There were so many things I didn’t think about when I chose the Seven Deadly Sins as the theme for my series, like don’t start with lust or your books will be shelved next to the erotica books in the online bookstores! True story.
Another thing that never occurred to me was how I would write about sloth. Most of us think of sloth, if we think of it at all, as laziness. A novel where everybody laid around not doing anything didn’t sound suspenseful.
Time to research. I learned that although laziness is part of the definition, sloth is linked to the sin of omission. You know the expression, evil thrives when good people do nothing? That’s also sloth, and it seemed a better possibility for a crime novel than laziness did.
But what would the crime be?
A number of years ago I got involved with an anti-human trafficking organization. The stories I heard rocked my world. I had no idea it was as big a problem as it is right here in the good ole’ US of A.
One story in particular, about a young girl from Egypt, broke my heart. This child was ‘sold’ by her parents to a wealthy couple who brought her to America with them. They worked her to the bone, ignored her basic needs, and made her sleep on the garage floor. Since she spoke no English they were able to convince her that the American police would beat her, toss her in jail, and throw away the key if they found her. Thankfully, a neighbor noticed what was happening and tipped off Social Services.
This girl was the inspiration for Hannah in The Sanctity of Sloth, but she had a happier end than Hannah’s. (I am a murder and suspense writer, after all.) Shyima Hall became a U.S. citizen and got an education with the goal of becoming a police officer.
I often say I have to grapple with my own B.S. (besetting sins) when I embark on a novel. To write well about sloth, for instance, I had to dredge my life for misdeeds. This is my method for creating character emotions and responses that feel real.
I’ve never enslaved anyone (no matter what my hubby says when the honey-do list comes out). But, I’ve seen injustice and shut my mouth rather than ruffle feathers.
What Shyima’s story teaches, and what I learned from the anti-trafficking organizations, is exposure is the traffickers’ kryptonite. The more good people understand the scope and nature of the problem, the less criminals like the couple who enslaved Shyima will be able to get away with their crimes.
Why not kill two birds with one stone?
Hence the plot for The Sanctity of Sloth was born. It seemed perfect–an action-packed crime married to a message of social awareness. I could be entertaining and assuage my own conscience at the same time.