As I was writing Captive, we were all learning about a virus called SARS COV 2. It is now a ghastly and ever-present fact of our everyday lives but it has been largely ignored by the world of fiction. I don’t watch a lot of TV but I have yet to see a current show in which the issue is even mentioned, Also, I have read a couple of books, written in the last six months, which make no mention of the elephant in the room.
When I started writing Jailed, I wanted to push the whole pandemic thing into the background and basically ignore it,. My thought was that even if we have to deal with it in real life, let’s not deal with it when we escape into the world of fiction. But when I got chatting with a criminal lawyer friend—Cal’s and Nick’s lawyer Jim Garry is based on him—he told me about how COVID is sweeping through Canadian jails.
I decided I could no longer ignore the issue.
After some thought, I realized that when people look back at COVID (how I long for the day when we can!) they will just have information on what actually happened. Yet in fiction there are things people may not have thought about. Things that might be interesting to look back at.
For example there is humour in COVID. At one point in Jailed, someone says, “Ahh, do you remember the good old days. Back then, if you opened the door to a masked man, it was a bad thing.” And there’s other stuff that doesn’t make the news cycle. Can you tell if someone is lying when they are masked up? Can you see a guilty look just from someone’s eyes? When you smile at a person in a shop or on the street, do you remember that they can’t see you’re smiling at them and may take your gaze as hostile? It’s a writer’s job to make the life of the protagonist more difficult. COVID is making everyone else’s life more difficult so why not Cal’s too.
So as a writer, I have embraced the pandemic and incorporated it into Jailed. I hope it makes the book more interesting.
I also hope that in the book following Jailed, we will all be looking back at COVID in our metaphorical rear-view mirrors.