As a writer, what do you do if your book is set in the present, but the Coronavirus pandemic thwarts your story? Adapt? Ignore? It’s a question on a lot of writers’ minds. We’d like to hear from you.
The Coronavirus has been called a lot of different names: a plague, a scourge, a global pandemic, and more — including names with questionable undertones about its origin. For authors like Holly Watt, whose stories rely on present-day settings, it has another title:
“It is the massive elephant in the room,” said Watt in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. Her book, To the Lions, was the winner of the 2019 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award and she’s working on another novel due to be published in 2021.
“I’m trying to work out where we might be,” said Watt. “Might there be a vaccine? Will getting on a plane feel wildly anachronistic? Will journalists working from an office seem weird? How interesting can a book actually be when everyone is sitting in their sitting room in their pajamas?
I’ve received notes from BookBaby authors with similar questions and concerns.
“At first, I was going to just ignore the pandemic and continue with my lead character Winona’s glamorous social life like it was 2019 or something. I was encouraged by a fan to incorporate our current situation into the storyline, but it would limit the main character tremendously and I couldn’t imagine a story for her, under the circumstances, that anyone would want to read. But ignoring the virus just to keep the party going felt dodgy and unrealistic. While I appreciate the challenge, I hate for Winona, as well as the rest of us, to have to go through any of this.” — Edwina Owens Elliott
Others, like BookBaby author Wendy Perriam, are asking for advice:
“I’d love some discussion of the tricky problem of what authors do if their novel is set very clearly in 2020, yet they do NOT want to deal with the Coronavirus or even mention it. Back-dating the novel seems unsatisfactory. Bringing it forward means a lot of uncertainty, as we do not yet know whether further waves of the virus will hit us. Yet readers may hate us if a 2020 novel shows restaurants open and life going on as normal. What do other novelists and readers think?”
It’s a great question, and I invite everyone to share your thoughts in the comments section below. What say you?
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