Recently, reader Amy sent me a question: would I be incorporating the coronavirus into my fiction?

It’s a good question, and I think it deserves an answer. Two, in fact.

I have both a short and a long answer to the question.

If video is your thing, I also answered this in a recent YouTube video. I’ll cover a lot of the same stuff here, but if you want to put a face (and semi-tidy home office) to the name, check it out.

The short answer: not really.

The long answer: My books are contemporary. They’re set around the time they’re published, and some of the books contain references to allow a reader to make a good guess as to when it’s set.

Late in 2019, I published Inside Cut. Its backdrop was the 2020 NCAA college basketball tournament.


Obviously, no one knew then what would be happening now. In late February, I published The Next Girl, which is set in May (about a month in the future as I write this). The still-untitled ninth C.T. novel, which I plan to release in June, will move the timeline up to November.

The Next Girl cover

I have no idea what the world will look like in May, let alone six months afterwards.

And I don’t want to speculate. The coronavirus has disrupted societies on a scale few could have predicted, and I’m no prognosticator.

Here’s the rub: people read fiction for entertainment and escape. At the moment, the pandemic dominates news coverage, social media, and whatever conversations we still have via social distancing. For some people, it has cost them a loved one or a job.

If I set my books in a post-coronavirus society, how am I offering an escape?

If you’ve read my books, you know my series protagonist C.T. Ferguson is snarky. Could he make a glib remark about something like social distancing? Maybe. 

Later in the year, probably in the fall, I plan to launch a thriller series. It will also be contemporary and set in and around Baltimore. The main character has a teenaged daughter who’s heading to college. Most schools have shut their doors and moved everything online. Will this still be the case in September?

I have no idea.

No one does, and I don’t want to speculate. The result is I’ll downplay the coronavirus in the thriller series, too. Maybe the protagonist’s daughter will do a semester online and be disappointed, but it won’t go much farther than that.

I know readers want an escape, and I’d like to provide it.

Coming up: I watched Spenser Confidential, and I’ll share my thoughts on it.

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