Dawn Montgomery

Inspiration is like a giant slap in the face

In #amwriting on February 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

During my preteens I inhaled books. Since I moved around all the time, books were familiar when everything else was different. I remember the adventures with a small smile. Some came with me (Anne McCaffrey, anyone?). Some I never wanted to read again, but I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

One book stuck with me through the years. I can’t recall the title or the characters’ names, but I do remember a series of events involving a life-altering decision. The character was inspired by a “gently waking dream”, and knew the perfect answer to some complex problem. From that moment on, this character knew in his head and heart that his path was the right one.

He went on to make some illogical choices using this dream as justification. Every time someone tried to convince him to take a less difficult path, he would gently put them off, letting them know he was making the right choice for him. I remember reading the book and thinking…what a load of crap. He had his blinders on, and wouldn’t be deterred from his course of action. Too many times I’d watched families fall apart in real life by that sort of rigid thinking. By the belief that their path is the righteous one.

No gently waking dream would ever give me that kind of passion, drive, or dedication.

A giant slap in the face, on the other hand, might.

I was floundering this week. Really feeling the downs after making the decision to write full-time. For many different reasons, March is going to be a difficult one in the Montgomery household. None of them are important to this post except to say sometimes real life is a pressure cooker of stress. 🙂

That book from my youth has come to mind several times throughout the week. Did I make an idiotic decision to write full-time? Am I selfishly sacrificing all common sense for this dream?

Then something magical happened. Kim Knox wrote an incredible post about the outside influences of our writing. She says:

I should be a painter. I’m a writer. And what I should’ve been, does influence how I write.

She was inspired by a post from Brian Bushwood where he shows us the letter that inspired him to be fantastic! This particular piece of his letter from Teller (of Penn and Teller fame!) caught my attention.

Love something besides magic, in the arts. Get inspired by a particular poet, film-maker, sculptor, composer. You will never be the first Brian Allen Brushwood of magic if you want to be Penn & Teller. But if you want to be, say, the Salvador Dali of magic, we’ll THERE’S an opening.

I should be a film editor. I’m a magician. And if I’m good, it’s because I should be a film editor. Bach should have written opera or plays. But instead, he worked in eighteenth-century counterpoint. That’s why his counterpoints have so much more point than other contrapuntalists. They have passion and plot. Shakespeare, on the other hand, should have been a musician, writing counterpoint. That’s why his plays stand out from the others through their plot and music.

Click on Brian’s name to see the full correspondence. His post resonated with me. Kim Knox hit it on the head when she explored what makes her writing so unique. Her detailed worlds and bold, sexually charged characters are full of vibrant color and broad strokes of energy. It also explains why she can leave one world and create another so that every book is unique. It is rare for painters to create a series. Once a painting is done, it is finished, and the artist moves on to the next amazing delivery.

So now it’s my turn. I have always been fascinated with the stage. I remember reading in kindergarten. There was a book that had all the characters in a play. We each had parts to read, and our teacher mentioned how our tone could show an emotion. She used a particular line as an example. I watched her go through five emotions with one word, and something inside me clicked. I was hooked on the idea that meanings could be changed by the way the speaker interpreted the line.

While some girls wrote in journals and played with dolls during summer break, I created home productions of my favorite cartoons (teenage mutant ninja turtles…come on, April was a ginger! How could I not?). I would haul all the cousins and siblings into the back room and dress us all up (paper plates became turtle masks, panty hose covered the faces of the evil foot clan reps). We made a fake TV with one of our moving boxes, and I’d start the play with a quick news report on the catastrophe surrounding the mutants. Of course the cousins would attack each other with abandon. The turtles would win (of course), and the faithful reporter would cover the story to the end. Narrating was so fun. The family would laugh at our antics, and I always loved the way everyone smiled afterward.

My mother has recordings of terrible radio shows my brothers and I created, and scripts I’d written when I was six or seven. They were horrible copies of care bear movies. As I grew, intricate plays became my obsession. I inhaled psychological thrillers by Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby, Sliver, Patriot Games). One particular fascinated me. Veronica’s Room…where a family invites a girl into their home to convince her that she’s their long dead daughter. So they can kill her again. And again. Of Mice and Men, where innocence is punished. Equus. How an obsession can slowly tear a man apart until he doesn’t know what’s right or wrong anymore. I was fascinated with makeup and costume, and how the line between horror and comedy can be so slim. I was a Fangoria subscriber, and devoured articles from Hollywood’s greatest horror masters.

My books are movies in my head. I can see the atmosphere, taste the wind, feel the cold. Its an immersion that I developed as an amateur stage actress. No award or ovation could replace the feeling of a nailed performance. The character was everything I’d wanted. I’d created the world well enough for you to follow me to the end.

When I write a book, I want you to feel a character’s pain, know the gnawing hunger, the chills down your spine. I want every crack of thunder in the book to make your heart jump just a bit. When the characters laugh, I want you to smile with them. I want you to feel the world the way I see it in my mind.

Confession time.

I should be a director. I’m a writer. If I’m any good at bringing you into my world, it’s because of that fact.

Thanks Kim, for putting me back on the road again. My challenge to you is this…where do you draw your inspiration?

Keep Writing!


  1. Brilliant post, Dawn.
    I’m so glad Teller’s email resonated with you too 😀

  2. […] of ever for either one of us. Wow, right? So I could focus again, and then Kim Knox did this AMAZING post this week that just snapped me out of the fugue. Yesterday I realized I can’t sit in one […]

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