For the 11th edition of the Open Mic Creativity and COVID-19 Special Project, I check in with the fabulous historical fiction author Erika Mailman. Her novels and characters have ranged from 16th Century witches to Gold Rush prostitutes to one of America’s most notorious accused murderers, and all are fascinating and entertaining reads.

OM. How has this pandemic impacted you as a writer?
: It has altered my rhythms. I used to work when our kids were at school…now I’m trying hard to wake up before everyone else and quietly write without also waking the dog who then wants to go outside. I did have a few freelance travel stories either postponed or killed, but luckily before I invested time in writing them. Surprisingly, I also was assigned a travel story from an outlet that is continuing to publish travel stories despite the pandemic (which makes sense–we still want
armchair tourism!)

OM: Has it been hard to maintain your creativity during this time?
: Not really. I find writing to be solace, so that and some binge-worthy TV and I’m doing fine.

OM:  Do you see yourself using anything from all this in a future storyline?

Mailman: I have been very interested in the Spanish Flu of 1918 which has real correlations to the Coronavirus, so maybe a historical novel someday on that topic. I’ll be writing a nonfiction piece on the 1918 flu for the Oakland Heritage Alliance newsletter (the preservation group in Oakland, CA), and I’ve written on it previously for an Oakland newspaper, the Montclarion, when I wrote a weekly history column years ago.

OM:  Anything new you are working on or that is coming out soon?
: Yes, I’m working on a co-writing project with a writer friend, Vanitha Sankaran. Before all the shelter in place happened, we checked into a hotel together and did an intense brainstorming session and outlined the book we’re now writing. We’re putting chapters on Slack for each other to read. Our date to finish was April 15–but we have adjusted that because of Coronavirus and new demands on our time. It’s science fiction which is outside my wheelhouse and really exciting to write. It’s also YA which is new for her (I write YA under the pen name Lynn Carthage), so we’re each doing something new.

OM: What are you missing the most during this lockdown? And what’s the first thing you’re going to do when it’s over?

Mailman: Besides a generalized peace of mind, I miss coffee dates with family and friends, and my live dance class. Zoom works for a lot of things, but dance seems strange. First thing I’ll do? Stock up on toilet paper. 😉



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