWHERE for the digital copies, and will run until Saturday September 8 at 12:01am EST. In order to enter, use the form below. Good luck!