Hello Open Mic fans. I have some new interviews with authors, editors and agents coming your way soon. But with all of us under lockdown during this pandemic, I thought it would a great time to check in with some abbreviated Q&As with some of my fellow literary peeps to see not only how they are holding up, but how they are managing their efforts to be creative during this historic and stressful time. I’m going to be posting a new one of these every day until either we’re back to normal or I run out of authors and other artists to talk to. I hope this helps all of us cope a bit better.
Today’s session is with noted mystery and crime fiction author James L’etoile, the man behind the excellent Det. John Penley series.
OM: How has the lockdown impacted your creativity? Are you feeling more, or less, or about the same level of creativity and ability to write as normal?
JL: The lockdown started, for me, while I was attending Left Coast Crime in San Diego. Eight hours into the four day convention, the governor dropped his COVID-19 guidelines and shut down all large gatherings. Everyone there, nearly 700 of us, took it in stride, had one—or possibly more—cocktails together, and made our travel arrangements back home. It will be known as the best one day convention ever.
I think initially, the stay at home order stunted everyone’s creative output. That’s natural. The uncertainty of it all. When I worked in prison, we had lockdowns and you can spot a convict who knows how to do time by the way he survives a long lockdown. We’re not restricted to a six by eight cell, but some of those basics still apply. 1) Have a routine. Get up as if you were going to work, get dressed and go do things—even if it’s in your own house, or home office. 2) Set expectations, goals, word counts, number of scenes written—whatever it takes to motivate you to sit and do the work. 3) Get outside of your own head. Call, message, and check in with folks. Reading is a good source of calming your mind, too. If you are in a position to get outside—go do it.
- Are you doing anything different now than you normally would in your writing day?
JL: Basically, I have the same routine. Writing in the mornings and the business aspects of the writing in the afternoons. If anything, I’ve taken my foot off the gas a bit on production and given myself permission to take it a bit slower. There’s a feeling of anxiety out there that’s contagious as hell, and if we allow ourselves to be swept up in it, it doesn’t add anything productive to our lives. It’s important to make time to just chill. Dr. Bryan Robinson wrote Daily Writing Resilience and offers a number of tips and tools to maintain your emotional and mental health in this business. Dr. Robinson has assembled a number of authors to present a session on Daily Writing Resilience at Killer Nashville this August. Hopefully, we can travel by then, because the topic is even more relevant now.
OM: Any tips for people struggling to pull themselves away from the newsstand back to their writing projects?
JL: Don’t watch the news. Seriously, don’t. Be informed and check in, but limit your consumption of opinion-laden journalism, period. For the love of everything holy, don’t rely on Facebook and Twitter as your “Go to” news sources. When you’re working, shut off social media and be present in your writing.
OM: Any new projects you are working on?
JL: Always working on new projects. Finishing a round of edits on a new speculative fiction manuscript, something like Backdraft meets The Sixth Sense. It’s different for me, but I’m enjoying this new territory. The Shattering Glass Anthology was recent announced—publication of early June. A great collection of authors in this one, Alexandra Sokoloff, Heather Graham, Rachel Howzell-Hall, Wendy Corsi-Staub, Kaira Rouda, Kelli Stanley, Angel Colon, Danny Gardner, and a ton of talented folks. I managed to sneak a story in there; “Birthright” dealing with women in corrupt private prisons.