Re: When you started and what inspired you...
I first played guitar when I was about 13 or 14 (94 iirc). My uncle gave me his old fender (because he got a new one for xmas).
I did lessons for a short time but had to choose between Kung Fu and guitar... Always been a martial arts nut so I chose Kung fu. I regret it yet I dont, very strange feeling.
I started playing guitar again a little over a year and a half ago. At first I thought of it as something that I just needed to do because I gave it up so long ago, and for some weird reason, I've been wanting to live my life to the fullest and go back to finish things i started a long time ago. So yeah, that was the start (and I've continued since then), and it has given my life the greatest gift of all: Hearing myself actually play music.
I've always been influenced by Mick Mars, but more recently, my biggest influence has become Timo Tolkki. Not so much for his speedy Yngwie-style solos, but his simple melodies and very emotional music. So much of what Stratovarius became was because of his songwriting and simple melodies (and he is still considered to be the father of symphonic power metal). I basically only listen to old school (pre-kotipelto) stratovarius now, because of the emotional power of that era of Strato.