May 2, 2020 Updated Sep 14, 2020
Authors lead a solitary life. They sequester themselves in their writing rooms for hours at a time. They dwell on memories of lived experience; they contemplate the ideas others have put down in books.
In normal times, the isolation is by choice. During a pandemic, it’s by necessity. Yet books must be written, and books must be read, and in so doing, one might find a certain comfort, or distraction, or illumination.
Writers are mere mortals, subject to the same anxieties as everyone else, and therefore just as likely as any of us to be pushed off course by a global pandemic. The Post and Courier reached out to six South Carolina-based writers to find out how they are coping with the coronavirus-imposed shut-in and what sort of writing and reading they can manage.
Left to Right:
Top: Patti Callahan, Brad Taylor, Bernard Cornwell.
Bottom: Signe Pike, Nicole Seitz, Gary Jackson
Patti Callahan Henry, author of “southern contemporary” fiction as well as the historical novel “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” spends a lot of time in Bluffton. She says the daily barrage of coronavirus news has knocked her off balance.
“I am finding time to write, but in spurts because my attention span seems diminished and fractured by the worries and the collective grief and uncertainty. I was once a nurse, and the absolute courage of these health care workers encourages me and worries me.”
For the time being, writing isn’t what it used to be.
“Both my college-age sons are back at home doing online school, so that adds a different be to the house than I am accustomed to having. My husband is working at home, and that has never, in 29 years of marriage, happened before. Everything is new. But I have been working (or trying)!”
Let’s hope so: She’s got a book coming out in March 2021 called “Surviving Savannah,” historical fiction about the sinking of the Pulaski, as well as a short story Reunion Beach for an anthology honoring the late Dorothea Benton Frank.
“The pandemic has infiltrated everything I think about — from everyday actions to how to approach new works. How could a book that takes place in 2020 or 2021 not include this event in some way? I don’t know what this means for the long run, but it does mean that we are all thinking differently, even if we don’t yet know how.”
Reading has been a balm of sorts.
“I’ve loved Emily Giffin’s new book, ‘The Lies that Bind,’ and an older book called ‘Before the Fall’ by Noah Hawley (so good!). I read JT Ellison’s ‘Good Girls Lie’ and for long swaths of time did not think about the pandemic. That defines a great book.”
Adam Parker has covered many beats and topics for The Post and Courier, including race in America, religion, and the arts. He is the author of “Outside Agitator: The Civil Rights Struggle of Cleveland Sellers Jr.,” published by Hub City Press.