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Write Through the Lockdown by Sandra Harris

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thirteencoverrevise

Sandra Harris

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In all fairness, the Lockdown probably wasn’t as hard on me as it might have been on some other folks, as, in order to write, I’d been making a bit of a hermit of myself for years, anyway.

I’d more or less stopped going to pubs (you were more likely to find me in there at lunchtime, having a quick carvery before racing to collect the son and heir from the school bus and then back to the gaff for more writing, than at night having a raucous old time of it with ‘the girls.’

I don’t really have a million friends anyway, like some people I could mention (bitter, moi?), and the ones I have I don’t feel a burning urge to meet up with every day or even every week. Friends interfere with my sacred ‘process,’ lol.

When the Great Coronavirus Lockdown began here on March 12th, 2020, with the closure of first the schools and then, much more horrific for the über-sociable Irish, the pubs, I saw it as a chance to get more writing done.

I’m probably annoying the readers now by boasting about my phenomenal work ethic, but I genuinely do see a day without writing as an opportunity lost. I know that family is important too, and my kids mean everything to me, but a writer’s gotta write too, right? And a right to write? It’s what makes ’em a writer.

Having a bit more time at home than usual to play with (well, LOADS more time really), I first of all indulged myself in a very enjoyable virtual tidy-up of my laptop. Putting stories, poems, film reviews, novels and miscellaneous bits of writing into neat, easily accessible folders of their own, with their names clearly marked on them, was immensely satisfying. I got way more fun out of that little organisational exercise than anything I ever wrote…!

I then started re-editing some of my old self-published novels and novellas, a job I’d been wanting to do for ages but simply hadn’t had the time for. Now, staying home most days except for occasional mad runs to the supermarket, I suddenly had all the time in the world.

I polished, primped and preened the various oeuvres, then re-uploaded them to Kindle Direct Publishing with the deliciously smug feeling of a job well done. There’s nothing like the knowledge that you probably won’t have to go over a writing task again to make you want to break out the old Tesco plonk in celebration.

I created some new self-published books as well during this period. Two, in fact, the seventh and eighth instalments in my series entitled 50 REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR. These are so time-consuming that I was only able to manage two, but still, two more books with your name on them on the old virtual bookshelf is nothing to sneeze at.

I also kept writing film reviews, both horror and non-horror, for the movie blog which I created in 2014. I had lots of extra time now to actually watch more films I hadn’t seen before, and believe me when I say that I made the most of it.

I also used the time to re-watch a ton of stuff I’d been pining to see again, but for which I previously hadn’t had the time. How luxurious it felt, to finally HAVE some precious time to re-visit this mini-series or that epic film…!

I also wrote a foreword, during this period of enforced stay-at-home, for British screenwriter-film director Michael Armstrong’s latest film script book, SCREAMTIME, published by London-based Paper Dragon Productions.

I’d been reviewing Michael’s superb film script books for some time (he’s currently making writing history by being the first director-screenwriter person ever to publish his entire screenwriting output in book form), and so was thrilled to be asked to write the actual foreword to one of them, SCREAMTIME, which is available to buy now from Paper Dragon Productions’ website.

Encouraged by my daughter, who’d discovered the wonderful world of online learning during the time her workplace was shut down due to coronavirus, I enrolled in a few online courses myself, mostly free but a couple I had to pay for.

They were mostly in Creative Writing, my favourite subject by miles to learn about, but I also took some other diverse ones as well. I did a course on the birth of Victorian cinema, one on Jane Austen, one on how to help young people manage low mood and depression during the pandemic, and one on the history of anti-semitism, from more or less the dawn of time to the present day. It has to be said that I came out of Lockdown with my mind greatly improved, no mean feat in my humble opinion…!

The biggest writing job I pulled off under the veil of Lockdown was to pen my novel, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, in its entirety. This book is the prequel to THIRTEEN STOPS, published by Poolbeg, which came out in June 2020. (Something else I had to do in Lockdown was to publicise this first book as best I could, in the middle of a global pandemic in which social distancing was the name of the game, which was great scary fun!)

I won’t say it was easy to write THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER under Lockdown circumstances, because at times it was bloomin’ hard. Some chapters came easily, but others I was stuck on for ages.

Normally, you see, all my chapter ideas would come to me as I wandered around Dublin on my own in the time before COVID, my thoughts speaking to me. During the Lockdown, my solitary walks ceased in favour of ‘staying home & staying safe,’ and so, unfortunately, did any brainwaves and bright ideas that such rambles were wont to bring me.

I really struggled with ideas for some chapters, in fact, because my walks were curtailed, and, even when I was able to get out, I was always accompanied by an extremely talkative fifteen-year-old with the most inquiring of minds (my young fella; he’s autistic, God bless him), who’d throw questions at me with the scarily quick-fire rapidity of a Magnus Magnusson on speed.

We had some brilliant chats, on everything from Donald Trump’s presidency to the Black Lives Matter movement to Joe Wicks’s Lockdown fitness webinars, but my capacity to form an independent thought in a moment of peace and quiet was clearly on hiatus, and would remain so till the schools eventually returned…!

I got the book finished in the end, anyway, the third one in the trilogy. You could call the books romantic fiction, but I prefer to call them women’s fiction with an edge, or even a bit of a bite. I specialise in writing about the romantic relationships where you get jerked around (yes, drawn from my real-life experiences, if you must know, lol), you see, so the girl doesn’t always get the guy in my stories.

Also, as journalist Sue Leonard said about me in her recent interview for her Beginner’s Pluck column in the Irish Examiner, I tend to tackle such dark topics as institutional abuse, amongst others, in my fiction, and so you can’t really say (I hope) that it’s in any way entirely fluffy or throwaway, but more, as I said, women’s stories with an edge.

The books are about the (fictional) men and women (mostly women, because women are naturally more interesting creatures!) who use the Luas line from the Stephen’s Green stop to the Sandyford one and vice versa. They have some mad adventures as individual characters, of course, but I’ve made their lives interlink with each others’ as well, sometimes in ways they’re not even aware of. How awesome is that, lol…? They’re great books. Y’all should totally buy ’em.

There you go, anyway; that was my Lockdown. I did far more writing during the Lockdown than I’ve done since it ended, strangely. I’ve become lazy, sluggish and utterly de-motivated since it ended. Isn’t it mad?

I’ll be starting work on a fourth THIRTEEN STOPS book soon. I might need to re-create for myself the conditions of Lockdown in order to be able to get it written. In that case, I guess I’ll see you all again in three months, so…!

By Sandra Harris. ©

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