Behind the scenes: On finding inspiration and joy through stories

Note: This is the last of six posts going behind the scenes of my writing process — what inspires me, the way I work, and how I recharge. For links to the rest of the posts, scroll down.

Writers get a lot of their inspiration from reading. Many of us — definitely including me — first learned what made a good story by reading well-written tales that inspired our imaginations, taught us how characters evolve over the course of a novel, and made us feel of all the emotions a good book can inspire.

One of the earliest books I read was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, followed by all of the wonderful sequels. A child of the Midwest, I connected with the Ingalls’ journey across the Great Plains: the seas of grass filled with birds, gilded by the sun, rippling in the wind. The loss of one home and the building of another. The realization that their real home was wherever they ended up, as long as they were together.

Hours upon hours of joy, sorrow, and life lessons

Some of my very favorite books. Pax is new this year; the Little House books have been with me for three decades. The tree scene is hand-carved birch, the creation of a wonderful Vermont craftsman. It’s a frequent guest in my writing space — a reminder that the artistry is in the shaping but the beauty comes from within.

Unfortunately, between my writing life and my day job, I haven’t had much time recently to lose myself in the joys of a book read just for fun. But I spent a few lovely hours over the July Fourth holiday weekend following a boy and his fox on their quest across a difficult and war-torn landscape to reconnect in Sara Pennypacker’s achingly poignant novel Pax.

And next year, I’m planning an epic road trip with my bestie, traversing eight states to visit the little town in South Dakota where the Ingalls family came to rest — and where Laura herself found the love of her life.

I can’t wait!

What does your dream road trip look like? What books have inspired you?

Going behind the scenes

See the end result of M.Q.’s quest to lose herself in fiction in the Neighborly Affection series and the Gentleman series. Her next book is An Accidental Gentleman, out August 16, 2016.

M.Q. Barber

M.Q. Barber is the USA Today bestselling author of the Neighborly Affection contemporary romance series. She’s also an inveterate, unrepentant scribbler of ideas on whatever’s handy.

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