In one sense, for me writing is the process of assembling the things I like best or the ones that intrigue me most. When I was writing A Rumor of Gems I drew on numerous sources of inspiration. First there were the stones themselves. You’ll see photographs of a number of the stones I work with scattered throughout the site. Beyond the stones, the novel was also informed by images. Some of those influenced the book very directly while others simply reside on the bulletin board above my desk, my writing companions, as it were.

Here’s a sampling:

Click on images to enlarge

The Hindu elephant-headed god. Among his many titles, he is known as the guardian of thresholds, remover of obstacles, and God of Beginnings. He is also considered the Great Scribe, who wrote down the Mahabharata, and as such is the god of arts and letters and the patron of literature. He is traditionally invoked whenever one begins writing. Nepalese shamans also invoke him before beginning any ceremony or ritual, for Ganesha was said to be the first shaman in the history of the world.

Detail from Piero Della Francesca’s The Madonna of Senigallia
c. 1470. Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino: I found this image of an angel wearing a rock crystal pendant, a symbol of purity, in Sylvie Raulet’s Rock Crystal Treasures. [See Annotated Bibliography]

Details from Rex Whistler’s mural at Plas Newydd, Anglesey
c. 1937: I began writing about Arcato and the gods who inhabited it before I saw these cards (see both by clicking the image), yet the moment I saw them, they seemed to me to be my waterfront city, complete with the necessary mountain range behind it. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, they also included a god. Years later, when I contacted Plas Newydd, a National Trust property in Wales, and ordered a reproduction of the complete mural, an introductory note explained that the painting includes, “… a touch of maritime fantasy — the abandoned crown and trident of the sea-god Neptune, who has just walked into the room, leaving wet footprints across the jetty.”
© 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London

John William Waterhouse’s “Destiny” (detail)
1900. Oil on cavast, Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley. Though this is clearly a Pre-Raphaelite work, something about the woman standing in front of the circular mirror which reflects the harbor, felt like Arcato to me.

I found this photo in Christopher Cavey’s Gems and Jewels: Fact and Fable [see Annotated Bibliography.] Cavey’s caption reads, “An extraordinary flat-cut diamond weighing 56.71 carats. It is certainly of Indian origin, and is typical of gems worn by the Mogul Emperors in the early 17th century. Is is now named the Javeri Diamond. Photograph courtesy of E.A. Jobbins.”
This diamond was what inspired the diamond that Kama gives Lucinda.

From the Tibet Image Bank. Green Tara removes obstacles and obscurations, destroys all fears, and transmits enlightened awareness. She is known as the mother of all Buddhas, the essence of compassion in action. Once a stellar goddess who was invoked for safe passage across the sea, she became, according to the Dictionary of Ancient Deities, “the protector of all mortals as they crossed the ocean of existence.”

Rama and Sita
This image appears here courtesy of Terrie Day, owner of Sabai Jewelry in New Orleans. According to Day, this painting by Made Gandro of Bali is a Balinese interpretation of the Hindu myth of Rama and Sita, depicting the two gods as they fly gifts of jewels to the angels.

These next two images from a Rizzoli book: Artefactos: Columbian Crafts from the Andes to the Amazon by Liliana Villegas and Benjamin Villegas inspired the underground chapel in A Rumor of Gems.

The spiral staircase [photo by Diego Miguel Garces] leads to an ancient burial chamber, circa A.D. VI, and is located in Tierradentro, Cauca.

This underground chapel on the outskirts of Bogota [photo by Diego Miguel Garces] is carved into what was once a salt mine cavern.

Pueblo Doorways in Chaco Canyon
Between A.D. 850 and 1250 Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico was a major center of ancient Puebloan culture. I'd had this postcard of these doorways in Chaco's Pueblo Bonito on my bulletin board for some time, mostly because I thought the sandstone masonry was beautiful. The more I looked at the three doorways, the more they intrigued, and when I began writing the Source Place section of Rumors, they suggested the Three Thresholds. [photograph © Dan Norris]

The illustration of “Silvershod” is from The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, translated by Marie Ponsot and illustrated by the luminous Adrienne Segur. A retold version of the “Silvershod” story appears in A Rumor of Gems. [For more information on both the original fairy tale and the illustration of Adrienne Segur, please see my essay on Gem Lore under Writings]

This is an image that my wonderful web designer, Geoffrey Notkin, came up with when he was designing a banner for this site. We ultimately decided to go with the image of the riverfront city, as it’s closest to what I imagined for Arcato. But I haven’t been able to get this image of the arches out of my mind, and so I suspect they’ll somehow appear in the next book.

For the Annotated Bibliography of books used as sources click HERE