Ahead of this week’s live HQ Book Club event, author Louise Hare tells us all about her debut novel This Lovely City, publishing at the beginning of a global pandemic, and finding creativity in lockdown.
Like many authors, the publication of my debut novel was a dream coming true. From first hearing that HQ wanted to publish This Lovely City to publication on March 12th of this year I waited eighteen months. Eighteen months to prepare and to plan for the moment I could finally call myself a published author. I bought a new dress for the book launch at Waterstones Piccadilly and invited all the friends who’d encouraged me to keep going over the years. One good friend even booked flights to come over from Australia. My calendar began to fill up with bookshop events and festivals, and I worried about how busy I was going to be, and how I’d find time to edit my second novel.
I needn’t have worried. My book launch was cancelled the night before due to fears over the spread of coronavirus. It was a bit gutting but a lot of my friends still came out and we ended up in a pub just off Piccadilly and had a few (too many) glasses of wine. I signed some books and there was cake. Pretty good really, when you consider that lockdown was only a week and a half away. At least I had a few days of seeing my book in the shops, something authors whose books came out later missed out on until just a few days ago.
Most of my events ended up getting cancelled, though a few moved online. A benefit I couldn’t have predicted before lockdown is that I’ve been forced out of my technophobic comfort zone. From someone who hated seeing their own face on a screen, now I’ll happily log into Zoom meetings several times a day, meeting friends, doing interviews, catching up with fellow debut authors who are either still waiting for their delayed publications or have been published amongst this craziness that none of us could have predicted.
The hardest part of all this has been the extra time. With a cleared diary, I sat down at my desk in late March, keen to be productive and write something new. And then nothing came. No inspiration, no inclination to pick up on the rough twenty thousand words I’d sketched out a year earlier for my third novel. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even watch TV. I ended up re-watching old favourites to cheer myself up: Schitt’s Creek and Community, all the Marvel films in order, any cheesy action film that popped up as I scrolled endlessly through the TV channels.
Finally, I took up knitting, falling prey to a targeted advert on Instagram – well, it was either that or baking, and I couldn’t find a bag of flour or a box of eggs anywhere in southwest London. Perhaps it was finding another creative outlet, or maybe it was just because my brain finally realised that this was the new normal and decided it was time to get to it, but an idea for a short story popped into my head. Writing it was like pulling teeth but it worked – not only did I manage to get the story, called Social Methods, published, but I found that I wanted to write again.
I’ve spent the last two months editing my second novel, a murder mystery set on the Queen Mary ocean liner in 1936, and as we slowly inch closer towards normal life I find myself grateful for having been published during lockdown. Bookshops are back open and with luck, by the time my second book is published all this will be a distant memory. Fingers crossed!