The most common question I get asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”
In the 1950s, science fiction writers had a standing joke of answering, “Schenectady.” Probably because it’s fun to say.
But I would never do anything so immature. So in answer to your questions about where did I got the idea for Midnighters, I would have to say . . . Lake Titikaka.
(I slay me.)
Actually, Iâ€™m not sure exactly how I got the basic idea for Midnighters. Iâ€™ve always read a lot of science fiction, and frozen time is a pretty old idea. Of course, in most sf and fantasy, a machine or magical device freezes time. But I liked the idea of time interrupted as a daily event, something thatâ€™s part of the fabric of the universe.
And then I realized that something had to live inside that frozen time–something scary and evil and conflict-providing. The darklings come out of my fascination with early human history. I often wonder what it would be like to have lived way back before agriculture and the wheel and iPods. Especially the getting chased and eaten part.
If you look at animals that are prey (like, say, squirrels) youâ€™ll probably notice that theyâ€™re very nervous all the time. Thatâ€™s because at any moment another creature can appear out of nowhere and take them off and EAT THEM. This would clearly make life very different. Youâ€™d never be bored.
My only glimpse into this world-view was on a trip I took to Africa. I went on a walking tour (with a guide) into a nature preserve where a couple of mature lions lived. We spotted a few springboks (a sort of gazelle, the lionâ€™s usual lunchmeat) and lion tracks, and even some lion spoor (ex-springboks). Then we heard one of the lions roar in the distance, which set off all sort of alarm bells in my body that have never gone off before.
Walking around that day was incredibly strange and intense. On the one hand, the preserve was really beautiful, and on the other hand, a big part of my brain was thinking ONLY about the maybe-getting-eaten part. Which, in a weird way, made the beauty all the more intense.
So I wanted the darklings to be sort of like wild animals: unpredictable, hidden predators that take us back to when we were basically squirrels. I was trying to capture some of that intense beauty I experienced on the African veldt. Of course, darklings also have a weird kind of intelligence (and even some phobias) to make them a bit more like us. Because thatâ€™s even scarier.