For the Open Mic Creativity and COVID-19 Special Project, Day 12 we check in with Todd Robinson, one of my favorite crime fiction writers. His work is gritty, often funny and always compelling. His two Junior and Boo novels, “The Hard Bounce” and “Rough Trade,” are must-reads for any crime fiction fan, and if you haven’t checked in with his short fiction mag Thuglit…well, get to it.
OM: What’s the worst part of all this for you so far?
Robinson: The hardest part is the sheer uncertainty of it all. I’ve been unemployed (as a bartender) since March 13th with no end in sight right now. I’m a single father and a workaholic. The forced down time is a bit maddening.
It’s also made particular aspects of the writing process difficult to wrangle. As a writer, how does one address the new world that’s constricted around us? Myself and a couple other writers have talked about our current works in progress, and how this has impacted those. For novels that won’t be released within the next couple of years, how can we ignore what we’re going through? Or should we just ignore it for the sake of the story?
OM: Conversely, has there been anything positive for you?
Robinson: I’ve had to adjust every aspect of my life in ways that are surprisingly positive. I’m forced to tamp down my workaholic anxieties. As exhausting as a ten year old boy can be, I’m loving the extra time I have with my son. It’s also shown me just how strong my bond is with my amazing girlfriend who is equally quarantined and without work. I haven’t even once considered smothering her with a pillow, although she probably couldn’t say the same of me. I can be…a handful.
The extra writing time is nice too, although outside of one short story, I haven’t accomplished much word count wise. Hoping that changes soon.
OM: Are you able to maintain your usual creativity and writing schedule? If so, have you had to do anything different to get there?
Robinson: I don’t really have a writing schedule, as my life doesn’t tend to have room for additional scheduling that isn’t related to the jobby-job or my son. The creativity is there, but the focus is a bit wonky. I usually take a bit to find “my zone” on the best of days, since my writing happens whenever I can stitch a couple minutes to plonk down a paragraph or two.
OM: I’m convinced the publishing industry is going to take years to recover from all this. But then, I’m a cynic by nature. How do you see all this impacting the industry? Will it make it even harder for writers, or somehow better?
Robinson: I think the publishing industry is being devastated by this. I’m seeing report after report about releases being delayed, contracts being cancelled, and publishers potentially going under as a result. As someone who currently has a novel out on the market that was having a difficult time finding a publisher before all of this, I don’t have much hope that it will find one anytime soon.
OM: Do you have any suggestions to help writers who might be struggling with tearing themselves away from the news?
Robinson: Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself extra time to focus on whatever it is you’re working on, and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to produce under these extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Focus on the things that are important right now, and if that’s not your writing, so be it. No one will hold it against you.