“Wait a second,” I hear you saying. “I thought you wrote fantasy and the like. What’s Napoleon got to do with The Water Road?”
A fine question, one that comes down to that dreaded word (by some) – inspiration. As I’ve written before, ideas come from all over, often when you’re not expecting them. The key is having that flash of creativity in your brain that makes you think, “there’s a story there” when you see it.
One of my regular stops on the Internet is Wikipedia’s front page. It’s got several blocks of featured articles, one of which is a “today in history” thing. It lists about a half dozen historical events, in addition to a few holidays. I usually skim it, see nothing all that interesting, and move on.
One day, one of the events listed was either the date that Napoleon left Elba to return to France or the date he arrived in France. Either way, it was the start of the Hundred Days, which would end at Waterloo and with Napoleon’s second exile (it stuck that time). Now, this was not news to me – my undergrad degree was in history and the area that most interested me was 19th-century Europe and the rise of the nation states. Yet, somehow, for some reason, something struck me that had never struck me before.
Which was this – Napoleon’s arc of ravaging Europe, being defeated, being exiled, then returning for a sequel – sounds just like the bad guy in a fantasy series! After all, why kill or adequately imprison the villain if you need him for the rest of the trilogy? Honestly, it’s almost on the level of a James Bond villain’s diabolical scheme to kill Bond that, of course, always fails. Hanging would have been quicker and easier, but not left open the sequel!
Which is not to say that The Water Road trilogy is based on the life of Napoleon or that it tracks his defeat, exile, return, and defeat again. But that was one of the jumping off points. Things, naturally, got more complicated from there. That’s one of the great things about writing fantasy – when an idea comes along, the only thing that limits you as a writer is your imagination.