Lockdown – How my reading & writing habits have changed – #AuthorLife

Laura & Tilly are confined to their cult

My latest thriller is called ‘The Family’. It’s the story of Laura and her daughter, Tilly, who are indoctrinated into a cult. It’s set in a remote part of Wales and at the time of writing I had to rely on my imagination to put myself inside the heads of Laura and Tilly. How might they feel to lose their freedom, almost overnight? To be confined to the farmhouse and the surrounding land the cult reside in? To be forced to spend each and every day with exactly the same people? I crafted my story with the sense of feeling trapped, of claustrophobia.

Laura’s and Tilly’s tale, as well as being terrifying is also an emotional one so every now and then I’d step away from my computer and out into the bright sunshine. Meet friends for lunch. Go for a swim. Before returning to Laura and Tilly who were still trapped in the same place, with the same people.

Now of course, in these unsettling and uncertain times we live in it isn’t too much of a stretch to empathise with Laura and Tilly. To feel what they are feeling, and as someone who suffers with acute anxiety these feelings are both uncomfortable and unwelcome.

At the start of lockdown I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t read. I certainly couldn’t write.  At best I felt a constant low-level anxiety: scared for my family and friends; daunted by homeschooling; worried about our income, a shortage of food; the list was endless: at worst I felt a heavy dread which rendered me unable to focus.

Like everyone, I have been through tough times before so I did what I always do, increased my mindfulness practice. Meditating three times a day instead of once. Writing in my gratitude journal each morning and night instead of solely before bed, and gradually my tumultuous emotions began to settle.

I began to read again, choosing, not one of the many proof thrillers I am sent, but carefully selecting something that wouldn’t feel like work. I picked Louise Hare’s ‘This Lovely City,’ and for the first time, in a long time, my reading mojo came back. I lost myself in her story, her characters and for a while, I was able to forget, and that’s what a good book can do – transport you somewhere else entirely. Now I’ve started Tom Ellen’s ‘All About Us,’ which I’m equally enjoying.

My cosy reading corner in my study

I itched to write again, but what? I am waiting for my edits for my thriller which is publishing next year and also for my second contemporary fiction story written under the pen name ‘Amelia Henley.

My desk is (mostly) tidy…

The logical part of me knew I should write another thriller. Until my debut contemporary fiction book ‘The Life We Almost Had’ is released in July I don’t know whether there will be a market for future Amelia Henley books but as always, I had to follow my heart and write the story I’d loved to read. A story, as my Amelia Henley stories are, about love and relationships. I began penning the lives of siblings Charlie, Nina and Duke and their complex and complicated relationship. Whether this book will ever find its way into the hands of readers I don’t know but I’m loving writing it and finding that chink of happiness is so important right now.

Later in the year I’ll begin a new thriller, I’ve had a character in my mind for the past couple of years. I feel so extraordinarily blessed I can create worlds to escape to.

Have your reading habits changed and how are you occupying your time? Do let me know in the comments below.

The Family’ is currently part of the UK Kindle Monthly Deal – download a copy today for just 0.99p.

The Family‘ will be published in the US on June 9th – you can preorder it here. I’m loving the fabulous cover Grand Central Publishing have designed!

My chilling US cover

9 thoughts on “Lockdown – How my reading & writing habits have changed – #AuthorLife

  1. I had anxiety issues at the start of lockdown too, but found that mindfulness and meditation really helped. Then I started writing about my experiences and this helped even more! I’ve been reading and writing more than ever, and that’s one of the best things I’ll be taking out of lockdown.

  2. I’m keeping going with 900 pages of the newest Hilary Mantel and enjoying it immensely, but whereas I would normally read fast (and miss a lot) I find I can only read first thing in the morning, with utter concentration, at a rate of about thirty pages a day. After that my concentration goes… I guess it’s taking everyone differently and I think the important thing is not to stress about how we SHOULD be spending our time or whether others are making a more worthwhile first of it that we are. Stay safe all…

    • That’s such a good point Jessica. I was so stressed initially seeing everybody post their homeschooling timetables on social media and knowing that as my husband and I are still working full time we couldn’t do the same. Easing off thinking about what I should be doing helped immensely. Glad you’re enjoying the book. I’m an incredibly slow reader.

  3. Enjoyed reading about how you’re coping, Louise, and am in awe how you can write in two genres so brilliantly! I’m editing my latest, due with my agent this month. Initially I found it hard to concentrate, but three weeks ago, I started PE with Joe Wickes and a quarter of a million others, so far so good! I won’t have a new life skill when we come out of this, but I can jump like a kangaroo and fight dragons with the best of them! Stay safe. XXXX

Thanks so much for reading!

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