I’m always a bit ambivalent when one of my books is launched. Happy that the long period––usually between a year and a year and a half––spent working on the book is over. A little sad to be leaving behind some of the characters who may not show up in the next book.
Anxious to see how readers—specifically fans of the series––react.
With the launch of Lethal Remedies, the seventh full-length novel in my Victorian San Francisco mystery series, I was also curious about what it would be like to launch a book in the middle of a pandemic.
On one hand, it’s clear that many people have been finding more time than ever before to read, so there is the hope that this will have a positive effect on sales. In addition, this book, perhaps more so than my last novel Scholarly Pursuits, is quite light-hearted—with lots of scenes with Annie and Nate’s new baby and a definite happily-ever-after ending. In short, a comfort read to help distract and pass the time.
On the other hand, on this Memorial Day weekend, the news is filled with stories of people tentatively leaving their homes for the first time in months as the rules begin to relax. Does this mean that people who would have normally been anxious to buy the book since they would be heading into summer vacations, no longer have this motivation because, if anything, they are tired of reading?
Finally, there is the unexpected ways that this book has turned out to resonate with the pandemic itself, and I wonder what impact that will have. Who would have thought last October when I came up with the title, Lethal Remedies, that it would sound like it was ripped from the headlines of current newspaper stories about whether a certain medicine can cure or kill the Covid19 patients who take it?
In fact, when I started this book, my goal was simple. I wanted to develop a mystery plot that would require my main protagonist, Annie, to get back into investigating crimes and would feature, as all my mysteries in this series have, an occupation held by women in the late nineteenth century. Annie’s experience in childbirth and the introduction of a character planning on going to medical school in the last novel is what led me to my decision to feature women in the medical professions.
What I never could have foreseen was the way that this decision, made over a year ago, would play out in the context of the outbreak of the Covid19 virus. I sent the completed draft of the novel out to my beta readers on March 10. A day later WHO announced a world pandemic and my life—and the lives so many other people––changed forever.
Suddenly, it seemed eerily prescient that in the book I had frequent mentions of the importance of washing your hands to prevent the spread of infection and long discussions of divisions within the medical profession over the efficacy of certain treatments.
But more significant to me, however, is the fact that in doing the research and developing the plot of Lethal Remedies, I had come to see the doctors and nurses of the past as the heroes in this particular story. This means the book has become even more meaninguful to me as I watched how bravely the medical professionals and other front-line workers of today have stepped up to become the heroes in our present.
So, in short, the book is here, a cozy historical mystery that proved to me, once again, that one of the best ways to illuminate the present, is to learn from the past, and I hope that all of you who read it will find the inspiration and comfort that I found in writing it.
M. Louisa Locke, May 24, 2020