Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.
Today's guest for the WHAT is Azzurra Nox, Born in Catania, Sicily, she has led a nomadic life since birth. She has lived in various European cities and Cuba, and currently resides in the Los Angeles area. Always an avid reader and writer from a young age, she loved entertaining her friends with ghost stories. CUT HERE, her debut paranormal urban fantasy was inspired by a nightmare.
Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?
For my short story, “Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?” in the anthology I put together, My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology, my inspiration for the story mostly came from a nightmare I had this year. I was re-reading Pet Semetary from Stephen King this past winter and for the whole week I read it I was plagued with strange dreams, the worst being one about how every time I entered my bedroom, everything in the room was rearranged, the furniture, everything. And in the dream there was a secret door on the ceiling where at some point a myriad of dolls were visible from the opening. For some reason there was this underlining feeling of dread that permeated into my waking life as I startled myself awake. The nightmare left me feeling a little disturbed so I wrote down what the dream was about and figured at some point it might become useful to me. Sometimes nightmares I've had years ago, because they were recorded I've been able to use for stories years later. Like for my novel CUT HERE, where I began writing the novel in 2011, but actually had the nightmare that inspired the novel in 2008.
Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?
After the initial idea, at least for the short story, "Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?", I used the nightmare as inspiration, but I also knew that I wanted the story to be set in Hollywood, because I find that it can be a very dark, and creepy place. Many people often see it as the place where your dreams can come true, but more often than not, it's the place where your dreams don't come true, so broken dreams make for dark consequences, as perfectly embodied by the suicide of young actress Peg Entwistle in the 1930's when she launched herself from the letter H of Hollywood. I also was listening to System of a Down's Lost in Hollywood song on repeat to get into the dark, twisted mood of the story.
Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?
No plot of mine has ever been set in stone. I often am only certain of two things, how I want the story or book to begin, and how I want the story or book to end. The middle part often goes with the flow of whatever is inspiring me at that moment or my current mood. So it's pretty much ever-evolving, and the only thing I know is where I want to get to, but the direction I take is a lot more fluid and less rigid than most writers allow themselves to be. Although I do use a rough outline of what I wish to cover that helps me to stay focused and not stray too far from the original plot I had in mind.
Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?
I get lots of ideas, especially when listening to music. My mind somehow creates mini-films around the lyrics and music that often lend to writing short stories. I also get a ton of writing ideas when driving. Many times I've had whole pages written in my head whilst driving, only to find myself trying to recreate what was in my head a few hours later once I'm at the destination and can write, and failing to find the same words. I've seriously considered to get a tape recorder for those moments.
How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?
It's often not me who does the choosing but rather the characters. The story with the loudest characters (as in their voices will taunt me in my sleep and throughout the day for weeks or months on end) are the ones who get their story written. It's a way to get them to shut up before going mad. Although all writers have a seed of madness in them.
I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?
When I had kitties, I'd snuggle with them as I wrote. Now I've got dogs instead, and they're good writing buddies too, except when they get restless of me not leaving the room, so they try to bark me back to reality. Pets aren't a distraction for me or my writing though, I get more distracted by people. Unlike most writers nowadays, I just can't seem to master the whole writing in coffee shops sorta thing. Probably because I need my cluttered notes scattered all over the bed, the TV playing some horror movie as background noise, and my cute pups resting their heads against my feet.