First Draft Report: Good Reading = Good Writing
The best writing advice I’ve ever received is: “Good writers are good readers.” Some of my greatest ideas come from reading other people’s books. The Invention of Sophie Carter was inspired, in part, by Amber Lough’s The Fire Wish.
You might be thinking, what does a fantasy book about djinns have to do with Victorian England?
What I loved about Lough’s story is that it was written in dual point of view. One narrator is a reluctant princess and the other is a djinn girl that the princess catches and wishes on—forcing them to trade places.
I borrowed the structure of Lough’s book by having Sophie and Mariah Carter alternate narrating chapters. Instead of pretending to be each other, the sisters are masquerading as one person. Complications arise because of their different personalities and pursuits. They each meet a wonderful young man, but both suitors think they’re in love with the same person.
Mariah and Sophie may have been inspired by The Fire Wish, but they were the accumulation of years of reading, studying, and living. When I was an undergraduate in college, I learned about the Pre-Raphaelite movement and I had two large prints of John William Waterhouse’s paintings hanging on my bedroom wall. During my coursework, we extensively studied John Ruskin the prolific writer and art critic who makes a cameo in the story. These experiences helped me create the character Mariah.
Sophie’s obsession with clocks and all things mechanical drives her desire to invent her own future. From the very first draft, she was a strong, sassy character who never did what she was told to do.
Even though both sisters were inspired by my personal experiences, the more I wrote about them the more they each took on their own personality.
I would reiterate the same advice that I was given: If you want to be a writer, read as many books as you can in the genre that you write in. But take it a step farther: Dissect what you liked about each book and what you didn’t like about it. And possibly be inspired to invent your own story from the structure, setting, characters, themes, and worlds of another writer.