It’s hard to pin down just when and where Hell’s Pawn took root in my mind. When I was a kid, Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series introduced me to the concept of Purgatory and a contemporary take on the afterlife. I later made a study of mythology and religion in my teens which was obviously a huge influence, and in my twenties, my best friend shared with me his idea for a story. His story must have sunk into my subconscious, because when I emailed him excitedly about my “brand new book idea,” he very patiently pointed out that I had rehashed many of his own ideas. Embarrassing but true. That’s just one of the many reasons the book is dedicated to him.
Those were the cornerstones of Hell’s Pawn, but there were plenty of inspirations that came while actually writing the book. Music is always an influence. Every book I’ve written has its theme—a song I play to get me in the right mood. I discovered the song for Hell’s Pawn halfway through writing and while binging on a German group called Alphaville. Their song, For a Million, is every bit as weird as my story and some of the lyrics fit all too well.
“For a million years they dream
And the fog conceals and hides
and eats our souls
Before they open up their eyes again
How far we’ll be”
I mentioned weird, right? This verse reminds me of the foggy hidden underbelly of Purgatory, or the poor souls trapped in the dome surrounding it, sleeping until someone can free them. Then there was this verse:
“Oh I love to dance
Under an alien sun
Along the dunes with you
I kiss you in the sand”
I had already finished writing the Egyptian part of the story, but I liked the idea of Rimmon and John dancing along the dunes together and added it to the narrative. Did they kiss there? Man, I don’t think they did, but you know John wanted to. And then there are lines about time running out, about refusing to stop loving someone, even if you have to leave them behind… but the story does a better job explaining that than I could here.
Speaking of love, check out that handsome angel up there! That’s Archangel Uriel. Although his part in the story is small, I stared long and hard at this image while thinking about angels. I loved that his wings are colored instead of boring white, which encouraged me to make all the angels that way. Just think how pretty they would be if they had feathers like tropical birds instead of boring old white.
And finally, down the street from our apartment in Berlin was a small copy shop. Bobby the English Shepherd worked there. Okay, so his owners did, but I would often make an excuse to have something printed, hand the files over, and spend the next ten minutes rolling around on the floor with him. I’ve always loved dogs—even though it’s been awhile since I had my own—so I was very happy to give John some animal companionship in the form of Bolo.
As you can see from these few examples, there are all kinds of inspirations that contribute to a story’s creation. Every sexy demon, little ceramic soldier, or seedy coffee shop in Amsterdam has their own anchor to the real world, which just goes to show how strange reality can be when you tell the story in the right way.