Authors in Quarantine – Kate Story

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Kate Story: Freaking out. Cleaning the house. Drowning in certainty that I am not cleaning the house enough. (Somebody said to think of the virus as glitter – and when you go out, you and all the things you bring home are covered in glitter. As anybody who works in theatre knows, GLITTER IS EVERYWHERE AND YOU CAN NEVER GET RID OF IT.) Working on funding applications for future projects that I don’t even know will happen. Discovering what other people see during meetings with me (unspeakably horrid – my god, I need a filter! How to do you activate a Zoom filter, please somebody?? Is there a filter for life? Wait, that’s plastic surgery, scratch that). Laughing a lot. Poking around in the garden. Pissing off the cats by being home too much (yes, it is possible). Cooking. Eating. Drinking bad beer. Going for walks. Finding every corner of this town that looks like an Edward Gorey drawing. Reading from the Tsundoku. (I find I want to read things that really grip me. Not so much into post-apocalyptic fiction. I like to write it, and I used to like to read it, but living in it? not so much) Finally watching Citizen Kane. Rinse and repeat.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Kate Story: Other than cringing every time I hear the term (it has this kind of smug, packaged feeling. And it should be “physical distancing,” no?) it has not affected me as much as some people, I think. I already worked from home, in my split life – the writing and arts administration was almost all from home. It’s the theatre work that is suffering the most. Theatre artists literally can’t practice our art right now. Not only do I miss everyone dreadfully, I miss the work – and fear for the future of live performance. But in terms of my daily work and routine, the main daytime structure hasn’t changed much.

I live with my partner, and a dear friend too, and they are both good company (I won’t speak for myself). We do our best to be careful with each other and give as much space as we can. Most days, it works. I live in a house with a yard, in a smallish town where lots of totally uncrowded walking options are available. My Newfoundland family is pretty much okay thus far, and although I worry, they are fairly safe. I am insanely lucky.

I am now drinking bad beer (see above) and eating meat. That’s the weirdest thing. What the hell is happening to me?

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Kate Story: HAHAHAHAHAHA you have to be joking. It’s a mess. If I had five dollars for every person who has greeted me with a jocular, “Bet you’re getting a lot of writing done, eh?” I’d be a friggen millionaire. I am just as messed up by all this as anyone! I had forcefully carved out time to write before all this – a global lock-down pandemic is not a dream come true for me (or for anyone, I sincerely hope). Also I had a serious blow in terms of my writing career just before all this happened, one that some people will know about and I will say no more here. The world has more than moved on, but many of us affected by it are still reeling from the loss and trying to deal with the aftermath, and my attempts to do so have of course come to a grinding halt. Because Covid 19.

Like many people, I overdid news and social media at first, and have learned that one needs to limit that for mental health reasons. I try to keep up with news once a day or so, mostly through the Guardian, CBC, and Stephen Colbert (yup. Hard to encounter the Orange Caligula unfiltered by humour). I am disturbed by some vicious social media shaming I have seen, although grateful to be able to stay in touch. However, I can only look at so many photos of home-baked bread. And the accompanying apologies for posting said pictures. If I can’t eat your bread, I don’ts wants to sees it.

At the same time I am terribly fortunate. I have 2 books in the pipes. One (a collection of my short fiction) will be postponed. Printers are non-essential, so are shut down, and the publisher is rightly questioning whether it makes sense to release an e-book and then a print book a year or 2 later… plus there will be a cascade of books by heavy hitters coming out once all this lifts! – and books by more obscure writers would get lost in the shuffle. So that is up in the air, for good reasons, although still likely to happen at some point. Another book, a YA fantasy, is slated for 2021. So far the publisher is still keen to do it. And very fortunately, I had ground out a first draft before the pandemic hit us in Ontario. I’m almost certain I’d fail at doing that right now – my brain is mush. So I am working in a desultory fashion at Draft 2, which is due in a little over a month. Pray for me.

I don’t feel like there’s any way for me to have a writerly view of the pandemic while living in the middle of it. Maybe ultimately it will change how and what I write – I am interested to see what occurs in that regard.


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

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