Living in Central Pennsylvania, my family and I have been in self-isolation for about a month. At first, I found myself struggling to find space for writing. My head was full of anxious thoughts, I was trying to take three residential courses for Penn State and suddenly translate them to online courses, and my children were negotiating what it meant to be home from school and still learning. It was a hard transition.
And yet, a few days in I found myself thinking of a story.
My novels often serve as a vehicle for me to explore my own fears. Looking back on A Flash of Red, It Was Always You, and the recently released The Anniversary, I can see themes of my personal struggles buried inside characters and between pages. Writing offers a creative catharsis for many of us, and perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the story forming in my head over the first weeks of this quarantine was of a family forced into similar circumstances.
If you’ve read my novels, though, you’ll know that the connections to my own life are often subtler than the main plot points of my novels. My life isn’t abounding with psychopaths, sweethearts with ill intent, or self-destructive friends. For my current work in progress, the same pattern is playing out. My family is in self-quarantine, but we don’t live in a mansion on a huge plot of land in the Northeastern wilderness like the characters in this new novel do. Although we absolutely get annoyed with each other, no one is harboring any malicious plans to steal the family fortune or to usurp familial power as the world burns.
I write every morning as part of the #morningpages practice, and I find that as my story evolves and my characters progress in their devious acts, my own worries lift. It’s a relief to escape into a world where I control every piece of the terrifying puzzle. At a time where we often feel out of control of the events that swirl around us, it’s a great comfort to escape to another one where we have absolute choice in what happens next.
If you find yourself working on a new project during this pandemic, especially a thriller, you might want to check out my recent article for New Lit Salon Press where I share my own techniques and tips for plotting out my novels.
And here’s a short video where I detail how I went about plotting The Anniversary, with living room table and Post-Its in full force!
Happy reading, happy writing, and stay safe and healthy out there!