Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Seth Skorkowsky.

Seth Skorkowsky is the author of the Valducan urban fantasy series (Dämoren and Hounacier) and the Black Raven fantasy series (Mountain of Daggers and Sea of Quills).

Click here to visit the author's official website.

GUEST POST: Drawing Inspiration by Seth Skorkowsky

While editing SEA OF QUILLS, I had found myself regularly distracted by many of the details and story elements. Not because there was anything wrong with them, but because I was recalling the various things that had inspired me writing them in the first place.

One of the first questions authors are asked in interviews or reader engagements is, “Where do get your ideas?”

Sometimes the question is merely asking what inspires that particular author’s creative juices. It’s a fair question. Every author finds their muse in different ways. Other times, the question is more along the lines of, “Where do I need to go to get ideas like you do?” as if the author might pull up Google Maps and point. “Here.  Go here. Tell the guy at the back door that I sent you and they’ll hook you up with some sweet, sweet plots.”

Obviously there’s no author speakeasy where you can score some bootleg creative juice.

Except there is.

So break out your pencils and let me tell you where I go when I’m thirsty for some fresh ideas.

I get out of the house.

Yes, I’m totally serious.

What distracted me so much while reading the Black Raven’s adventures was the real-world origins of the things in the stories, and none of those origins come from things that I can find inside my home. Sometimes those inspirations are small, nearly insignificant details, such as the angle of a roof, or a statue in a park. There’s a building that I pass every day on my commute that has worked its way into two separate stories in completely different ways.  However, the biggest wellspring of ideas comes from completely leaving your regular life entirely and taking a vacation. Once you’re immersed in a new place, you pay attention to the little details that you might skip past in your everyday life.

Some years ago my wife and I went on a sailing trip through the Caribbean.  There, I learned that I don’t like sailing. However, watching the ocean surf pound a rocky cliff gave me the idea for Washed Ashore. A small island that used to be known for its wild goat population inspired the setting for Treasure of Bogen Helm.

A tour of a Venetian prison and museum gave me The Raven’s Cage as well as elements in five other Black Raven adventures. A lone tower standing in the middle of a Florence street gave me a setting for City Beneath the Kaisers, and an important statue in my story The Noble Hunter is a hybrid of two different statues I saw while in Italy.

Now, of course not everyone can up and go on vacation or visit a good museum, so I’ll give you the second best place I get my ideas.


A special I once watched on bootlegging brought the Seattle Underground to my attention. With a little research and creative molding, I had a setting used for both City Beneath the Kaisers and The Noble Hunter.  A documentary about cephalopods inspired a creepy little monster in Treasure of Bogen Helm.

Documentary films take us out of our everyday world and introduce us to things we’ve never seen or never could see. And unlike movies or TV shows where exotic locations and events serve a backdrop for a drama, documentaries focus on the backdrops themselves. They give you a fresh pallet to paint a new story.

So now that I’ve shared where I like to go to get my dose of creative juice, I’m going to share what to do with it.  Don’t drink it straight.  Make cocktails.

You might have noticed that some stories are mentioned more than once. That’s because most stories don’t come from one single place and mixing and matching ideas or interesting experiences gives the story more depth. Sometimes that thought, “Oh my God, I’m totally going to use that in a story,” is for something no greater than the way a door knob might appear. Most reader might just skim past that description, but every time I read it, I notice that doorknob and remember what made me write it that particular way.

So there you have it. Inspiration comes from all around us. All you have to do is look.

However, if you do hear of an actual author speakeasy, let me know where to find it.

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