Sunday, May 17, 2020


I never liked using real places or landmarks in my work, because I worried something might happen to them before the book could come out. The World Trade Center, the Old Man of the Mountain, Notre Dame cathedral--all forever changed, in a matter of hours, in ways unforeseen--served as my reminders that we never know. I preferred fictional stand-ins. But now the very atmosphere, the social practices, the ways people spend their days, are all totally changed in ways we couldn't foresee. 

One difficult thing about writing contemporary fiction at this time is that we don't know where this pandemic will go, how things will unfold. It can take a year or two to write a novel; traditional publishing can take a few years beyond that. Even a fast writer, self-publishing, will likely take a few months at least to get from concept to publication.

So, should our characters wear masks? Will there be effective treatments, and if so, when? What activities will still be off limits? Will we return to semi-normal life or need another lockdown?

It's tempting to give up and set a story in the recent past instead. Or even the distant past. Or an alternate reality. And those are certainly options.

Or we can take the leap, and write based on where we are now, ever mindful of the reality of change ... and the ability to edit.