In chatting with other authors, I’ve found that the most common question a writer is asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” The most common answer? Anywhere and everywhere. We get them from history and current events, from the books we read, movies we watch, and music we listen to. We get them while traveling, exercising, or taking a shower. More often than not, a new idea is simply cobbled together from bits and pieces of those that have come before, as it has been since… oh, about the time mankind began scratching figures onto the walls of their caves.
Speaking of paintings, several of my ideas have come about after seeing a piece of artwork. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? A singular, still image can instantly awaken my sense of curiosity, causing me to wonder about the story behind it. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way, else cover art wouldn’t be so darn important to the selling of books. In any case, I thought it might be fun to share some of the images that inspired specific scenes or settings found in the “Asahiel” books.
The Crimson Sword
Anyone remember this? The second installment of the immensely popular Zelda video game series from Nintendo shipped with this cover image: a sword with an intricately carved silver hilt studded with large, central rubies and smaller, flanking emeralds. Give it a red blade filled with flames, and you have the talisman I long envisioned as the Sword of Asahiel.
In early, early drafts of The Crimson Sword, the Demon Queen was actually the Spider Queen, inspired by this drawing. After R. A. Salvatore and others popularized the term “Spider Queen” in the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons & Dragons, I opted to change the name. But the basic idea of a creature slumbering in a cocoon of suspended webbing remained the same. Obviously, most of the other elements seen here were stripped away. The skulls, the tree of faces, the tusks, and the giant eye all went bye-bye. But that’s usually how it works. We see something that triggers an idea, and we “borrow” that element for our very own, molding it in whatever fashion fits our liking.
If you take away the antlers, buzzsaw tool, and background, you’re left with a pretty fearsome-looking beastie with corded flesh akin to petrified beef jerky. Make this a creature who doesn’t bleed, and give it the nastiest temperament one could imagine, and you have the Demon Queen’s prized pet, Raxxth.
While bands like Suffocation and Obituary might be a bit obscure for mainstream music fans, a good many of you are probably familiar with Iron Maiden and this rendition of their mascot, “Eddie.” This was the inspiration for the “gnats” bred by the witch Necanicum in The Obsidian Key. Anyone who has read the book should immediately recognize the correlation.