by Larisa Walk
People often ask writers about the sources of our inspiration. It is not an easy question to answer, because the ideas often come from many sources: dreams, something heard on the news, nature, another writer's book or story that triggers an A-ha moment, a conversation overheard while having a cup of jasmine tea at a tea house, mythology, or seemingly out of nowhere at all. That latter one is a gift, especially when the story comes to you from its beginning to its end, all but wrapped in shiny paper with a pattern of peach-colored roses and a matching bow.
I can identify my two of the most frequent sources of inspiration: Russian history and mythology. They inspire me not only because I was born and raised in Russia, but because there is so much conflict and mystery in them. And to me conflict and mystery are what makes a satisfying story.
Take the fact that Russia lived under the Mongol domination for 200 years. Immediately questions rise up like bubbles in a boiling pot of water: How did those people survive? What was their life like? Was there a resistance movement? Was there nothing but hatred toward the oppressors or were there stories of love between the Mongols and the Russians? After five years of research of both English and Russian sources, I wrote a novel that answers those questions: A Handful of Earth.
Then there is the Russian fairyland where each character has a dominion over a certain part of people's lives. The domovoi keeps an eye on the house; the dvorovoi rules over the yard and cares for the animals that live there; and the bannik looks after the bath house. This, of course, brings more questions, more mystery, and more inspiration. From here the writer's imagination takes over, and the crafting of a story begins.