Articles,  Behind the Scenes

Influences

Dear Reader,
For those who read ‘A lifelong facination‘ you’ll know I’ve been writing for a long time now and that a lot of it comes from personal interpretation and viewpoints. However I thought it would be interesting to take note of and show you some of the external influences I’ve had over the years. So here’s a collection of those influences, ranging from poetry to statues.

So where to start? Everything and nothing played into this world and the characters that live there. As I’ve previously mentioned the first influence has got to be my life experiences I suppose, especially with regards to my core cast. For good or ill what I experienced and saw shaped them (and in turn they shaped me).
When I first started writing I was quite cut off from the rest of the world (certainly in terms of popular media); the internet was a novelty and TV was only occasional. This might sound mad in our day and age but it’s true. Because of that I only caught snippets from the wider world and mostly worked with what I saw immediately in front of me, though as the years went by my contact with the rest of the world grew bit by bit.
Some of what I could say shaped me in those days (in terms of external stimuli) are the following:

Statues:

Michael vs Satan

My photo of the one in Paris. This was on a roundabout so I couldn’t get very close.

Something about this image stuck with me, thought they didn’t look like that in my head. There was something in it that resonated ‘true’ with the world I was uncovering. Certainly to this day Satan and Michael are rivals though their level of hatred has changed over time, as has the outcome of their fight (but to know what happens you’ll have to wait for the book!). The reasons for their lifelong and deep rivalry has also become clear to me, but that’s a story for another time. This picture fed into the idea that this was how humanity wanted to picture Michael and indeed it was how he wanted to picture himself: as the one who would finally beat Satan.
The statue itself, like all angelic statues, impressed me with the wings. There’s something about the wings…! I don’t know what but I’ve always found them deeply cool. Can you imagine the power and the strength they’d have?! This sensation probably fed into the importance of the Angels’ wings in my books as they are far more than just a means of flight.
Growing up where I did I saw a lot of statues like this, especially in town squares or on/in churches; they certainly left a keen impression and probably helped reinforce these figures as key parts of the world/mythology I was building up.

Fuente del Ángel Caído

My photo of this statue.

This statue looked tragic to me as a kid and maybe made me have more sympathy with this seemingly tragic figure. It’s based on a description in Paradise Lost (see below) and both influenced the idea of a tragic, long suffering Devil to a certain extent.
Certainly in terms both of the Christian story and mine Satan has made a mistake (or mistakes) and the consequences are dire. This statue encapsulates that terrible consequence but has the interesting angle where we are not sure if it blames the Devil or merely reports what happened to him; I liked that ambiguity.

Poems and books:

Victor Hugo, La Fin de Satan

In this collection Satan is the villain, he went against God and is punished for it but there are scenes described almost from his point of view.
‘Depuis quatre mille ans il tombait dans l’abîme’ talks about his fall, it gives us a scene of him plummeting into darkness, the feathers of his wings flying off behind him as he falls. ‘La plume de Satan’ is all that’s left behind of him after his fall, a reminder of what he once was perched beside the chasm he fell into. This feather is later turned into the Angel “Liberté !” maybe showing that not all of him was or is evil. ‘Satan dans la nuit’ is a two part poem (part I, part II) tells us that he loved God and that he suffers in his punishment. Satan admits his crime, that he was envious of God but loves him and cries out “Je suis damné !”; and certainly this admission and knowledge of his crime and faults is something I always thought he would carry with him. Part II reinforces the love part, such as when he says that Hell is eternal absence, it’s loving and yet being separated from ones light, life and clarity. ‘Satan pardonné’ was one of my favourite because it has the beautiful idea that after all that he could still be forgiven. Satan’s speaks about being hated, cursed, unable to approach God who he feels has turned away from him forever leaving him to suffer alone and at the end God answers and says that he doesn’t hate Satan, thus forgiving him.

What I took from this collection most strongly was that of a tortured or at least regretful Devil. He committed a crime but realises he has done wrong and repents. Certainty my Satan knows what he has done and regrets it and in his own way he also tries to make amends. Beauty and a hint of vanity were probably compounded by these poems, certainly I always imagined Lucifer/Satan to be beautiful. The idea of a personal relationship with God however plays out very differently in my stories though there certainly is one there; suffice to say the starting point of their relationship is different but there is a link between them and their certainly is a fall out! But more than that I won’t say for now (spoilers!).

Paradise Lost

Photograph of my battered but well-loved copy of the book.

Wow where to start with this? It’s a massive text and has fed into the way people perceive the Devil (often confusing what comes from this book and what comes from the Bible). So what did it give me?
It gave me some memories for a start. I remember finding this when I was full on obsessed with reading anything and everything I could about the Devil and Christian mythology and beliefs more widely, I was on holiday in Cornwall and just walking down the street, bored, and then I spotted this in a second hand book shop. I rushed inside, read the back of the book, got it immediately and walked out already reading it! Oh yes, back then I’d mastered the walk-and-read technique!
It probably took me a year to read it fully, often reading around 3 am (as I had a lot of trouble sleeping back then). I’d lie in bed waiting for daylight to creep over the horizon pouring over the old verse and picturing the scenes vividly.
It painted a very vivid image of the rebellion and gave voice to a charismatic Devil with an army following him. I liked the fact that though he is very early on cast out and condemned to torment he doesn’t give up: “Peace is despair, | For who can think submission? War then, war | Open or understood, must be resolved.” He is defiant and arrogant, giving us the famous line: “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”, but he also suffers thus giving us a much more multi-layered character than we see in many tales about the Devil. He also sets up Pandemonium, which becomes his capital rather than Hell being simply the place where humans are sent to be tortured.

This drive and inability to just surrender certainly felt true to my Satan and has been a trait he’s kept. He is also charismatic and well spoken but I think any arrogance shown is actually defensive bravado or a form of naivety. He is, in my opinion, more justified in his position than even Milton’s Satan and he is more complex. Still you’ll find out more about him in time.
In short Paradise Lost was a fun read but not the basis for my Satan though it was something that helped open my mind to the idea of the epic.

Music:

I want to include music in this list because I’ve almost always been listening to music while I writer. It would be hard to say if my music influenced my books as such but I’ve certainly used them to set the mood for myself when writing particular scenes or for certain characters. In that way some characters have even ended up with a ‘track list’ of songs that I think fit them or remind me of them or something they’ve experienced and some scenes likewise.
However I will say that when I first started writing I listened to a lot of Alice Cooper (especially Goes to Hell and Trash which are both great albums) so I’ll always have a soft spot for his music.

Misc:

Other than all this and my own imagination I guess I could technically include the countless internet articles I read over the years (of varying quality it must be said). They mostly showed my things I didn’t agree with but were interesting to judge people’s perception and ideas of the Devil that were out there in the world.

Well there you have it, a snipped of the things which ‘influenced’ me, one way or another, while writing.
I hope you found this interesting.

Let me know what you think of any of these depictions, books, poems etc. in the comments below. 

See you next week,
Lifelong Scribe

P.S. I did a short video about this here.

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