Monday, February 1, 2016

Immortalizing Your Inspiration


I was reading recently that J.J. Abrams designed Captain Phasma in the new Star Wars movie in tribute to Phantasm, one of his favorite horror films. It got me thinking about the many references I've made to movies, music, people and places in my own work.

For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of being an author is the ability to pay homage to the things that inspire me in my stories. The horror movies and metal music I grew up with. Writers like Poe, Chambers, Shelley, Smith and Lovecraft who laid the foundation of horror. The places I've lived, worked, vacationed. People that have come into and out of my life. All of these things inspire every story I write, and I love finding ways to immortalize them in my own work.

Take for instance the apartment I lived in after I graduated from college. It consisted of the second and third floor of a beautiful colonial in Springfield, Massachusetts. I loved that apartment--LOVED. And even after I moved out of it to move in with my wife-to-be, I never forgot that apartment. So, when I was writing the first draft of Courting the King in Yellow back in 2008 or so, I gave that apartment to my main character. And as the Parted Veil series head toward its fourth installment, that apartment is just as much as character in that series as anyone else now. It will live forever, and I get to keep spending time in it, which brings me great joy.

An apartment my wife and I lived in for a while also makes a short appearance in Courting the King in Yellow.

The school that Fela Barton attends in Lovecraft's Curse and Lovecraft's Pupil is loosely based on my alma mater. Fela's best friend Connie works in the library, just like I did when I went to school there.


In the recent novel Harrowed that I wrote with Jolene Haley, we paid tribute to one of my favorite actors of all time, Tom Atkins. He was a staple of horror films in the '80s (The Fog, Halloween III, Maniac Cop, Creepshow), but my favorite movie of his will always be Night of the Creeps. Our character Detective Ray Atkins is a big nod to Ray Cameron, the character Atkins played in Night of the Creeps.

The diner and the record store in Harrowed are both places that Jolene and I frequented in real life. Not to mention, there are tons of '80s movie and music references in that book. Tons.

And then there's Orchard Pointe, the new series Jolene and I have been working on. We'll be talking much more about the setting and characters soon, but I will say the setting is partially inspired by places I have vacationed since I was a small child. It's also inspired by a great deal of other things, but we'll be talking more about that soon enough.

Anyway, I think it's pretty cool to include nods to the things that inspire you in your stories. I'd love to hear what sort of people, places and things that some of my fellow writers have immortalized in their work.