Writing in the Time of Covid

Oct 21, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Lois Winston

Shortly after the pandemic hit this past spring, writers began asking each other how they were going to handle Covid-19 in their books. Should we incorporate self-quarantining, social distancing, and mask wearing into our stories, especially for those of us who write ongoing series?

I didn’t have to wonder what I’d do. I knew I wouldn’t be addressing Covid-19 in my books.

I live eighteen miles from Ground Zero. I watched in real time as the second plane hit the second tower and later when both towers collapsed. There were children in my town whose parents never came home that day and never would. I have neighbors who lost family members. And nineteen years later, I still have nightmares about that day. I’ve never watched a show or read a book about 9/11 and never will. The events are seared into my brain. I don’t need fictional reminders of the horror we all lived through.

Lois Winston

And that’s how I feel about the pandemic.

I’m certain there are suspense and thriller writers who are already hard at work on Covid-themed novels, but I write humorous cozy mysteries. Yes, they include murder and mayhem, but not in a way that keeps readers up at night or gives them nightmares. Even though my plots are often inspired by actual events, my books are an escape from the real world, not a reminder of it.

However, when Covid-19 struck, I was faced with a huge dilemma. I was in the middle of writing the ninth and latest book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, which is set on a cruise ship. I had always wanted to write a locked-room mystery, and a cruise ship is the perfect setting for such a book, especially if there’s a reason the ship can’t dock at any of its scheduled ports of call.

Yet, at the time, the nightly news was filled with reports of stranded cruise ships filled with people suffering from the virus. I certainly didn’t want to give my readers a reminder of that! Besides, how could my sleuth investigate a murder on a cruise ship if people were getting sick and confined to their cabins? I didn’t even want passengers experiencing Coronavirus. What if some of my readers had weak stomachs? I want to create belly laughs in my readers, not belly distress.

Thanks to a bit of fortuitous research, I found a way to keep the ship from docking without having to cause an outbreak of anything viral or bacterial that would jeopardize the ship’s passengers. I feel confident none of my readers will turn green upon reading the reason why the ship is refused debarkation in The Bahamas. So rest assured, if you have a weak stomach, you can safely read A Sew Deadly Cruise!

If you’re a reader, do you want to read about the pandemic in future books? If you’re a writer, will you be incorporating the pandemic into your stories?

A Sew Deadly Cruise
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

Buy Links
Amazon: https://amzn.to/34h7J5n
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-sew-deadly-cruise
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sew-deadly-cruise-lois-winston/1137427499?ean=2940162697930
Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-sew-deadly-cruise/id1526052822

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USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.
Website: www.loiswinston.com
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  1. Thanks for inviting me to blog today, Lorie!

  2. Great blog, Lois – thank you! I just finished SEW and was happy not to see any COVID looming on deck. I don’t want to read about it in my escape reading and I’m more blessed than I knew I could be in writing two series that take place in the early 2000s. I don’t want to write about it in my mysteries, either. And, a topic that requires some thought, though. Thanks!

  3. Lois,
    I started the Misty Dawn Mysteries because I wanted to get out of the newsroom where my previous series, the Carol Childs Mysteries, took place. So far I’ve managed to avoid both politics and the current Covid crisis. Like you, I prefer my soft oiled mysteries to offer my readers more escapism than reality.
    Congratulations on your newest book. I love sailing, and while we can sail I’ll enjoy a little arm-chair sail with your books.

    • Nancy, politics is another subject I’ll never touch. It’s far too polarizing for a humorous cozy mystery series. Besides, I see no point in alienating a portion of my readership. My philosophy is that I don’t care who you voted for as long as read and love my books. ;-D

  4. I totally agree. Theheartache is too fresh.It’s different if one were to reference the Great Flu of 1918. Interesting enough I have read three sci-fi dystopian novels published in 2020 that the end of all things is caused by a virus or archaea. Weird.

  5. Helen, I think that’s a tried and true trope of dystopian fiction. There are countless books written where a virus threatens to destroy the world. Your comment made me wonder how many, if any, novels about the Spanish flu were written during the time of the Spanish flu. Also, the polio scourge. I can’t think of any.


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