Monday, 4 May 2020

The Mysteries of Lockdown

We're living in extraordinary times right now, encountering situations that none of us could have dreamed of a few short months ago. Writing and reading offer a very welcome form of escapism for many of us, and I'm not planning to write extensively about my experiences of lockdown or indeed to keep a lockdown diary. But among other things, this blog is about one person's take on the writing life and it wouldn't make much sense to ignore something as significant as the impact on lockdown.

Fortunately, I and my family have so far kept well, and when one sees the problems being experienced in some places, any difficulties I've encountered are really of little consequence. The biggest downside in terms of my writing life, apart from not being able to meet friends, has been that I'd arranged a very busy year of events and travel, and pretty much everything has fallen by the wayside.

But there have been upsides - including a chance to reflect on the simple pleasures of nature, as with the rainbow over Lymm Dam, above. I'd been acutely conscious that, because of all my commitments, I would struggle to meet my various writing deadlines. When it began to seem likely that there would be some kind of lockdown, I resolved to try to treat the problem as an opportunity. So, among other things, it's been possible to complete work on the proofs of the next CWA anthology, Vintage Crimes, and the Detection Club's hefty book about the art and craft of crime writing, Howdunit. The publication of Howdunit has, however, been delayed from June to September.

Given that there was to be no launch of Mortmain Hall or promotional events, I've also done my best to pursue opportunities to promote the book online. The big challenge has been to cope with unfamiliar technology - BeLive, Zoom, Facebook Live, and so on, and that hasn't been easy for a dinosaur like me. But I've been hugely gratified by the response to the book so far. The latest lovely review is by Lynne Patrick for Mystery People:"
The biggest task was to crack on with the next Lake District Mystery. It's hard to credit that it's five years since The Dungeon House was published - so much has happened since I finished writing that one. The basic idea for the new book, The Crooked Shore, has been spinning around in my head for a long time, but some key ingredients only came to me late last year - including the setting (the top photo gives a clue as to how I solved this riddle). I felt I had a great concept but something was missing before then. Once I started writing it in December and I've finished the first draft. It took 137 days to write the book, the fastest I've ever completed a novel. I'll take another look at it soon to do some further revision, but I'm very pleased to have got to this stage and I'm pretty happy with the story. Certainly I feel that it's up to the standards of the earlier books in the series. And so, for all the drawbacks of lockdown, for me there have certainly been compensations.

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