15 Degrees of Inspiration for . . . Dreamlander

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories? Inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes it’s in the obvious things, like stunning mountaintop vistas. And sometimes it’s found in little, seemingly inconsequential things, such as the spots on a kitten’s belly or the fingerprints on a dusty shelf.

A few years ago, I did a post about the various steps of inspiration that led to the creation of my historical work-in-progress The Deepest Breath. It was a ton of fun to put together, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and some of you even created your own “degrees of inspiration” posts (of which this was one of my favorites).

Today, I’d like to share the “15 degrees of inspiration” that breathed life into my fantasy novel Dreamlander (coming December 2).

1. Blame it on my brother.

(Not my brother. And not me. But we were almost this cute . . . a long time ago.)

Most of my story ideas are deeply personal and private. I brew on them for years before even mentioning them to others. But Dreamlander was my brother Derek’s idea. He spouted off the “what if” of people living a second existence while they sleep—and which they remember in this world only as dreams.

2. This all happened around the time The Lord of the Rings trilogy was coming out on film.

The gorgeous imagery couldn’t help but influence the world I was trying to create. (So, yes, clichéd though it is, I’m yet another fantasy author inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien.)

3. Another film that was rolling around in my head was the TV movie Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story.

I love the space/time gap between the real world and the beanstalk world.

4. What can I say? I love the classic fantasy critters.



5. elves,


6.  and dragons all tried sooo hard to find a place in this story, before getting replaced with Katie originals.

7. Throw in a little moonlight.

It’s no secret I have a wild love affair with the moon. Late night walks under its light inspired more than one scene.

8. Early on in the drafting process, western Nebraska got dusted with a late spring snow.

That’s not unusual around here. But on that particular day, the new green grass shining against the untouched snow melded with the story and ended up creating some important imagery for the cataclysmic weather late in the book.

9. When I started the book, I was still hyped from all the medieval research I’d done for Behold the Dawn.

I fully intended to use the late 1100s as the inspiration for my fantasy world. But somehow (and, as it turned out, to my great delight) the early 17th century (think Three Musketeers) crept in instead, complete with rapiers and firearms.

10. I had a particular sound in mind for Dreamlander. I wanted the hard, driving rhythms of contemporary music paired with something ancient and Celtic.

Nightwish’s “Last of the Wilds” fit what I had in mind so perfectly it might almost have been written for the book.

11. Cranberry juice.

Can’t quite explain the connection. But I drank lots of cranberry juice while figuring out this story.

12. Where’s a girl to look for smart, brave, more-than-slightly-cynical hero inspiration?

Johnny Storm,


13. Han Solo,


14. and James T. Kirk all had their share of impact on my Chris Redston.

15. Finally, one of my favorite aspects of the story—the skycar rail system—didn’t show up until the final rewrite.

I’m not sure where it came from—a bolt from the blue maybe?—but I suppose we have to blame it on the wonders of steampunk transportation in general.

Put all these ingredients together, add coffee and chocolate, shake vigorously, and—voila!—you have a 550-page epic fantasy novel with (in my opinion, at any rate) a lovely green cover.


For more fun, be sure to check out my new Pinterest board of images that inspired the costumes in Dreamlander. And don’t forget to vote for which prize you’d like to win in the Dreamlander Launch Party Grand Prize Drawing on December 2!

Tell me your opinion: What are your degrees of inspiration?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Fascinating. I’m a sucker for how stories go from inception to completion and all the twists and turns in between.

    And that /is/ an amazing cover… 😉

  2. It’s amazing sometimes to look at the idea that was conceived and compare it to the totally different end product. Crazy how we get there!

  3. I can certainly see the Tolkien influence and love the way you used your own life experiences to create a unique, imaginative story.
    My new mystery, suspense story is based in part on a scientific paper over concern for risks associated with certain kinds of research, the rest from personal experience and shows like Law and Order.

  4. The irony of the Tolkien influence is that it was based almost entirely on the movie trailers. I hadn’t actually watched the movies or read the books at the time.

  5. Sort of a similar way, I watch a movie and analyze it in detail. Then I write down the thing I found wrong with it, and then turn on some music to fit the mood of the story I’m writing. Of course maybe that could explain the lack of inspiration lately, I’ve been watching a lot of anime classics.

  6. Movies and music are always tremendous sources of inspiration for me. Almost all of my stories have been influenced by them somewhere along the way.

  7. I also found the problem why my word count is an issue. I’m only doing semi world building, which for something speculative requires something extensive sometimes. So I decided to create an informal exercise.

  8. “Ideas are everywhere” is a common aphorism in writing, supported by both novices and professionals, but it has always bugged me. It’s true in potential. (I got the idea for my first “novel” from a pencil sharpener.) However, this belief invites needless self-doubt if at any time you are not a frothing cauldron of inspiration. It also implies that stories are something that happen outside of the writer. Random events are just litter in the time stream until the writer’s mind begins to juxtapose them. I believe stories are an evolution ideas that start inside the person.

  9. @Sarah: If you aren’t already familiar with Patricia C. Wrede’s worldbuilding questionnaire , it’s full of helpful prompts.

    @Sam: Maybe we should say, “inspiration is everywhere for the inspired.” If we’re feeling inspired and creative, we’re likely to pull ideas out of a pencil sharpener. If we’re *not* feeling inspired, then sometimes it’s difficult to pull ideas out of *anywhere.*

  10. Well put. I could certainly agree with that.

  11. BTW, I just noticed your blog was nominated over at Write to Done (which, I suspect, is how you stumbled over here). Congrats on the nom and glad to meet you!

  12. Thank you! Glad to meet you as well. Good luck on your Write to Don nomination.

  13. Same to you!

  14. Great to see what inspired you! I’m looking forward to reading Dreamlander 🙂

  15. Thanks! I hope you enjoy it!

  16. Ooo! Inspiration? Everywhere, yeah. For my main ideas, they usually sprout from a story or song that ignites my curiosity. Or my irritation. My first ‘real’ manuscript came from my dissatisfaction with the Grimm story, ‘King Thrushbeard’. It had all sorts of cool elements that could be exploited, except the king. He was a jerk! Too much Petruccio from ‘Taming of the Shrew’. So my mind went wandering and ideas came for intrigue and plots that would keep a king in a situation where he must be disguised for the good of his kingdom and his sweetheart.

  17. Fun! More than one of my story ideas has resulted from someone else’s story, of which I loved elements but not the whole. Then my imagination takes off from there!

  18. Pinterest has become my newest spot to find inspiration. The thousands of pictures on there have inspired so many new story ideas, not mention fed my already swirling mind for more creativity on current projects! I also watch a lot of movies and TV series, so story ideas sometimes stem from that (I just finished the BBC production series of Merlin, which gave me great inspiration for my most recent project.) A little thing that inspires me is riding in the car and staring into the woods, wondering what (or who) might be out there 😉

  19. Pinterest has been great. Costumes, characters, and settings are all over the place there. One of my guilty (but uber useful) pleasures is collecting picture folders for all of my stories.

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