As a writer, I am often asked about inspiration, especially upon the publication of a book.
What inspires me? Where do I find it? How does it manifest?
I always try and give an honest answer, and one, that as Doctor Henry Kissinger said of a selling argument, has the added advantage of being true.
The fact is I don’t know what inspires me. There is no formula, no secret fount, no Holy Grail hidden away in a cave across the canyons and mountains of the Levantine desert, one that requires an Indiana Jones-style quest.
Inspiration is elusive, ephemeral and quite naughty, a menace almost when it teases you and suddenly disappears. Sadly, it can’t be bottled or bought. It comes and goes as it pleases and takes many different forms. It could show up in a painting, a phrase, a face, an expression, a person, an image, a word, it can be anything that means something to you, allowing your imagination to soar.
And when it does show up, it can be magical. For a writer, there is nothing quite like letting your creative juices flow, your fingers playing a beautiful melody on the screen in front of you filling it with words that make perfect sense.
With inspiration driving it, carrying it along on a tidal wave, the creative process is exhilarating.
I have just published a new book, a caper, a whodunnit titled, “A Suitable Necklace,” based in Delhi. Why a whodunnit? I don’t actually know. I didn’t decide to write a whodunnit, it just happened.
What inspired it? One was jewels…the great big, blingy jewels worn by the Indian Maharajahs that take the art of self-adornment to a stratospheric level. And the second was Mrs. Emma Peel.
Mrs. Emma Peel was part pussycat and part tigress. She was beautiful, smart, chic, fashionable and everything in between. She had big innocent, cat eyes, a mischievious smile and a mane of thick dark hair that billowed around her like a curtain of silk and she wore leather, a combination of shiny patent and soft matte, from top to bottom that made her one helluva hot cat-burglar. And her karate and fighting skills were beyond impressive.
She was strong, tough, independent, spoke her mind and didn’t play second fiddle to anyone. She and her partner, Mr. John Steed, were just that: partners. She smoked, she drank, did as she pleased and lived life on her terms, answering to no one, justifying her actions to no one.
So? Who was this woman? Well…she was an ideal, a character in a television show in the 60’s called The Avengers, and she was played by none other than the great Diana Rigg.
And as I looked at all these jewels, I wondered if any of them had ever been stolen…and of course they had. In fact, the great ceremonial necklace of the Maharajah of Patiala disappeared in 1947, never to be seen again for 50 years when part of the necklace was found in a second-hand jewelry shop in London by a Cartier sleuth named Eric Nussbaum, who had made it his life’s work to find the necklace.
As I began to imagine the theft of the necklace, I saw a woman much like Mrs. Emma Peel and I saw her in Delhi.
And that is how the character of Sabine Kumar came about.
Sabine is all woman: she is beautiful, exotic, sexy, intelligent and knows who she is. There is a vulnerable side to her though and that comes from having been hurt by love, betrayed by a man, something I think everyone can relate to.
I thought about whether a woman like Sabine would exist in modern-day India and the answer is a resounding yes. India today strives to strike a balance between the modern and the traditional and Indian women have come a very long way from their perceived subservience.
And there you have it.
Don’t give up on inspiration…it always shows up.