This week’s contributing guest writer is Claire Pandora Gearty, who is in the middle of writing the third book in the series, Pilgrim and the Fall of Kings. :
You might quite naturally jump to the conclusion that Covid 19 has provided the opportunity through lockdowns and enforced isolation to create the perfect storm in which writers can work on their book. For some this may be true, however, for others; and I include myself among them, it has created a barrage of previously unforeseen occurrences that seem to have shrunk that my writing time. I’m a writer of speculative fiction, along the lines of HG Wells, extraordinary events occurring to everyday people. Therefore, on the face of it, my fingers should be running across the keyboard like a woman possessed. So, why aren’t they?
I can sum it up in one word – family – and I use that all-encompassing word with a smile. Despite, the fact my writing time is now at least halved from before, I don’t begrudge it. Is this a gender thing? No, not for me. It’s the need I feel to nurture, comfort, support and teach those I love and a unique opportunity for my family to develop a much deeper understanding of one another. Family, are like the pieces of a puzzle where the picture is continually changing and everyone is trying to fit themselves together as best they can. Under normal circumstances; pre Covid; any family difficulties, sibling disagreements, home boundary issues, household chores and finances; could be easily avoided or postponed; by simply exiting the family unit; on the pretext you’d be late for school, work or friends; in my case, any unpleasantness could be shelved until after the first glass of red.
Enter stage right; Covid 19. My daily routine was erased and I found myself sitting opposite a bewildered family at breakfast, who hadn’t said good morning to me in years, as I was out the door by 7am. If asked, pre-Covid, I would have said, ‘we’re a highly adaptable family, we’ve lived in a few countries, we have some experience of the world – bring it on! The reality landed a punch that made my knees wobble. I believe we pulled off the description, ‘plucky’, but that was about it.
Before the week was out, our house had become the center of all operations, with each of us acting autonomously to what was in our individual best interests. My husband was determined to stockpile every can of beans within a thirty-mile radius, my eldest daughter (who has a young son and apartment in the next town) needed to know immediately what my babysitting schedule was looking like for the next year and that I was in her, ‘support bubble’?, my youngest daughter believed she was destined to become a spinster and I planned how to sneak into the garage to write and leave them all to it.
Covid 19, forced me to step-up and be emotionally present for my family. The first weeks were the hardest, with no routine and no idea of what I was expected to do, other than cruise the supermarkets for toilet paper. I was hit with what felt like collective shrapnel: upcoming exams, work interviews, medical exams and a speeding ticket – all of which had to be taken online using a webcam. I reminded myself, ‘you’ve relocated across continents with 3.5 years old and a 6-month-old – I can do this!’
I fell at the first, ‘Sold Out,’ sign on a well-known internet site selling everything, but apparently, no more webcams. I don’t remember writing a single line in those first few weeks, as I attempted to calm the rising panic in the house. It wasn’t long before previously unheard-of ailments and internet diagnosed diseases began to plague the members of my family. I would have gone down with something exotic, but frankly, I didn’t have the time.
I became the IT fixer, cook, teacher, college advisor, nanny, bank negotiator, therapist, nurse, dental hygienist, hairdresser and veterinary nurse, everything but, a writer. In an even shorter time, tempers frayed, and long-held annoyances and fears were voiced at decibels which left our neighbors blushing.
My, ‘light-bulb’, moment came after revisiting the biscuit tin for the umpteenth time one morning. If Covid didn’t kill me then the stress might. I swallowed my pride, like 90% proof bourbon, gathered the family and announced I couldn’t do it all. You should have seen their faces! Complete disbelief. Now for the delegation of duties part. I set about the room asking each one of them what their preferred chore was and what hidden skill sets they possessed, pointing out, we didn’t need any twerking done in the house. I was pleasantly surprised and not a little relieved as they took it upon themselves to take responsibility for household chores, communication with the outside world and scheduling. Now came the tricky part; did they really believe they had Laughing Death syndrome, or had Covid just taken the joy out of their life.
We’re months into Covid 19 and bracing ourselves for the second wave. Our perspective as a family had shifted, it’s no longer, poor me, it’s now, what can I do to be useful? I had never written more furiously and with more conviction and creativity than ever before. I looked at my family, one of the millions on the planet and thought, “wow, these people support me and I support them and in turn, we support our community”. It was a ripple effect. I’m not alone, we are not alone.
I live in the south west of England in the beautiful rural county of Devon in a small town whose literary benefactor is none other than, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. My husband and our two daughters moved here after relocating from France where we had lived for almost four years and prior to that we spent almost twelve years living in the USA, on the east coast in Manhattan and Long Island and on the west coast in southern California. I have a BA in Business Management and Administration (keep your hair on – I know it’s not Creative Writing). I’m the proud author of the Neath A Pilgrim Chronicles and my third book in the trilogy is almost complete).
About the Author
I am in the middle of writing the third book in the series, Pilgrim and the Fall of Kings, and loving every minute of it! What could be more exciting than spending time with Pilgrim and Baxter. I’m never sat in front of my computer tapping away on the keyboard, instead, I’m traveling with them to Istanbul, discovering the body frozen underneath the lake, trying to figure out how to get three more minutes of air before Pilgrim drowns – it’s exhausting!
Pandora, was born Claire Pandora Gearty in North London. Aged eighteen, she received her first award for writing and moved to Brussels where she joined the Brussels Shakespeare Company and was involved with broadcasting. She gained an American Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Administrative Management upon her return to the UK.
Pandora has worked and lived outside of the UK for sixteen years, predominately in California, USA for people who feature prominently in the media; this has given her writing an authentic and vital style. In France, she finished her debut novel, The Balance-Pilgrim; published in 2015 which has sold in over nine countries with impressive reviews. She has completed the movie screenplay for The Balance-Pilgrim, edited by L. Smith former Literary Editor for Lucas Film LA. Pilgrim and the Geometry of Fear, released 2016, is to be followed by, Pilgrim and the Fall of Kings, due out in 2020-21. Pandora currently resides in Devon England with her husband and two daughters.