As a young writer, I often ran up against the simple problem of lacking life experience. So many of the stories we tell as humans flow out of the experiences we have in this world--or the level of experience. The older I get, the more I understand things like fatherhood, love, faithfulness, depravity, loss, disillusionment, etcetera, and the more my stories are enriched.
I like writing stories with depth... I consider myself like a miner digging in the earth, uncovering raw, uncut gems and bringing them into the light. I try to mix "heart-pounding" stories with "thought-provoking," fiction. That is my goal at least :)
So what inspires me beyond mere life experience?
Fiction authors like Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, John Steinbeck, Michael Crichton, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, C.S. Lewis, Cordwainer Smith, Walter M. Miller Jr., Lars Walker, and C.J. Cherryh.
I read a lot of Hugo and Nebula Award winning short stories and novellas in college from writers like John Varley, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. LeGuin, etcetera. I believe part of my writing style is inspired by thought-provoking stories from literary masters. But then another part of my style stems from the wild thrill rides of authors like Michael Crichton. I love a story that engages the mind, the heart, AND the adrenal gland :D
Here's the image I've had on my desktop for the last eight months. I LOVE this image. It sets the right ambiance for my day of writing.
Some may find this odd, but I'm deeply inspired by theology and philosophical questions surrounding human purpose, pain and suffering, and God. Too often, I'll be at a church service and hear something insightful spoken and BAM, my mind flies off into weaving that insight into a character flaw or a story theme.
The same goes for spiritual music and hymns--they light up my synapses!
There are also lots of "little inspirations" that make their way into my stories. Names of old friends, personalities of people I know, or even places I've lived can inspire me. For instance--the Blue Mountain Realm found in my Song of the Worlds books is inspired by the mountain I lived under as a child. "Blue Mountain." The intriguing name always stuck with me. Funny thing is, the real Blue Mountain barely qualifies as a mountain... it's really small, and it is also NOT blue. There are LOTS of little things like that which inspire me :)
4) Nothing inspires me more than the thoughts I wrestle with in my head. These usually revolve around a single concept such as faithfulness, or courage, or finding hope in suffering.
Not all of my stories are heavy.... I DO write some funny, lighter stuff. Like Rogue Mage. But you can be sure I'll add some of my trademark introspective "heavy" stuff in there to give it some gravitas. I think my sense of humor tends to be over-the-top silly. Movies like Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, Dumb and Dumber, Airplane, This is Spinal Tap, and literally any Leslie Nielson movie encapsulate the type of humor I like. Or if you've ever read Gary Larson's The Far Side comics... those are amazing :)