Please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

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?


6 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

I read the Daniel Silva and quite enjoyed it. Frankly, whether a novel did or did not have a pandemic in it wouldn't affect whether I would read it.

If I were to write a non-Covid pandemic book, I'd choose a spreading mechanism different from airborne virus. In your situation, I might go for an STD; or industrial pollution of the drinking water.

I'm sure you'll find some way for those two stories to see the light of day.

Kait said...

Wish I had a suggestion, Tammy.

A representative of the Chen School of Public Health said at the start of the pandemic that Covid-19 would not stop until every human on earth had been infected. Looking at the numbers, it seems that was a good - if much scoffed at the time - prediction.

I would venture to guess that there will be a glut on the market of pandemic books. And they will be popular. Traditional publishers won't have theirs to market for the most part for what - another year or two? By then the heat will be off the subject and readers will be ready for pandemic stories. You are uniquely qualified to bring a medical and scientific slant to the story. I suggest you not change anything and keep pitching!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

When (if we ever) leave masks behind for the simple pleasure of eating in a restaurant or going to the movies, there will be a market for your books. Good luck!

Susan said...

I think many of us have manuscripts we didn’t publish. Somewhere down the line you may find the time is right to pull this out of a drawer. We’ll all cross our fingers.

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

I have to admit that I have no interest in reading about a book about any pandemic / virus etc. I do think authors will have to make a choice - ignore, go into the future (all is well) or write about the past.

Now, your infertility story sounds unique - but maybe you're going too global and that's what scaring publishers off of it.
Make it more of a personal tale. I could see that working. It would mean a rewrite but...it's just sitting in a drawer so why not?

And yes, Louise and Dan. They are at the point in their careers where they could write the phone book and it would be a bestseller. People will give them 5 stars on Goodreads without ever having read the book. Maybe one day, that will happen to you!

Good luck with it!

KM Rockwood said...

You could always decide to self-publish, in the interests of getting the book out quickly while there might be a lot of interest in a pandemic story. Admittedly, there are major disadvantages.

Some topics will be too painful to some people to read. I can't read about 9-11 without picturing my brother haunting the hospitals and morgues seeking information on his wife's sister, who was never found.