The Phoenix Project is a story that is very close to my heart. I had the original idea in 2002 and it has slowly grown with the input of a variety of influences and inspiration.
Inspiration #1: Raven Kennedy:
Raven began as the villain, Vincent, in my first novel “Dead End” (an idea which never came to fruition). The plot didn’t work, but I adored his character so I kept him and developed him as the antagonist in the fantasy world of ‘The Light and Shadow Chronicles’ (You may have met him in A Chronicle of Chaos or The Shield of Soren).
I loved the character so much that I took the idea of him and developed it in another direction—into the dark and depressed Raven in my next novel, The Phoenix Project.
Having worked with Raven for so long, I am very emotionally attached to him. Even though he is fictional, I feel that he is a part of my heart and soul. Hence this tattoo:
Raven also features as a major character in The Light and Shadow Chronicles. I don’t think I will ever write a book that doesn’t have Raven in it in some way. He is my muse and my access to my creativity.
Inspiration #2: The decline of religion:
Religion plays an important role in my life, which is unusual, as I am agnostic. In my opinion, faith is beautiful and special. Sadly, I am not lucky enough to have it myself, but I don’t understand why people blame religion for ALL of the world’s problems. I wanted to portray a world which was clearly worse for the decline of religion in an attempt to show the benefits of faith.
Inspiration #3: Salverford prison:
I travelled a lot whilst I was writing The Phoenix Project and many of the places that I visited helped to fuel my imagination and give depth to my work. On a trip to Rome, I visited the Colosseum and was inspired by the ancient building. The exhibits on gladiators gave me a deeper understanding of the life of a person forced to fight to the death. I was able to pick out certain details and use them in The Phoenix Project – such as the type of food gladiators were given to eat.
On my travels I also spent some time in Krakow, Poland, and visited Aushwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. I’ll never forget the horror of the place, particularly Block 11, the torture and incarceration block. The long, thin cell which Raven passes in the Ruby Tower dungeons comes directly from a cell I saw at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The descriptions of smoke billowing from small chimneys also come from things I saw at Auschwitz.
The place which gave me the most inspiration for Salverford, especially the underground cellars of Ruby Tower and the dark room, was the Terror Haza Museum in Budapest. This museum is the old offices of the Soviet Union Stasi and, later, The Nazi party’s Gestapo. Underneath the building, in the cold, dark cellars, is a grim and depressing dungeon of tiny, damp cells and a crushing sense of futility. I crept inside one of the waist-high cells and sat in pitch darkness and felt despair crowding in on me. This is where the ‘dark room’ was born.
Inspiration #4: The Colosseum:
The city of Rome is very important to me. I’ve visited three times and have loved it more every time! Setting the finale in Rome fitted in well with the religion theme and gave the novel a focus, but I also enjoyed writing about a place I loved so dearly. The Colosseum was a great place for Raven to end up as an ironic safe place.
As I was coming close to finishing ‘The Phoenix Project’, I was preparing myself to write the epilogue about Rome. My incredibly thoughtful husband surprised and delighted me by treating me to a holiday in Rome for Valentine’s day in 2010. It meant that I was able to write that final chapter in Rome itself.
Now you’ve read about my inspiration, tell me – what inspired you to write?