The Big Idea: Brenda W. Clough

When one is a writer, laziness can be a virtue. Skeptical? Here’s author Brenda W. Clough to explain how laziness was key to creating the story of A Door in His Head.

The wise writer is efficient because she’s lazy. She puts a lot of work into cooking up a universe, and then gets as many miles out of it as she can. All the work that Martha Wells has put into creating Murderbot, of course she’s going to write half a dozen volumes. When I wrote eleven volumes of Victorian thrillers, I created Singii, an Asian island nation in the South China Sea. So it was right there, ready to be recycled.

But the kickoff moment, what got me to write A Door in His Head, is when in the eleventh volume the king of Singii consults a fortuneteller. This was in the 1890s, and the oracle tells him he’ll live to be 75. A friend does the arithmetic and exclaims, “Wow, 1941, that’s forever!”

They go off and have their adventures. But I, the author, am lazy. He’ll die in 1941? Holy cow, I had selected his age 75 out of a hat. Many of my characters are better with numbers than I am. At that moment it came to me that a lot of people died in Asia in 1941. Pearl Harbor on December 7th kicked off the Japanese push into China and on south to Singapore, a campaign of harrowing brutality that dragged Asia into the war. And suddenly I was off and away, writing a novel set around World War 2.

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