I was chatting this week to someone about The Winter Passing. They were turning a copy over in their hands, running their fingers across the cover, flicking through the pages. We talked about the story, about the themes and then came a big question: where did the idea come from?
It’s one I’ve asked myself a few times and yet I still stumble over the answer. The truth is – the idea of The Winter Passing came from everywhere, and yet nowhere too. And isn’t that the way with most ideas?
Forming ideas: imagination and creativity
Science still doesn’t really fully understand how the brain works and imagination is still a partial mystery. It comes from environment, from memory, and from understanding how the world works and it uses lots of different areas of the brain in order to form mental models or images.
We use imagination all the time – whether we realise it or not – in everything from putting together a meal from what we find in the fridge, to coming up with a new business idea or the plot of our next novel. Some of this use of imagination may seem small, but even that will feed into the bigger things we model in our heads.
Creativity too is drawn from multiple sources – play, problem solving, and patterns. While on the surface both imagination and creativity may seem to be chaotic, or random, or divined from who-knows-where they are both driven by logical processing in the brain.
Of course, this is a simplified view of how imagination and creativity work to give us ideas, but it gives some understanding of how magical worlds seemingly suddenly appear whole in your head.
The idea of The Winter Passing
Knowing this helps me get closer to answering the question about where the idea for The Winter Passing came from. It was, in short, my imagination working overtime and then creativity putting a spin on it all.
The story draws from my environment and from my trying to understand the way the world, and the way people work. I wanted the characters in the book to talk to each other in ways I recognised from my own conversations, and I wanted them to find themselves in landscapes inspired by places I had been. I also wanted to put them through some fairly rough scenarios to test out how they would act, what would they do, who would they become as a result.
And I wanted to explore the idea we are the sum of our memories, and created from other’s perception of us. Everyone’s experience is unique, even in a shared situation, because of the way they view it (both literally and figuratively), how they process it, and what they want from it. I wanted to dig around at what happened if memories were gone, and into the ‘truth’ of a shared memory. I wanted to start to work through how throw away comments or everyday moments, the ones which don’t necessarily form strong memories, are sometimes the key to understanding the world and our place in it.
Of course I wanted to give my creativity some stretch as well – so the world I created doesn’t necessarily have the same rules as our own. Not only are the characters learning how to be human, they are often doing so while grappling with power and responsibility, with emotions, and with control.
All of this was unlocked by one thing: the centaury flower. Seeing the vintage illustration in a dog-eared, tattered covered, wildflower guide made connections in my mind and opened a door to a whole world I didn’t know until then was contained in my head.
Get The Winter Passing
Those who have already ready the contemporary fantasy The Winter Passing by Sarah Lay, describe it as: ‘stunning’, ‘spellbinding’ and ‘highly recommended’.
- find the eBook of The Winter Passing here
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