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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Writing Something a Little Too Timely (completely by accident) by Tammy Euliano

Several years ago, I took a Gotham class on writing short stories. I came up with an idea that the instructor insisted I should turn into a novel, so I did. In it, my physician-scientist protagonist is working in secret to cure a decade of worldwide infertility. The story is a little Michael Crichton-esque, and a lot Handmaid’s Tale and Children of Men, but I don’t focus on the creepy left-over society. Instead, my slant is on what happens when the company that funded the research wants to control its dissemination. They want to choose who can purchase fertility. The scientist disagrees, and others have agendas of their own. It’s a thriller that I quite like.

Unfortunately, the book didn’t sell, and I started work on its prequel. Because if you have one book that won’t sell, surely you should have two. What could cause worldwide infertility, I asked myself. And what did I come up with? A viral pandemic. That was three years ago.

The prequel has some fun Dan Brown-ish puzzles my protagonist solves to figure out how a terrorist organization coerced a scientist into creating a virus that would attack only westerners. The virus mutated of course, and…badness. 

Querying the books this year has not gone well. I’ve been advised by agents to either (1) eliminate reference to viruses and pandemics in favor of another reason why the world is infertile, or (2) put the book(s) on a proverbial shelf until the world is ready for pandemic stories in, say, a decade or so.

And yet, there are books coming out that reference the pandemic. The latest Louise Penny mentions it repeatedly, though as if it’s passed and the world is now immune. In Daniel Silva’s most recent Gabriel Allon novel, the pandemic is ongoing. “Established authors can do anything they want,” you say. I get it. Agents and editors have literally millions of books to consider, why take a risk on something with which the reading public is absolutely exhausted?

And so, my book babies will stay quarantined in my computer, unless I can change the main instigating event to something people aren’t tired of hearing about…global warming anyone?

What would prompt you to consider reading a book about a viral pandemic at present?