Looking for inspiration, in some unusual places

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Monuments Men Book Cover

Now that I am done with all the work for my masters degree, I find I have a lot more spare time, and so far it has not been used very effectively towards writing, which is what I had originally planned. I’m going to credit my lack of productivity to a much needed mental repreive from the last year and a half of grad school (it was an accelerated program with practically no breaks between classes, so I deserve it right?). I have created a rough outline for the major events I want to take place in my book though, so thats better than nothing don’t you think? And I peruse my ‘How to Write a Book’ books regularly, I just need to let all the ideas that are coming to me from reading those books to marinate, and I’ve realized that I need to develop aspects of my characters and whatnot before I really start writing, so its not like I’m jut sitting on the couch eating bon-bons all day and watching Netflix (though there is a little bit of that happening too). Anyway, I have been reading a lot lately, and a lot of different things at that.

Right now I am reading The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel and One More Thing by B. J. Novak. I’ve always been interested in WWII history (That’s probably why I have two degrees in History . . .) and the movie “The Monuments Men” was fantastic! While I was getting my degree though I steered away from reading my usual genres of historical fiction and non-fiction, because that’s what I was reading all day for school and I wanted something completely different for pleasure reading (cue dystopian frenzy), but now that I am free of grad school assignments I am finding myself drawn back to those kinds of reads, so what better way to start than with TMM, and to add some color and breaks from historical material (which even though is very well written and interesting, it’s still something that takes brain power to read, so every once in a while you need a break and something a bit less serious) I have taken up Novak’s book of short stories, after hearing him on an NPR interview I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s different from what I expected, but I am glad I went for it.

As to the inspiration I discussed, TMM is my main source of inspiration right now, and thats because of the idea that got me thinking “Hey, I can write a book!” So far my ideas are all historically based (surprise, surprise), but I don’t want to write a historical fiction, I want to examine history from a macro point of view. Major themes like what caused people to abandon basic morality, how social hierarchies were established and instilled for centuries based on things like physical traits, etc. And I want to do this in a way that will appeal to the younger crowd, because I find that there is a growing disconnect between modern culture and historical interest (which, being a historian doesn’t make any sense to me, history repeats itself! And don’t even get me started on the horror that is the Walter White debacle – he was a major figure of the NACCP in the post war era, but now a google search will only bring up Breaking Bad references – my husband has heard many tirades from me about this).

The main idea I am addressing in my book idea is what causes groups of people, communities, and countries to follow the ideas of select individuals; and reflecting on Nazi Germany, following people with such horrific ideas like Hitler. Furthermore, the idea of the Furhermuseum, which composited selected cultural masterpieces got me thinking what benefit would that have? By only exhibiting specific aspects of certain cultures, only one message and interpretation is being displayed, providing another layer of cultural control. The premise of my book idea is that after the downfall of the U.S., the reconstructed government and its dictator consolidate aspects of the past U.S. (focussing only on the worst parts of our history) into a museum to emphasize how much “better off” their citizens are with their limited choices and whatnot. TMM I’m hoping will give me some additional perspective on this idea of selective cultural remembrance, and insight into the hope and beliefs of those few people who risked their lives trying to recover those artifacts that were stolen. I’m impressed so far with the research, writing technique, and personal traits of the “main characters,” if you have any interest in history and WWII I would definitely pick this up, the author has also written a book that specifically focuses on efforts in Italy by the MonumentsMen.

For Novak’s book, I’ve only read two of the two short stories, it’s not what I expected, and I’m not sure if thats a good thing or not. I will have to hold off my overall reaction of the book until I’m done and point out my favorite stories.

Where do you look for inspiration outside of your chosen genre?

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