Escape or Reflect the Times

I had been hoping to post pictures of my newly renovated office this week. Sadly, I can only report “out of stock” messages for the wallpaper I wanted. After much more searching, I’ve found another that uses the colours I want and I’ve just ordered it — promised by Dec. 14. Fingers crossed I don’t get another oops message.

Meanwhile, we’ve cleared the drop cloths from my desk and I’m working on my Christmas short story. I spent a lot of time pondering the place of COVID 19 in my fiction. As an historical writer, I would have every excuse to set my story in another age and ignore the pandemic altogether. Yet, the virus has had such a huge impact on my day-to-day life, I find it hard to put it out of my mind.

My book club met last week and I asked if they would read pandemic stories or if they’d stay clear of the topic. They all said they didn’t want to read about the virus, yet one pointed out that no one wants a war yet our appetite for war stories seems limitless. This year every second book I pick up seems to relate to either the first or second world war. Is there anything more to say on the topic? Yet I read these books and enjoy them enough to recommend to friends. 

Maybe we’re happy to read war novels because we know how it ended. We know the good guys won and evil in the form of Hitler’s Nazi’s was defeated.


I’m a terrible sports fan. I’d rather watch the game after it has been played and I know who won. If my team was victorious, I’ll enjoy every minute of the recorded events. If my team lost, I don’t bother. I’m sure “real” sports fans cringe when they read that. Maybe our fascination with war stories is like that. We don’t want to live it, but we’ll read about it after it’s over.

A couple of my favourite television shows aired new episodes last week. One stayed in 2019 and avoided the pandemic. The other embraced it head on, expressing fears for the characters’ health, their financial well-being, their emotional stress levels and the state of the world. I actually liked their approach better than the “bury your head in the sand” angle.

Now, a survey of two is hardly definitive, but I’m leaning toward writing about the world I inhabit, i.e. using my fiction to reflect the time I live in. What about you, dear readers? Can Christmas and Covid live in the same story? Can we have a happy ending while isolating at home? Or would you rather escape the current crisis and read about a different world.

Please leave a comment so I can be sure the story I write is the story you want to read.

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  1. Tore Valdal

    Definitely want your take during a time of Covid. You are such a positive, bubbly person that I know the results will be most uplifting. I’m sure you have to be extra positive because your married to a Norwegian; we all know what these members of the northern countries are like when it comes to positive / negative personalities. Don’t need more doom and gloom! Looking forward to this years Christmas message. Tore

    • Alice Valdal

      For a dark and gloomy Norsk, you are very sweet.

  2. Laura Langston

    Tore’s comments made me smile, and, for what it’s worth, I agree with him regarding the bubbly, uplifting part of your personality! I’ve been pondering your question for the last two days and waffling on my answer. I’m all for realism and, in fact, when I read a novel these days, I sometimes find myself thinking, ‘but how can they do that/go there/not wear a mask with Covid.’ So it’s obviously on my mind. On the other hand, when life is difficult, it’s nice to have an escape from the challenges we currently face. It’s a tough call. If pressed, I’d vote for a Covid-free story, with the idea of doing one down the road when the edges have softened around the reality we’re living with. Which might be why people love war stories now but probably weren’t as enthused when they were in the midst of it. I’m looking forward to reading the story, regardless of what you decide to do!

    • Alice Valdal

      Thanks for your comment, Laura. I wonder how long it will take before COVID is just a story you tell to the children? Have you read much Plague literature? I remember reading “The Year of Wonders” years ago and being stunned. Imagine whole villages dying. Imagine being the only one left to bury the dead. Can’t say I’ve looked for more that that genre.

      • Laura Langston

        I don’t see that being on my to-be-read pile anytime soon. 🙂

  3. Diana Lester

    I think the challenge might be to write an uplifting and warm Christmas story that takes place in Covid times. So many people have found ways to bring happiness to others, despite the challenges of social distancing. Covid would not have to be the star of the story, but could simply be a challenge to be gotten around… socially-distanced carolers going door to door, lovers quarantining separately so they can safely be together on Christmas Day, a trip to a cabin in the woods, romantic walks in the snowy moonlight even if together while apart. The options are limited only by imagination.

    • Alice Valdal

      Great ideas, Diana. Thanks for sharing.

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