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What I Learned about Writing this Week…from Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson

That title might be slightly misleading.  Mr. Koontz’s and Mr. Anderson’s writing is, indeed, the foundation upon which this particular article rests.  But there are several additional authors whose works would make great building blocks for the ideas I’ll endeavor to convey to you today.

I’ll mention some of them later.  But Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein — Book One: Prodigal Son gets my spotlight for now, since this tale of mystery, science, and insanity is what made me want to start building this blog post in the first place.

To Sit — Perchance To Read…

If you’re a writer (and I assume you are, since you’re reading…a blog…about writing), you’ve more than likely heard this question: “Where do you get your ideas?”  As many writers as there are in the world, that’s as many answers as there are to this question, and more. 

I’ve talked to you before about one of my sources for inspiration.  And, my dear inklings, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that another of my idea-triggers is reading the writings of others.

Reading is a wonderful thing, and I believe that most literate people take it for granted.  We glance at something; we know what it says.  We don’t even have to think about it, unless it’s a word like “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” which the Oxford English Dictionary lists as the longest word in the English language.

Reading unlocks entire universes for our casual perusal or our in-depth examination.  Reading gives us the keys to doors marked Language and Culture — not to mention Power.  Reading lets us see into the minds and hearts of our fellows.  Reading feeds our souls.

And it does a lot more than that for us, but I don’t intend for this article to degenerate into propaganda for the lengthening of summer reading lists.  The point is that reading lets us intake the ideas of other human beings, and these ideas trigger new ideas in our own minds.  In this way, inspiration is self-perpetuating, passing from one human to the next.

Inspiration is a benign virus that invades imagination’s cells.  But instead of copying itself and replacing host DNA with its own, inspiration inserts an entirely new DNA called magic — thereby changing the host in wondrous ways and enabling the host to think up the most amazing concoctions of worlds and characters and landscapes.

This is how the ceilings of Sistine Chapels get painted.  This is how paradises get lost and regained.  This is how revolutions begin.  No wonder despots of history have tried to abolish books.  (Fahrenheit 451, anyone?)

Hosts, Monsters, and Lunatics

The inspiration virus is most contagious when one good author reads another; that’s when the bug bites hard.  When the carrier is Mary Shelley and the readers are Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson, the virus metamorphoses (’cause it does that, y’know) into a series entitled Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein.

Koontz, Anderson (of present-day Dune fame), and Frankenstein.  Just those names together are enough to make this reader go, “Oh yeah.”

Basically, and without spoilering the whole series for you, I summarize the premise thusly:  The Frankenstein legend is true.  Mary Shelley wrote about it, but she got a few things wrong.  Crazy Dr. Frankenstein is very much alive and well in modern-day New Orleans.  He’s at it again — or still at it, rather — creating man in his own image.  Sadly, crazy can be catching (kinda like inspiration, but more nefarious-like), so the good doctor’s creations all have a screw or ten loose.  Add a couple of serial killers and some homicide cops into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a story that Courtney puts into the UPDA category, yessireebob.

You can tell I’m loving this series, right?

Get Your Hands Dirty

Koontz and Anderson got themselves inspired — by an old tale that has been redone and rewritten and remade ad infinitum.  And guess what?  They’re not the only modern authors who are digging around in the root system, looking for long-buried treasure.  Seth Grahame-Smith has done it with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (the former of which I guffawed my way through, latter of which I greatly anticipate guffawing my way through ).

Steve Hockensmith has drawn upon both Austen and Grahame-Smith, penning Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  There’s a Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.  Huck Finn is…immortalized? dead-ized? in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim. And heavens to Betsy, there’s even an Android Karenina.  It would seem that no classic is safe from the twists of modern, humorous, and fantastical mashup.

And that, gentle readers, is exactly as it should be.  Inspiration does not belong to some elite, untouchable realm.  The joys of public domain belong to everyone.  Come one, come all!  Read the writings of our predecessors — and be a Frankenstein.  Re-write those stories in your own image.  Be lunatic about it.  Or, if re-writing classics isn’t to your creative tastes, let them plant other seeds in the oh-so-fertile soil of your imagination.  Something will grow.  You just gotta let it do its thing.  Y’know — germinate and whatnot.

Back to the other metaphor:  Let that inspiration virus spread, let the fever grip you…and when it finally breaks, you’ll have crafted something you thought would never exist.  I’m willing to bet on it.

Bring on the lightning.

And that’s WILAWriTWe!

(Click a link.  Lightning won’t strike your computer, I promise.  All you gotta do is buy something, and I’ll get a few pennies with which to pay Igor’s wages.)

Photo credit Julie V. Photography.

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