What Inspired Storming? 14 Things

What Inspired Storming? 14 Things

You’d think as long as I’ve been at this writing thing, the twisty-turny process of inspiration would be old hat by now. But nope. I’m everlastingly fascinated by all the varied pieces that serendipitously combine to finally create a book.

I’m often asked, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” Honestly, it’s awesome question. Maybe it’s even arguably the only question about stories that really matters. But it’s also a really hard question to answer for the simple reason that the answer is incredibly complex.

Storming K.M. WeilandI’ve shared before about the first kernels of inspiration that inspired my books. Today, I’m going to do one of my favorite kinds of posts and dig a little deeper into all the pitstops on the road my soon-to-be-released (December 4th!) dieselpunk-historical novel Storming took on its way to completion.

So what inspired Storming? Here are 14 things.

1. The Greatest Show on Earth

It all started one lazy Saturday afternoon when I was watching one of my favorite movies, Cecil B. DeMille’s epic circus tale The Greatest Show on Earth (which I first viewed as a nine-year-old and which set me up for lifelong disappointment in real circuses). After the train wreck at the end when the local kids start pouring in for the “open air” circus, a random thought hit me: What if one of those kids struck up a relationship with one of the circus performers? And just to make things interesting and anti-stereotypical: What if that performer was a woman?

Charlton Heston James Steward Greatest Show on Earth

2. Jacket

That all happened on a day in early spring. After the movie ended, I walked down the road to get the mail, and since it was cool out, I needed a jacket. Don’t ask why, but jacket immediately made me think: Fighter pilot! Poof. Two ideas collided. What if the performer wasn’t from a circus but an airshow?

K.M. Weiland Pilot Costume

3. Flyboys

Not long after, I watched the World War I aviation movie Flyboys. Naturally, my brain started spinning back to my avation story. What if the plane were a World War I-era biplane? Poof. Barnstorming! It’s a barnstorming air circus!

James Franco Flyboys

4. Fighter Boys

To be fair, we have to give as much credit to one of my favorite books, Peter Bishop’s Battle of Britain ode Fighter Boys, as we do the highly forgettable Flyboys. This is the book that originally ignited my interest in aviation and my love affair with old planes (especially Spitfires).

Fighter Boys Peter Bishop

5. Kansas

Right from the first conception of the friendship between the boy and the performer, I had a vision of the setting as very rural. Storms Over Kansas was my initial working title  (I think there was some Wizard of Oz referencing going on in the back of my brain). But then I got to thinking, Kansas? Why Kansas? I *live* in Nebraska. Why not Nebraska? I think I thought Kansas first simply because I never set stories in places I’m intimately familiar with.

Photo credit: Brian Nunnery

Photo credit: Brian Nunnery

6. Nebraska Augusts

But I immediately latched onto the idea. And I’m so glad I did. It was ridiculously fun to be able to write about my hometown–particularly from a historical perspective, since the barnstorming angle needed the story to be set in the 1920s. Next question? What time of the year to set the story? Naturally, if we’re in one of my favorite places, it should take place in my favorite month as well. Doesn’t get better than hot, lazy August afternoons.

Scottsbluff National Monument


7. The Valley of Light

So about that little boy character. I started fishing around for ideas, and immediately thought of my then (and still) favorite child actor Zach Mills. That made me think of the first movie I’d ever seen him, the Hallmark movie Valley of Light, in which he played a mute little boy. My character immediately decided he wanted to be mute too, so I had to start thinking reasons for why that was. (And, yeah, I usually don’t admit to watching Hallmark movies. :p)

Valley of Light Zach Mills

8. “Carry You Home”

Then there was the female performer who befriends the little boy. By this point I knew there was something strange about her. I just wasn’t quite sure what. James Blunt’s haunting song “Carry You Home” made me realize she was someone who was a long way from home. The pilot character who had come to life after Flyboys ended up being the “circus” performer, and the woman was … at this point, I really had no idea. I went through several notions, including, most enduringly, a dying time traveler. All I really knew was that she was strange, wise, and had an otherworldly quality about her. (By the way, you can click here to hear the entire “soundtrack” of my Storming playlist.)

9. Secondhand Lions

All through this period (spanning roughly seven years), whenever I watched another of my favorite movies Secondhand Lions, I knew that‘s the kind of story I wanted to tell. (It’s got a red biplane! And even, totally incidentally, a little boy named Walter!) I wanted it to be countrified, funny, full of heart, adventure, and fantasy.

Secondhand Lions Plane in Barn

10. War Brides

Somewhere in here, I also clipped an article about war brides who were necessarily left behind by their husbands. That got me thinking about the effects such a separation must have had on both ends of the relationship, and although there’s no war in my story, it made me realize this was really a story about my pilot protagonist coming back home and having to deal with his family-related demons.

11. Thor

You didn’t really think we’d get through this whole article without a Marvel reference, did you? One of my favorite things about this movie is the fish-out-of-water humor provided by Thor’s being totally oblivious of our cultural norms. I immediately decided I wanted to do something along those lines, which immediately made me think of my “otherworldly” heroine in Storming.

