Inspiration is a funny thing. One of the things that I always get asked is, “How do you come up with your ideas?” It’s a weird question, because it’s both really easy and really hard to answer. The short answer is… pretty much everywhere. But that’s not exactly helpful. So, here’s what I can remember of the various things that contributed to my inspiration for Re-Coil (releases March 3rd).
Re-Coil is about… well, it’s about a lot of things. Corporate greed. The dangers of science run amok. Individual identity and what that means. What happens to society when people are, effectively, immortal. Oh, and how much it sucks to pay insurance premiums. Wrapped around all of those themes is a space-opera whodunnit with a nice little existential threat thrown in for good measure. So, where did all those ideas come from?
To begin at the beginning, the foundation for all my inspiration is reading. I read a lot. Mostly genre fiction, though not just sci-fi. I read a ton of fantasy, mystery, horror. Even some contemporary (or whatever they call the sort of “slice of life” stories these days). In fact, I think reading is probably the single best tool for learning how to write, to construct a story and develop characters. As for Re-Coil, I’ve always been a fan of cyberpunk, and Phillip K. Dick, Richard K. Morgan, William Gibson and others certainly inspired me. But the sort of “genre direct” books weren’t the only ones to fuel the inspiration for Re-Coil. L.E. Modesitt Jr. (who was kind enough to blurb my book!) has been one of my faves for a long, long time and injects his works with moral and ethical questions in a way that I wish I could do half as well. I could list dozens of authors who have had an impact on my “style” and whose works have made me want to write and, in some form or fashion, led to Re-Coil, but suffice it to say, reading the amazing worlds that others have built will always inspire me to write more.
In the same vein, I find inspiration in the various forms of digital entertainment, be they movies, video games, television shows, or (and it’s a big enough influence to deserve its own call out) anime. Good stories exist in all of those mediums, and good stories beget good stories. Hell, even bad stories can beget good stories. There are little hidden gems of awesome in just about every story, little things that stick with us. Those little awesome things are tiny nuggets of fuel for creativity and inspiration. To call out something specific with respect to Re-Coil, the Appleseed anime was certainly an influence as were the sweeping vistas presented in the Mass Effect games.
Finally, and moving outside the realm of other peoples’ work, there is the inspiration that comes from… well, not too sound too hoity toity, but from living. Every character, every setting, every action sequence or dramatic conflict, all of it has roots in the real world. People watching is an amazing tool for inspiration. Sometimes a walk in a crowded mall (okay, I hate the mall, so for me it’s a crowded beach, but you get the idea) can give you enough character inspiration to populate an entire world. There’s an old adage in writing – write what you know. I think when it comes to science fiction, that can be taken a little too seriously, but the kernel of the advice is sound. Experience drives inspiration, and the more things you go out and experience, the more likely you are to find a creative spark within.
Inspiration is all around us. For a parting bit of advice, when it does strike you, make sure you write it down. It doesn’t have to be much. Just a few words or bullet points. But if you get in the habit, you’ll find you’ve created a list or file or whatever filled with ideas. Next time you need a little outside inspiration to get started, you’ll have it at your fingertips.
If you want to see where all this inspiration led, go pick up Re-Coil (available March 3rd).
About J T Nicholas
J.T. Nicholas is the author of the neo-noire science fiction series, The New Lyons Sequence. The first novel in the New Lyons Sequence, SINthetic, will be available from Rebel Base Books in 2018.
J.T. was born in Lexington, Virginia, though within six months he moved (or was moved, rather) to Stuttgart, Germany. Thus began the long journey of the military brat, hopping from state to state and country to country until, at present, he has accumulated nearly thirty relocations. This experience taught him that, regardless of where one found oneself, people were largely the same.
When not writing, J.T. spends his time practicing a variety of martial arts, playing games (video, tabletop, and otherwise), and reading everything he can get his hands on.
J.T. currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife, a pair of indifferent cats, a neurotic Papillion, and an Australian Shepherd who (rightly) believes he is in charge of the day-to-day affairs.
by J.T. Nicholas
Titan Books (March 3, 2020)
The Expanse meets Altered Carbon in this breakneck science fiction thriller where immortality is theoretically achievable, yet identity, gender and selfhood are very much in jeopardy…
Carter Langston is murdered whilst salvaging a derelict vessel–a major inconvenience as he’s downloaded into a brand-new body on the space station where he backed up, several weeks’ journey away. But events quickly slip out of control when an assassin breaks into the medbay and tries to finish the job.
Death no longer holds sway over a humanity that has spread across the solar system: consciousness can be placed in a new body, or coil, straight after death, giving people the potential for immortality. Yet Carter’s backups–supposedly secure–have been damaged, his crew are missing, and everything points back to the derelict that should have been a simple salvage mission.
With enemies in hot pursuit, Carter tracks down his last crewmate–re-coiled after death into a body she cannot stand–to delve deeper into a mystery that threatens humanity and identity as they have come to know it.