“Where do you get your ideas from?”
It’s the classic question you nearly always get asked, as a writer, and there are always the classic answers to give back: something you’ve experienced, read about, observed; a place, a person, an overheard conversation, a newspaper report, a dream, an emotion, a picture, a fairy tale, a poem. These are my usual kinds of triggers, some happened on by chance, others more deliberately sought. But there are other kinds of triggers: objects, things that by their very presence seem to fire off the story-nerve. And they can be the most exciting triggers of all. That’s certainly been the case for me very recently.
I’m back in Europe at the moment and the other week, in London, on my way to the British Museum, I took a wrong (or right!) turn and came across an antique shop. In the window were trays of old coins, small figures, and old jewelry—very old jewelry, for as soon became clear, this was a shop specialising in objects from the ancient world, in particular Greece, Rome and Egypt. Some of the things were very expensive indeed, but a few were in the affordable range, so on a whim, I decided to go in and have a closer look. And there was the ring.
It is an Ancient Roman bronze ring, small and fairly plain, except for one unexpected feature, for it features a built-in key shank. Once, sometime in the 1st–3rd century AD, a Roman wore it on his or her (most likely her, given the size) finger, making sure it wasn’t lost. As soon as I saw that ring, I got a tingle, a prickle of story-nerve, and instantly a host of questions came to my mind. Questions, but also the beginnings of answers. [Read more…]