This Drink I Like It Another Thor

12. The Fifth Element

What kind of story would you get with a female in the Thor role? Why, Fifth Element with Milla Jovovich as LeeLoo, of course. (“Multipass!”) Immediately, I had this image of my female character looking up from drinking out of a stream, seeing the boy Walter, and grinning at him even though she couldn’t speak English. Just like that, she leapt into three dimensions for me–and the rest of the story fell into place around her.

LeeLoo Fifth Element Gif

13. Pylon and the Snopes Trilogy

I have a love/hate relationship with William Faulkner. Mostly, what I love is that I’ve finished reading all his books and never have to read them again. But he has created a vivid legacy in my memory and imagination. His treatment of country life, particularly in the Snopes trilogy, decidedly influenced Storming. (Be on the watch for how Flem Snopes’s big house plays an important role.) His barnstorming story Pylon provided general inspiration and also specific inspiration for several of the members of the protagonist’s flying crew.

william faulkner snopes trilogy pylon

14. John Carter

And, finally, we have the very fun Disney adaptation of John Carter, which has absolutely nothing to do with Storming (nope, zero aliens and zero wormholes — sorry), except that after grinning my way through the whole thing, my immediate reaction was: That’s the kind of story I want Storming to be! Summer blockbuster fun up to the hilt.


That’s been my journey from start to finish with Storming, and, as you can see, it’s been an incredibly fun trip every step of the way!

(BTW, I’ve done these “degrees of inspiration” articles before, and they’re always the most fun when they’re interactive. Feel totally free to steal the idea and post about your own stories. And share the link in the comments!)

In other news: Don’t forget there’s still one more day to enter to win the nine original illustrations featured in Storming.

Let’s chat! What’s inspired you lately? Tell me in the comments!

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  1. I was just telling my mother about the concept of blogging and who my favorite bloggers are when I suddenly found out you have posted new blog. And I was suddenly, “excuse me, I need to read it,”
    And guess what her first question was?

    “By the way, how old is she?” 😛

  2. I’m getting excited about Storming, especially because I’m rather keen on old-time aviation stories myself! Have you read anything by Nevil Shute or Ernest K. Gann? I recently read a novel by Gann, The Aviator, which was set in the 1920s, and I found myself recognizing names and terms from some of your Goodreads reviews of research books for Storming.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Sounds good! I’ll have to check it out. I read Shute’s The Rainbow and the Rose while researching. I love the movie adaptation of his A Place Called Alice.

  3. It was incredibly fun to walk through these points of inspiration with you. Thanks for sharing them. 😀

  4. *Love* Second-Hand Lions! I can see how that would partially inspire the book. So excited for your readers (including me)–FINALLY! Another Weiland novel!!!!!

    Someone’s gonna have to teach you how to write faster . . . <3

  5. For me, my most interesting inspiration for a fanfic (yes, I know fan fiction is generally not considered ‘proper’ writing, but still) came when I heard a comedian’s one-liner: “If acupuncture is sticking sharp objects in a person to make them well, and voodoo is sticking sharp objects in a likeness of a person to do them ill, what happens when an identical twin gets acupuncture?” I immediately thought this would make an interesting ‘leap-in’ scenario for Sam Beckett of Quantum Leap. The plot arose from working out why one twin needed acupuncture. The setting I chose was New Orleans around Mardi Gras, thanks to my having befriended on the internet somebody who lived there. ‘Skin Deep’ became arguably my most popular story online.

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Cool premise! And don’t knock your fan fic. If you’re having fun with it, that’s the only thing that matters.

    • Helen, some of my favorite works of fiction happen to be fanfiction. There’s no shame in writing it! Franchises we love have hidden potential that begs for exploring.

  6. I love this post! 🙂 It is so fun to see what inspires other authors to write their books and now my own brain is backtracking to see if I can pinpoint different things that have inspired my own writing! Quite fun, actually! Thanks for sharing!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Yes, it’s crazy to actually stop and think about the little ingredients that magically (and often unconsciously) combine to create a story. Sometimes they’re very surprising!

  7. I love following thought-trains and inspirations! (And Second-Hand Lions was great.) It was fun to see what we’ll be getting in Storming! Can’t wait. 🙂

  8. YESSS SECONDHAND LIONS. That’s such an awesome movie! 😀 Uncle Hub’s line introducing himself… there is no equal. 🙂 That movie inspired me on a short story I wrote. An old general escaping from an assisted living home after pretending to be disabled.

  9. Glad to know i am not the only person who loved John Carter!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      Yeah, it’s a shame its marketing campaign was so bad, because it’s really a nice adaptation. I liked it so much better than I expected to. Actually, I think I should go rewatch it… 😉

  10. Hola old pal! How are ya?

    This was interesting to see how you concocted the story to storming. It’s absolutely FASCINATING to see how people interpret their inspirations into a full fledged novel. Writers are the most intriguing people on the planet.

    Got a laugh out of the Thor element. The humor was great. Loved John Carter. It was pretty cool. A lot of the other elements I’ve never heard of before. You have a knack for the old fashioned things I see. Curious where did you get this from?

    Nebraska seems like a very beautiful place from the photo. Got me thinking about the old west. My mom LOVES old westerns. Cool beans dude! Er, dudette!

    • K.M. Weiland says:

      I love westerns as well. I grew up on a steady diet of them, and most of my early stories (including my first published book A Man Called Outlaw) were westerns.

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