It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to my next guest author Jeannie Wycherley – in my Isolation series in the time of COV19 – I discovered Jeannie via my Facebook post on Book Connectors asking if group members would be interested in writing a post about Isolation during Coronavirus.
Jeannie was one of several who were interested in joining in. She has a fascinating tale to tell.
How are coping with this enforced isolation?
Collaboration in the time of Coronavirus Jeannie Wycherley
I was travelling in Sri Lanka when I first heard the word ‘coronavirus’. That probably makes it sound like I’m some sort of global jetsetter, and to be honest, I wish I was. But in truth, my husband and I run a small seaside gift shop in a small town in the south west of England and this was our first holiday in five years. We both have to supplement our income from the shop in other ways. He does so from exam marking (we’re both ex-lecturers) and I do so from my writing.
I don’t think I was concerned at first. I wasn’t paying much attention to the news in any case. But then we stayed in a gorgeous hotel near Dambulla over Chinese New Year and it seemed really odd to see all the Chinese tourists wearing face masks. Fast forward two weeks and I flew home with a scratchy throat. Just 48 hours later I had a respiratory illness that knocked me for six.
By then Coronavirus was becoming more newsworthy. I still don’t know what I had, but I knew enough about the virus that I self-isolated, ‘just in case’, for nearly three weeks. Unable to shake it off, I chose not to visit my parents at all, until suddenly, people over seventy were being asked to self-isolate and I’d lost my chance.
We kept our shop open through the first two weeks of March but increasingly became aware we were fighting a losing battle. Nobody wanted to shop, the streets were deserted, and we felt increasingly uneasy—wary of people ‘touching’ things or coming too close. On the 18 th March we closed our doors. The government announced the lockdown the next day.
I had a really bad few days from the 19 th March. Extreme anxiety, feeling weepy, experiencing nightmares, struggling to breathe at times. I tried to write—in fact I needed to write because I had a pre-order set up on my next Wonky Inn book—but I struggled to focus for longer than a few minutes. With the shop closed, I suddenly had the equivalent to three extra days to write in and be more productive. Instead of that, I found myself constantly checking social media and the news websites, driving myself crazy.
What made it worse, for me, was fear for my elderly parents. My Mum, 74, has been brilliant and remained indoors, crafting and doing puzzles, but my Dad, 75, is a different story. An ex Royal Marine, and prison education manager, he’s been around the block and he gets restless. He has lots of interests though, and one of those is writing although he’s never been published.
It came about that I had picked up a pre-made book cover, a fun science fiction. I spotted it in a sale; it made me chuckle and I parted with some cash. I don’t write sci-fi. I don’t even read a lot of modern sci-fi although I’ve read lots of ‘classics’ in the genre. But I absolutely love sci-fi movies so I’m aware of the tropes. My Dad loves all sci-fi. He grew up with it. When I was a kid and we went on holiday, he would invariably be reading sci-fi books on the beach.
I write horror and paranormal cozies. It occurred to me that a cozy sci-fi would be a lot of fun and there would be some crossover with my fans and I might pick up some new ones. The thing was, I was still struggling to focus enough to finish Wonky Inn Book 9: A Gaggle of Ghastly Grandmamas as well as editing an epic Victorian gothic ghost story, The Municipality of Lost Souls, so where did I think I was going to get time to write anything else?
Link for A Gaggle of Ghastly Grandmamas: http://mybook.to/WW9
At that stage I asked my Dad if he fancied collaborating and I sent him the cover. He loved it and bounced back with an idea. I suggested he create a plot and he came up with just over half (he admits he’s useless at endings). Now, I cannot ‘pants’ to save my life, so I took his plot and painstakingly broke it down into scenes, fleshed it out and finished it off. Between us we tweaked it and divvied out who was writing what and off we went.
Or rather off he went! Like a rocket. This is a man who struggled to write 300 words per day. Now I can’t stop him. I juggle my editing of Lost Souls and Wonky 9, with writing my scenes and editing what he’s written so that I can oversee a consistent voice throughout the story. It’s hard to keep up with him! The side effect is that I’ve had to focus because I’m doing so much. It will pay off in the long run.
And do you know? We’re producing a great little sci-fi story set on Dartmoor here in Devon, with a nod to H G Wells and those wonderful old 1950s serials like Quatermass and the Pit, but with a little humour and some quirky characters. We use Google Docs so that we can both see what the other is doing, and we catch up every few days so I can check that’s he’s happy and iron out any plot holes that have come up. It’s a fun project that we will both be proud of. When we’re both happy with it, I’ll send it to my editor. At some stage later this year, I am confident we can launch our collaboration and be justifiably proud of it.
If nothing else, this pandemic will have allowed us to work together in a way we might never have considered doing before. I’ll always be grateful for that, and for my parents remaining indoors and staying safe.
Link to my amazon page: http://author.to/jeanniewycherley
Jeannie Wycherley is a genre-hopping introvert and word witch living somewhere between the forest and the sea in East Devon, UK. She is the author of Crone (2017), Beyond the Veil (2018), the Spellbound Hound books (2020), and the Amazon bestselling Wonky Inn series. She draws literary inspiration from the landscape … and cake.
Well, that was a fascinating post from Jeannie. I love how she is collaborating with her dad. There are positives that we can take out of this awful experience and it gives me great joy to share them.
Coping with anxiety and stress.
Hopes for the future during these strange times.
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Together we are stronger. Stay safe and well.