The virus is messing with my head again – amongst everything else it’s messing with. I’m just settling down to write my next novel. It was to be set in 2020, but now I’m having a drastic rethink. I can’t comfortably start a story that will span the year, when I don’t know how it will all end. It’s not like Brexit, where you can just not mention the damn thing – leave politics out of the picture altogether. Covid has affected every inch of all our lives these last months, so my fictional characters can’t escape, unless I decide they live in some far-flung corner of the world, like, for instance, Kiribati, which has so far had no cases. But then it’s in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and clearly it was too much effort to infect the islanders, even for this wily virus. Anyway, I can’t go and visit for research any time soon.
The thing is, we’ve all slogged through months of lockdown and had to endure endless tiresome coronaspeak, such as the dreaded R-number and self-isolating and PPE – which used to be a university course, right? Then there’s poor old Durham, which is now eternally twinned with Specsavers. So will we really want to read a novel which features Matt Hancock on every page? And in which the only sex is virtual? I’m not saying it’s all about sex, obviously, nor that my characters will be doing it with Mr Hancock, but I’d like to point out that I write romantic novels and if my characters can’t even kiss unless they’re self-isolating together… it rather ruins the plot.
Land of milk and honey
So, I reckon I’m not going to say when this book is set. It’ll be a sort of no-man’s-land time where anything is possible and where the virus is only a glint in poor Boris’s eye – that’s a real case of ‘Be careful what you wish for’, eh? Nobody will have heard of our Dom, or know how to wash their hands properly or raid the supermarket for loo rolls or lose half of every meeting because they don’t know how to work Zoom. They won’t even have heard of Zoom. It’ll be a glorious land of milk and honey – both bought in a normal shop, of course, with crowds of people jostling at the till and spitting enthusiastically in each other’s faces. What a joy this book will be to write, I bet you can’t wait to read it!