As those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know, I just got back from a very fun few days at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. I get a lot of inspiration for my writing from theater and music, particularly opera, as I’ve blogged about before. Which means that I usually come home from Ashland with new ideas for story lines or characters and plot problems solved. Especially because I go to Ashland with my fellow writer Penny Williamson and we analyze the plays over brunch, while shopping in Ashland’s fun boutiques and galleries, over leisurely dinners at wonderful restaurants (this trip Dragonfly, Amuse, Peerless, and Chateaulin) or glasses of prosecco in the OSF Member Lounge.

The personality of the villain in my Waterloo book fell into place during our conversations on this trip. And I got a lot of inspiration from the wonderful Henry IV Part One we saw the last night of our trip. Prince Hal and Hotspur made me think of the soldier characters in my book and their differing attitudes toward war. The debates about honor made me think of Charles’s and Mel’s debates about what is, in Falstaff’s estimation, merely “a word.” The rebels’ conspiracy made me think of the Bonapartist conspirators in my book. The ironic, challenging, wonderfully equal yet surprisingly tender relationship between Hotspur and his wife Kate made me think of Charles and Mel. Particularly in the second act, when Mortimer and his Welsh bride are lost in romanticism (though they don’t speak the same language), and Hotspur and Kate look on with dry amusement, while at the same time one knows just how deep their feelings for each other run. I can imagine a very similar scene with Charles and Mel.

But sometimes inspiration comes from more unexpected sources. The weekend before we left, I got together with a group of friends and watched a DVD of the film version of Tony Kushner’s brilliant Angels in America , (“a gay fantasia on national themes” in the apt subtitle), Part I Saturday, Part II Sunday. I love the play, and I’ve wanted to see the Mike Nichols film version for ages, but I was a bit stressed about giving up most of the weekend to watching it, when I needed to get ready for the trip and wanted to get more writing done before I left. Yet when I went back to my book Sunday night, I found my writing was rejuvenated. Angels holds fewer obvious parallels to my Waterloo book than the story of Prince Hal, Falstaff, and Hotspur, but it still stirred my imagination and freed my creativity to take the story in new directions. But then again, in Angels, just as in Henry IV, the personal and the political intertwine, personal betrayals shatter relationships, characters’ stories intersect in unexpected ways, and humanity shines through when one least expects it.

Do you like to analyze plays or movies? Where do you find inspiration for writing or other projects?

I’ve just posted a new letter in the Fraser Correspondence from Mélanie to Raoul about Easter dinner at the French embassy in Vienna, just after the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba.