Writing at any time can be daunting, sometimes rewarding, sometimes eminently frustrating. But what about writing in a pandemic with all the accompanying social, economic, political, and weather distractions in addition to health concerns?
The Daily Dragon asked authors participating in the first virtual Dragon Con how they faced and survived these particular challenges and kept on writing—or not.
Daily Dragon (DD): How has your writing practice borne up under life changes that the pandemic has sent your way? Were any of 2020’s distractions more troublesome than others in continuing to write? Alternatively, have any of those distractions provided inspiration or fodder for your work?
Leanna Renee Hieber (LRH): The hateful and inept response of this country’s supposed leadership has been a real struggle to step beyond in order to be in a creative place. I feel for and fight for the marginalized who, understandably, feel increasingly under fire. The aggression and anti-science mentality out there has been admittedly hard to weather; where do we put all the frustration at those who refuse to do very simple things to protect others? Where do we sit with the mind-boggling cognitive dissonance? I can’t answer that question, I can only try to keep writing stories of hope, inclusion, healthy democracy, and fierce resilience.
DD: Did any of your habits or writing customs prove especially helpful in meeting your creative goals this year?
LRH: Flexibility, first and foremost, has been key. I’m an adaptive personality who has lots of projects in the works and maintains lots of contacts across the industries I work in (publishing, crafting, media, conventions, public speaking), so I’ve been active in figuring out ways to pivot to accepting new (virtual) requests that come my way and I’ve responded to lots of calls for fiction with new short works. Because I never really had a set routine, I’ve been a freelancer my entire adult professional life, I’ve been able to weather changes fairly well and I’ve taken on as many projects as possible to maintain both momentum and employment.
DD: What, if any, changes have you made in your routine to maintain your writing progress?
LRH: Since several of my freelance jobs in media have shuttered, I’ve pivoted to focusing on my Etsy shop and all my writing projects. Since I have more time on my hands to write, the multiple projects I have in the works in fiction and in non-fiction have been able to move forward. I try to look on bright sides and as I’m not interested in taking any risks with my health or the health of others, refocusing on my introvert nature has been helpful. I try not to judge what I’m thinking or feeling in terms of what I’d like to work on, I just make sure I’m always working on something. I keep a bunch of projects, ideas and work on the table and I dive into what calls to me, what I feel like doing, and that helps me feel free as well as productive.
DD: How has the pandemic affected your productivity?
LRH: I’ve always had multiple creative projects in the works, working on all of them simultaneously, but in ‘fits and starts.’ My ‘fits and starts’ have grown more ‘fitful’ and my attention-span shorter, but I’m using that rotating-project aspect of my professional creative life to be at least constantly moving forward on all things, a little bit at a time. I don’t do well with stasis or a holding pattern so artistic productivity, even if it’s just a little bit at a time, slow and steady, keeps me healthy and happy.
DD: Have you featured the pandemic in any of your stories or longer writing?
LRH: No, my work is entirely in the late 19th century or a far flung 24th. I confess, it’s kind of nice to take a vacation from the pandemic in my work.
DD: What new work may we expect to see from you soon (or later)?
LRH: In addition to a forthcoming non-fiction book about ghosts that I’ll be able to talk about more once the deal is officially announced, I’m thrilled to have partnered with Scrib’d/Bryant Street Publishing in their new originals program! They’ve reissued my Dark Nest saga of futuristic, psychic / paranormal space opera, with me narrating the audio editions. More here: https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/446648028/Dark-Nest
I’m thrilled to report I’ll be continuing the Dark Nest saga via Scrib’d/Bryant Street with new novellas that tie in the mysterious time-slip “Visitor / Lizzie Marlowe” from my Eterna Files series. New readers will be welcome to join in and readers familiar with my work will delight in old friends! Can’t wait to share this new work with all of you! When I attended my first Dragon Con in 2008, I had just recently gotten my first professional contract for Dark Nest and Dark Nest: Reckoning, so Dragon Con has been a part of my whole professional career. I’m so glad to be returning to this world where misunderstood people fight for a better day where unique, exceptional people can be safe and celebrated. I believe the spirit of Dragon Con very much operates in the same way.
Concurrent to Dragon Con, Macmillan is running a huge sale on my Strangely Beautiful saga, all 4 books in my debut series (Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy) are on sale for only 2.99 in an eBook bundle: http://tinyurl.com/strangelyall
Thanks for your time and interest, all my love to the whole Dragon Con family!
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, tour guide and award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful, Magic Most Foul, Eterna Files and The Spectral City series as well as the Dark Nest saga of Space Opera novellas for Scrib’d. Her work has been included in numerous notable anthologies and translated into many languages. By the Light of Tiffany: A Meeting with Clara Driscoll is a one-woman performative lecture Hieber adapted from the letters and historical records of the talented but unknown designer behind Louis Comfort Tiffany’s famed stained-glass lamps. A ghost tour guide for Manhattan’s Boroughs of the Dead, Hieber has been featured in film and television on shows like Mysteries at the Museum.