There are many themes and inspirations in The Quiet is Loud that I feel are quite overt – just a few off the top of my head: identity, belonging, self-reflection, mythology, tarot cards, Filipino food, and unexpected friendships. But I thought it might be fun to share four inspirations that are a little more unusual.
X-Men, and the concept of shitty superpowers
When I was a kid/young teenager, my brother and I were both into X-Men comics, sharing each other’s issues and talking about the latest storylines. And because we’re us, we also spent many summer and weekend afternoons theorizing about the most useless superpowers a mutant could have. The ability to accurately pour orange juice into a glass from any height was my favourite.
I didn’t consciously draw on this idea when writing TQIL, but it must have lodged in my brain. I was compelled by the idea of “superpowers” that don’t necessarily have societal or personal benefit – or may even be harmful. In TQIL, there are characters who can remember everything they ever read, feel a rippling underneath their skin when they’re close to someone like them, and even make others go catatonic.
It was endlessly interesting to explore the ramifications of this. I believe that if superpowers existed in our world, it’d be more likely that you’d get saddled with an ability that’d affect you on an internal, personal level – rather than a useful physical ability you could use in a crime-fighting team. How would your life, your entire person change in this way? If, for example, you had to figure out a way to keep the knowledge of everything you’ve ever read from getting in the way of you living your life?
Jessica Jones, and her relationship with Trish
Given what I wrote above, it may not be a surprise to hear that I really enjoyed the Jessica Jones Netflix series. Jessica’s relationship with her abilities and the way she hid herself away from the world formed the kernel of Freya’s story in TQIL. However, the biggest inspiration from the show was Jessica’s relationship with Trish.
Mary, Freya’s protective cousin, existed long before the novel was written. But I was inspired by the specific way that Jessica turned to Trish with her secrets and fears, and the way Trish pushed back when all Jessica wanted to do was drink herself into oblivion. In The Quiet is Loud, I kept Trish in the back of my mind when developing Mary further. There’s also a specific argument that Freya and Mary have that’s my own little homage to Jessica and Trish’s friendship.
Cassandra Pentaghast from Dragon Age: Inquisition
The character of Cassandra in The Quiet is Loud is inspired by another Cassandra – from the video game Dragon Age: Inquisition. DA:I is one of my favourite games, and I’ve spent way too many hours playing it (I think I’ve played it through eight times!). So maybe it’s no surprise that the game filtered through into other areas of my life.
Admittedly, TQIL’s Cassandra was initially a stronger reflection of DA:I’s character, but in later drafts she softened, became more of her own person. Which is, of course, ideal for a novel! But the seeds of “my” Cassandra are certainly plucked from her video game counterpart: a strong sense of duty and principles, the pursuit of answers, and a quiet but clear feeling of leadership.
(Bonus fact: There’s another character in the book who’s inspired by another character from the Dragon Age franchise. I’m still not sure how much info will count as a spoiler so I’ll leave it at that. But I think this is proof that I have maybe played too much Dragon Age over the years!)
The overexposed stock photo model
I’m not the first one to notice this particular stock photo model everywhere, but it’s possible I’m the one of the rare ones to use her in a novel. Every time I saw her, it felt like I got a little bit more of her story, but also more questions. Why was she so ubiquitous? How many photoshoots did she have, and over how long? Was was it like for her to see her own face everywhere?
And probably most importantly – was she half-Asian? To me, she definitely looked like it. Freya in The Quiet is Loud is also half-Asian, like the model, like me. To me it was easy to imagine this stock photo model as Freya, put through the paces by her novelist-photographer father Brian. Brian wrote his controversial novel about his family in the short story where he first appeared (linked above). For The Quiet is Loud, I developed his secondary photography career, and it made sense that he would churn out a mass amount of stock photos with his daughter as the primary model. It’s no wonder Freya wants to hide away!