The State of the Crime Novel in 2021: Writing During the Pandemic

From CrimeReads, the Mystery Writers of America nominees for the 75th annual Edgar Awards discuss the state of crime fiction in 2021:

Elsa Hart (nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award – The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne): Fundamentally. Do you know how fantasy novels usually start with a map of the world? If I could represent my writing self as one of these, it would show me wandering around in a completely different zone than I was a year ago. It’s all still me. I’m just exploring different corners of my imagination.

Nev March (nominated for Best First Novel – Murder in Old Bombay): It was so difficult to concentrate! Living in the midst of a real crisis makes any fictional world recede. It felt like living through a war, changed how we shopped, went out, and interacted with people. For two months I stopped writing to sew 460 cloth face masks for home healthcare workers, friends and neighbors. My first bit of writing after that was a comedic article about making masks on an unwilling sewing machine! It normalized the new, bizarre reality and re-energized my writing.

June Hur (nominated for Best Young Adult – The Silence of Bones): As a mom of a toddler, my writing schedule hasn’t changed too much. I write when my daughter naps and when she’s asleep. I suppose, the only difference is, I’m a bit more exhausted at the end of the day since I’m stuck at home with my daughter all day, trying to figure out how to keep her entertained (rather than going out on playdates, etc). So it takes me a bit longer to get into the writing zone.

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Ivy Pochoda (nominated for Best Novel – These Women): Well it’s certainly made me more efficient and less of a baby about the whole thing. I used to have a large chunk of the day to myself. But now I’m pretty immersed in brushing up on my kindergarten skills—phonics, addition, social and emotional learning. Which leaves me roughly two and a half hours to write in the late afternoon and that has never been a great time for me to get “creative.” But you know what—I’m doing it. I’m writing in those hours—if I can—and I’m being super easy on myself. A great day is 500 words. (Don’t laugh, you book a year people!) And 500 words is enough for now. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself to be super prolific. Just a few words feels major.

Heather Young (nominated for Best Novel – The Distant Dead): Having my husband and son working and studying from home did disrupt my writing process, but the pandemic hasn’t changed my writing. My work in progress is set in 1943, so I don’t have to worry about COViD-19 in my narrative. In fact, it’s been oddly comforting to spend my writing time in an era when the world confronted threats far more existential than the coronavirus.

Mariah Fredericks (nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award – Death of an American Beauty): I don’t know if it’s changed my writing. It has made me very grateful that I have a job that allows me to escape into other people’s heads and a different time altogether. And that I have my own workspace, where I can physically escape. Much as I love my family.

Taryn Souders (nominated for Best Juvenile – Coop Knows The Scoop): In the past, I found myself being very distracted at home with laundry, or kids, or pets, or anything really. I would often go to a coffee shop to write. With the pandemic though, those options were no longer available. It forced me to write at home. My preference is definitely the coffee shops! I haven’t been nearly as productive as I would like but I’m getting there!

Christina Lane (nominated for Best Critical/Biographical – Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock): Well, I don’t write in the public library anymore, which has slowed my roll. The pandemic has opened up more free time and provided time to explore. I began experimenting at turning my latest book into a mystery-based video game, teaching myself the basics of game-writing. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, if only to experiment with directions of storytelling.

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David Heska Wanbli Weiden (nominated for Best First Novel – Winter Counts): I write in bursts now. I’ve got my five-a.m. shift, before everyone wakes up, then my mid-morning time, and then an evening stint, if I’m not too exhausted. I really, really miss coffee shops, where I used to do most of my writing. Not only the massive infusion of caffeine, but the buzz and hum of customers and the chance to eavesdrop on random conversations. Having said that, I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of writing short stories again, after grappling with a novel for several years. Not sure if the enforced isolation of the pandemic had anything to do with this, but it’s been an interesting change.

Link to the rest at CrimeReads