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SPOTLIGHT: Cassanda Golds and her creative infleunces

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cassandra Golds is the author of the haunting and heart-rending novel Pureheart which I reviewed earlier this week, calling it simply extraordinary. I am very happy to elcoem her to the blog today to talk about her creative inspirations: 

I want to tell you about something that fascinates me. 

Influences. Creative influences, that is.

When I love a book, or a film, or a piece of music, I just adore finding out who its parents were. You what I mean? For example, I love The Beatles, and I’m fascinated by the fact that their music grew out of, not only Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and rockabilly and The Everly Brothers and early Motown and goodness knows what else from the whole tradition of rhythm and blues in America, but also ragtime and vaudeville and British radio comedy like The Goon Show. 

I love the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I’m entranced by how much it seems to be modeled on an earlier novel its author loved, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and for that matter how similar it is to my favourite fairytale, Hans Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”. 

Nothing could be more original than The Beatles, or The Great Gatsby. And all of my favourite books and films and pieces of music are original in their own way. Nobody wrote novels like those of Charles Dickens, or the Bronte sisters, before Charles and Emily and Charlotte and Anne wrote them. 

But Charles and Emily and Charlotte and Anne (like The Beatles and F. Scott Fitzgerald) read things before they wrote them — they read The Arabian Nights and The Bible and Shakespeare, and they heard fairy and folktales. Their creativity blossomed out of the things they loved. And of course when they digested all those influences and started to write their own works, those works were such a fascinating mixture of imagination and experience and personal temperament that they felt entirely new. 

They still feel entirely new! 

To cut a long story short, I think the best way to be original is to come up with a new mixture of old, old, old things. That and a pinch of your own character and experience, of course.

Now, as a writer, I have always been fascinated by my own influences. Perhaps I am more influenced than most writers. Or perhaps I just notice my own influences. I’m really more interested in what I’m inspired by, what I’m copying and modeling myself on, than in what I’m creating. That’s partly because I know very well that I only ever wrote stories in the first place because of how much I loved the stories of other writers.

So I decided that in this guest blog post I would give you a list of the ingredients I know went into the cauldron that produced my new book Pureheart. And there are so many, that no matter how long my list is, I know that it will never be complete! But I’m going to give it my best shot. 

You ready? Here goes!

First of all, my favourite children’s authors, Hans Christian Andersen, C.S. Lewis and Nicholas Stuart Gray. I wouldn’t be writing anything if I hadn’t read, and fallen in love with, their stories as a child. 

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Little Dorrit and Great Expectations. 

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

The Arthurian legend of Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail, the idea of the Grail Maiden and the Grail Castle, and Arthurian mythology generally, particularly the story of The Fisher King. 

Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Shifting Heart”. 

The real life story of the Winchester Mansion (look it up on Wikipedia!). 

The fairy tale Rapunzel. 

The film Angel Heart (1987) and the ancient Greek play Oedipus Rex (they have something important in common)

The films A Prayer for the Dying, The Wicker Man, 1408 and Sex, Lies and Videotape (which shares something important with The Fisher King!) 

The hardboiled pulp fiction novels The Grifters by Jim Thompson and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The ancient Greek story of Persephone

Several Biblical motifs

An old romance comic I read when I was about ten

The plays of Tennessee Williams

Grey Gardens, both the documentary and the subsequent TV film

Emily Dickinson’s poem, “One Need Not Be A Chamber To Be Haunted,” 

John Keats’s poem, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” 

Joseph Mary Plunkett’s poem, “I See His Blood Upon The Rose”

The piece Eliza’s Song by Elena Katz-Chernan from the ballet The Wild Swans 

The fascinating psychological concept of “enmeshment”  — for example when a mother and daughter are so close that they actually share each other’s minds, cannot tell where one’s emotions begins and the other’s ends

Jungian psychology generally

The sound of a small child crying

My mother’s dementia

The experience of falling in love

Now, if you put all of those together, and threw in a bit of my own personality and history, do you think that would make an interesting book? 

If you do, you might just like Pureheart.


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