For Day 8 of the Creativity and COVID-19 Project, we check in with LA-based reporter and writer Christina Hoag, who has covered everything from guerrilla warfare in Colombia to gang wars in Los Angeles. Her books include the excellent “Skin of Tattoos” and the YA thriller novel “Girl on the Brink.”
OM: We’ve all been hit in some way or another by this pandemic in some way. How has this situation impacted you?
Hoag: I lost my writing den! It’s a joint workspace called The Office but aimed at writers of any kind or people who really need to work in silence, which is strictly enforced. I’ve been going there for almost a year and found it far more productive than staying at home, plus, even though it’s really not a social place, it’s a cool vibe being around other serious, nerdy writers. This being LA, it’s mostly screenwriters. So I’ve had to get used to writing at home again. Secondly, my freelance writing and editing work has taken a dive off a cliff so I’ve had to apply for unemployment for the first time in my life.
OM: How are you managing your creativity during this time? Have you been able to keep your usual writing schedule?
Hoag: By and large, I’m sticking to it. I’m a morning writer. When I wrote at The Office, I’d get there at 8 to nab my favorite seat. That not being an issue now, I take a far more relaxed approach to getting up and may not start writing until 9 or so. Somehow, I feel less pressure.
OM: How about the creativity you are taking in – what books and music or movies or TV have you been catching up on? Do you find any inspiration in those works that are helping your own writing?
Hoag: I just finished reading My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, which I did find inspiring. My WIP has a sexual assault theme and My Dark Vanessa is about an affair between a high school student and a teacher. It reminded me to get into the head of my character as to how she deals with denial and the emotional legacy of sexual abuse.
OM: You’ve covered serious human drama all lover the world. Have those experiences helped you in any way to cope with this better than you might have otherwise?
Hoag: Good question, which I hadn’t pondered before! Suffering is always hard to witness at any level. I think my background in foreign journalism helps me to weather crises without panicking or worrying about things that are beyond my control. I always had to focus on the present, calculate the personal risk in covering events and act with urgency to meet deadline. I have also seen the amazing resiliency and adaptability of the human spirit in the face of terrible situations many times.
OM: Have you got any new projects we can tell folks about?
Hoag: I’m writing a standalone mystery, which has two crimes to solve. That’s all I can say at the moment, other than I feel stronger about this than anything I’ve written recently. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the first draft and eager to get to the end so I can start rewriting!