Litigious times

February 19, 2010 at 22:30 (1)

I’ve had a couple of busy days on the new book. Wrote 11 pages on Thursday, 12 today. I was particularly pleased to get today’s pages in the bag, because they featured a very detailed action scene. You might think, as a reader, that action scenes are the easiest to write, and sometimes they are. But often they’re the most complicated, especially if they require a lot of careful descriptions. Paradoxically, while they can be the swiftest, easiest parts of a book to read, they’re often the most time-consuming and difficult to write!!

I’ve been reading with interest about the latest claim being made against J K Rowling — click here for an example. Now, obviously I have no first-hand insight into this, but as a writer I’m vehemently opposed to any legal action of this type. J K Rowling says she never read the self-published book, and I believe that. But, to be honest, even if she had, it would have made no difference whatsoever — in my view, the case should be thrown out of court without a second’s hesitation. It has often been said, and though I didn’t really believe it when I was younger, I have come to think so as I’ve aged, that there are NO new ideas. Writing is a constant state of recycling. Look at my books for instance — my Saga was about vampires, based on all sorts of books I’d read and movies I’d seen over the years. I took a few ideas from one place, a few from another, a few from somewhere else. Some of my choices were conscious (I created Murlough in tribute to Gollum, Vancha and Evanna in tribute to David Eddings), some subconscious (the movie Phantasm was a big influence on me, though I’d forgotten all about it when I was writing the book, and only realized the influence years later). That’s how writing works — you take ideas from all over the place and mix them up and re-craft them in your own way, adding a new twist and style to the world of literature in the process.

That mixing and re-crafting is where the skill of any given writer lies. With Salem’s Lot, Stephen King re-wrote Dracula for the modern day. You could be critical of that and claim that he was stealing, but he wasn’t — he was borrowing ideas and re-shaping them. It’s what Bram Stoker also did when he was writing the first Dracula story — he took a variety of legends and stories and wove them into a new type of book. The way he re-created vampires was ingenious and original — but there was nothing original about vampires themselves.

We’re all working in the same field, bouncing ideas around and back and forth. Every writer is a smorgsbord of their favourite books and films and TV shows and music. If any writer was ever successfully sued for using ideas from another book, every single one of us would be liable and no book would ever be published again!! Of course, I’m not saying it’s OK to copy. It would be a different matter completely if someone came along and copied another writer’s work, changing a few names here or there but keeping most of the original intact. That would be theft, plain and simple. But to be inspired by another book… to take some ideas from it and run with them… that’s how every single book is created.

Mind you, in this instance that doesn’t even seem to be the case. As I said above, J K Rowling says she never even heard of the book in question until a case was brought against her. I can totally believe that, because I think every writer has experienced a sense of deja vu at least once in their career, when they come up with a really cool, exciting idea that they think nobody has ever had before… only to find out that yes, actually, someone did and beat them to the punch!! It happened to me last year — as long-time readers of this blog will know, I’ve been working on my new series for a couple of years now. Last year, as I was merrily tapping away at it, I read about a new book coming out which was incredibly close in nature and spirit to mine!! Did I cry out in despair? Did I toss my series aside in disgust? Did I hell!!!! I just had a wry chuckle and got on with things. Because that’s life when you’re a writer. Everyone’s working from the same set of rules and words and ideas. It’s not about being one step ahead of your competition — it’s about marching to your own pace, putting your own spin on an idea, developing your own style.

I always think it’s sad when a case like this is brought against a writer, even when they’re incredibly rich and famous like J K Rowling or Dan Brown. Because I don’t just see it as an attack on the writer — I see it as an attack on all of us, and a sad sign of the litigious times in which we live, in which everyone is looking to make a quick buck. Pop Idol, The X-Factor, Big Brother… they’re all symptons of a get-rich-and-famous-quickly society, in which hard work and talent aren’t deemed to be enough, in which people just want all the trappings of fame without having to put in the hard work to earn it. I never read fan fiction because of court cases like this — I never want to go to the hassle of having to defend my stories, reputation and realm of work in a court. I know that some fans get disappointed when I refuse to read their stories, and I feel bad for having to let them down, but with the type of people who are going after J K Rowling on the loose in this world, you have to watch your back at all times and guard against as many routes of attack as you can. It’s a pity, but that’s the world in which we live, so what else can you do about it????


  1. Iona inglis said,

    Hello I am a big fan of your books and have just finnished you third book tunnles of blood and I loved it although merlough scared me. I thought it is exelent and I have also read cirqe du freek and the vampires asistant and they where both exelent. I have all the series. Of your books because my sister who is 14 also loves them. I think you books are exelent and you should be very very proud of them.
    My friend told me you where writing a series of books about Mr Crepsly is that corret?

  2. Suicy said,

    Hi Darren 🙂

    I agree with you, that we got a part of our inspiration out of other stories or movies. I even get inspiration out of my daily life when sitting in the bus or train, seeing other people, their lifes, their stories.. ♥ I mean, if our brains never séé things happen, how could we build new worlds without ingredients? 🙂

    But… what to do.. if there’s a writers block? 😦 I doesn’t help to listen to music, watching movies or reading books, observing people.. Help me!!!!!! Sniffle.


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