For all writers, I would imagine, there are certain things that get them inspired and ready to write. For some it is the routine, for others a favourite chair. When it comes to inspiration, some spend time talking to people, watching and waiting for those crucial interactions that allow the writer to create. For me, and for many, it is a place. An image. A landscape.
There are so many places I have been that have conjured pages in my head, have fit a character I have been dreaming about and given them flesh and bones. I see the world in pictures and snap shots and the feeling provoked by these places are transmitted into the people interacting in my book. Obviously, personal experience is used to fuel their true potential, but it is the place I see them that makes the spark.
My greatest inspiration, the place that still tugs on the heart strings, is a small turret on the West Pennine Moors, Rivington Pike. Our little town/village where I grew up is nestled not too far from here, and whenever I see those hills – or even think of them – I know that I am home.
There is one big bend on the M6, close to Warrington, that on a clear day I long for. On those hideous drives home from Birmingham, this bend makes all the traffic jams and congestion worth it; because I know, as we swing around the corner, I am faced with this glorious image, I can see my home. And even though I have not really lived there in almost 10 years (wow! really?!) no matter what mood I am in, seeing these foothills takes my breath away and makes me smile. There then follows the usual argument between myself and Steve as I breathlessly sigh, “My Hill!” He then protests and exclaims that it could not possibly be my hill, I do not own it, I don’t live on it, it has nothing to do with me what so ever! I don’t care. It is MY hill and always will be.
For some it might look bleak, but for me it is truly beautiful. It will always, without fail, make me think of my family first and foremost. Predominantly my Grandma Gill. I don’t know if this is a recent thing due to her sadly passing away a few months ago, or because you get THE best view of this hill from her farm. But it also makes me think of my Mum, my brother, my Dad and the dogs we grew up with: Walking through the woods, throwing sticks and balls into the reservoirs, ‘conkering’ in an empty field by a babbling stream, the fallen tree we would traverse to get across that stream, sun shining, rain pouring, wind whipping – every memory a breath of fresh air and as invigorating as standing on at the pike itself.
But for the writer in me, it is not only these memories that inspire (the conker field with the stream features predominantly in my first 9-12 fiction), but the architecture of the place. Whether the above beacon was actually ever lit, I don’t know, but I like to imagine it was. From here you can see the coast (depending on the amount of cloud cover!) and when the sun shines a thin shimmering line outlines the edge of the land. Southport is easily seen, some days Blackpool Tower and ‘The Big One’, and if you are lucky, to your left you see the Welsh Mountains. Mesmerising. This beacon had the potential to be a forceful communication tool, signalling to all around threats and celebrations of the land. Tall masted ships could have been alerted, warring Royalists warned, storming Normans lighting the way.
But it also wakes something Gothic in me. Something Bronte-esque. The wild desolate moors reaching out to Winter Hill and beyond, broken by the old stone images that cast the mind far back to different times. The walk up to Rivington Pike can take different routes, but my absolute favourite is through the Japanese Gardens, a most magical and fairytale route that takes you through ornate walkways and staircases, hidden passages and secret glades of azaleas. You can visibly see the nymphs, sprites and fairies dancing around, making their mischief before you ascend to the dominating Pigeon Tower. Here the Victorian Gothic kicks in, from out of the happy naive storyland, you encounter a much more adult and much more frightening landscape – particularly on a day when storms threaten. Heathcliff’s Cathy is alive here to me. I can see her charging around wild eyed with big black curls. Yes I know it is not Bronte Country, but it matters not. Here, the characters from my favourite novel, live!
I could happily write for hours on this place, describing everything in minute detail; the tithe barn from 1215, the abandoned Norman Castle on the water’s edge, my favourite view from the top, the detail in the landscape, the adventures we had. But I think I shall save those for myself. My memory is rich, saturated with ideas and inspiration from this place. This is a mere snapshot that I wanted to share.
So if you ever see me stuck in thought, struggling for inspiration, trying to locate that word on the end of my tongue, its a sure fire guarantee that my mind has wandered away, wandered to this place, wandered back home.