Inspiration strikes in the most unlikely places.
As I was working on the new book, Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, I was trying to come up with a street grid—a city plan—for the city of Chandara. But I had wasted a whole afternoon making tentative scribbles like this one.
I had studied maps of some of the greatest cities, like Paris and Amsterdam, and there was some elusive quality of design to each one that appealed to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
That evening, Jeanette and I went out for Chinese food. As we waited for the Moo Goo Gai Pan, the door of the Jade Palace Restaurant caught my eye.
I was intrigued by the pattern of cracking paint. The big diagonal cracks reminded me of avenues, and the smaller cracks looked like a maze of hidden alleyways, or "snickleways" as they call them in York, England.
I was down on my hands and knees staring closer and closer at the door. People walking by thought I had completely lost my mind.
Every city, in its old medieval section, has a pattern of streets that includes broad, straight avenues and little winding side streets. There is some deep law of nature at play in the cracking paint that also governs the layout of cities. I would like to live in such a city.
This was the breakthrough! The design of Chandara fell right into place. I went home and drew the map.
My fortune cookie said some trite nonsense, like “You will meet an interesting friend.” But what it should have said was “Stay open to possibilities.”