Last night I sent an email to my editor, to which was attached the revised manuscript of my novel. The last six weeks have passed in a blur. I’ve been hunkered down dealing with a structural report that required rewriting large portions of the book, while beyond the insulating walls of my workspace the world was growing ever crazier, or so it seemed. I had to apply strict limits on my engagement with news media, despite the urge to tune in frequently and find out what bizarre thing had happened now. (The answer usually was, something even less believable than what happened yesterday, or an hour ago.) Truth really has become stranger than fiction: the current wild ride of US politics; the dog’s breakfast of Britain’s departure from the EU; the failure of some world leaders to act effectively when the looming disaster of climate change is staring them right in the face. Not to mention a global pandemic. People behaving badly. People eager to believe and promote blatant falsehoods. People turning irrational when asked to obey lawful instructions. Weird. Terrifying. And yet we can’t look away. Like it or not, this is the world we live in.
I wanted to know and I didn’t want to know. The workspace with its clearly defined project, its tight deadline and its isolation from the outside world became something akin to the cave of a hibernating creature in winter, except that instead of sleeping I was immersed in the world of the book, wrestling with the dilemmas of my characters, dealing with the logistical and continuity problems of a major rewrite, and keeping to a timetable that governed my waking hours. I was not in pandemic lockdown. But I was largely absent from the outside world, with my faithful writing companion, the old dog, pretty much my sole source of social interaction.
Of course, social media is always only a click away when you’re writing. And social media means wall to wall coverage of world events, ranging from the professional and well-informed to the wildest of incoherent rantings. Yes, I did check from time to time. How could I not? The news was like a compelling horror story that a person doesn’t really want to read, but keeps on reading anyway to find out just how horrific it can get.
I don’t often read the horror genre for entertainment. Such terrible things happen in real life that I have no wish to delve into fiction for more. Based on the same argument, I almost never write horror. All my work demonstrates my belief that justice, wisdom, courage, compassion and empathy still exist in our flawed society and can win out over cruelty and oppression. Whether it’s as small as one person performing an act of kindness and understanding, or as big as Greta Thunberg’s wake-up call to the world on climate change, every positive act counts. [Read more…]