The wonders of real life writing inspirations and how they created the foundation for Lord of the Rings and potentially embellished Pride and Prejudice

Harriette Wilson's Memoirs

Harriette Wilson’s Memoirs

I am one of those happy authors who hasn’t yet suffered from writers’ block (she says bravely hoping this doesn’t jinx it). I have a reputation for being prolific and all the time I’m writing there’s a backlog of a dozen other stories merrily scribbling themselves down in my head; so one of the questions people often ask is where do you get your inspirations?

If you’ve read my historical blog you’ll know the answer because I share all the true Regency and other Historical period letters and memoirs I read on there, and people’s real lives, written in their voice, two hundred or more years ago, for me, is the greatest source of inspiration for my fictional historical characters who feature in my Marlow Intrigues Series. The first conception of the series began while reading the memoirs of an 18th century courtesan which led into The Illicit Love of a Courtesan.

In the modern day setting there’s now this huge treasure trove on the world-wide-web of bloggers recording the funny, moving and bizarre, and You Tube videos, and Instagram images; there’s so much that authors can tap into to generate ideas. I obtained inspiration for a scene in my first contemporary story, I Found You, by reading a travel blog that described the environment on Manhattan Bridge in New York and mentioned the fact that the only people you really saw on the path were joggers, because of the noise from the subway trains.

What I love most, though, is discovering how real events and people inspired classic stories, it gives me a sense of kinship with the authors… to know authors think alike…

As well as reading letters and memoirs I visit historical houses and settings to inspire me and it was on a visit to The Vyne near Reading in England that I discovered a potential source of inspiration for The Hobbit…

IMG_6019A 4th century, Roman, gold ring, inscribed with Latin, was found in 1785 in a field near Silchester and taken to The Vyne. The owner of the ring in 1929 is said to have consulted with Tolkien on its origin when JRR Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford University. Another little factor in the tale of inspiration is that Tolkien frequently visited an excavated ancient temple to the god Nodens nearby where an inscribed tablet was discovered that had been left as a gift to the gods asking for the return of a “precious” ring and cursing the man who had stolen it. The question is did the Lord of the Rings series spin-out from this discovery? Tolkien never said it did, but the likelihood is definitely there…

Stoneleigh AbbeyOn a visit to another historical property I also discovered some of Jane Austen’s inspirations. She visited Stoneleigh Abbey, her mother’s ancestral home, in 1806 and the house made such an impression on her that she describes its rooms in Mansfeild Park. The red cushions peeping over the top of the balcony in the chapel cannot be missed. But also when Jane, her mother and her sister, arrived there in a mad dash with her mother’s cousin, so he might claim the inheritance of the house, they were immediately pursued by another family member and his mother-in-law, who wished him to inherit. We cannot know if Jane Austen used Lady Saye and Sele as inspiration for Pride and Prejudice’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh but however we do know that Jane described her in a similar way, because her mother records Jane’s reaction in a letter, ‘Poor Lady Saye and Sele, to be sure, is rather tormenting, though sometimes amusing, and affords Jane many a good laugh, but she fatigues me sadly on the whole.’ Conveniently enough there was a little wilderness walk near the house. Pride and prejudice was already in draft in Jane’s travelling trunk at the time. Could it have been embellished on meeting Lady Saye and Sele? Certainly elements of the local village made it into Pride and Prejudice. So perhaps so did Lady Saye and Sele’s visit, and a walk in the little wilderness garden.


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