Katherine Applegate told us that the inspiration for a lot of her books comes from the news, “There was a Muslim family that had moved into a small town in the United States, and somebody had put a note on their door that said, Go away. We don’t want you here. It was outrageous…we were othering entire groups of people, no one was listening to each other. The unkindness was rampant.” This incident gave birth to her best-selling novel Wishtree.
Katherine thinks the best way to get inspired is to ask yourself what makes you angry. She is drawn to topics that infuriate and confuse her. She rarely knows what she’ll do with it, but as she challenges herself to write a story she says she is able to parse out some semblance of sense and find elements of hope.
For National Book Award winner Polly Horvath it is the nitty gritty choices that people, especially children, make in difficult circumstances that make stories interesting enough to be written. It is not war itself but what individuals do when war strikes—questions such as how do they get out, what do they do if they have a dog—that make stories interesting enough to be written. She uses the specifics to get to the bigger picture.
To a young reader who wanted to know what inspires her to write a book Polly candidly replied that she never knows. She said that she sits down to write with absolutely nothing and hopes that the story will come to her. Polly recounted how she began writing The Canning Season with a plan, only to fall asleep at her computer everyday! She soon realised that there was no book waiting to be written, “there was no little core of energy that was trying to be worked out through the writing.” She started writing afresh and considers the ensuing book her best work.
Meanwhile, cartoonist and writer Rohan Chakravarty said he finds the most fascinating stories during journeys of self-exploration. He recalled visiting the Vazhachal Falls of Kerala and hearing duck-like quacks from its crevices. The self-described clumsy climber began to explore and came upon a frog guarding a cluster of eggs. The mystery of the quacking frog was unravelled after further research and it ended up being one of the many mysteries that are puzzled out by a detective-mongoose in his book Naturalist Ruddy.
Sometimes inspiration lands on the author’s table, sometimes they have to go looking for it in newspapers and the crevices of waterfalls. The world is their muse and whatever the source of inspiration, the best stories have always reached our bookshelves.