As a full-time author, I’m used to writing no matter what. I’ve been writing for the last five years and treating it as an occupation for the past three. I’d managed to get into a nice pattern where I would start my working day by booting up my laptop and getting down at least a thousand words before I allowed myself to check social media or my emails. It was a pretty good system, until March 2020 arrived.

Fitting In

Fitting In

I’d been in America on a winter holiday when the word ‘Coronavirus’ first popped up and, at the time, I suspected it would just peter out as other viruses had done in the past. When I got back home to England, I quickly realised that wasn’t going to be the case at all. Within a month of returning from holiday, lockdown had been announced.

No more dining out, no more last-minute cinema trips, and no more visiting the dreaded gym. I did the only thing I could do as an author in lockdown; I wrote a book. Fitting In wasn’t my first book, in fact it was my seventeenth. It became the first book I wrote during a pandemic but sadly not the last.

I agonised about whether or not to mention Coronavirus in my book. It was fast becoming a permanent fixture in all our lives and I had to decide whether to acknowledge the elephant in the room or write for readers who needed escapism. After a lot of debate with myself, I wrote a story about family dynamics, autism in adulthood, and finding love. And I set it in a shopping centre without a single mention of a virus, one-way systems, or hand sanitiser.

With one eye on the news and the other on my laptop, I struggled to be creative. However, with nowhere else to be, I managed to write Fitting In in record quick time. I worried that readers would be too glued to news updates to read the, hopefully, heart-warming novel I’d produced.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. In September I received an email from Amazon asking if they could call me. At first, I thought it was a scam but soon realised that Amazon, actual Amazon, wanted to speak with me. To my surprise, I was informed that my book, my lockdown novel that I had been so unsure about, had been shortlisted from thousands and thousands of entries to be one of just five being judged for the Amazon Kindle Storyteller Award, a £20,000 literary prize which recognises outstanding writing.

It’s a tremendous honour that still hasn’t really sunk in. And while Coronavirus robs all five finalists of the chance to meet the lovely Claudia Winkleman who is a judge and a host of the award, it did somehow inspire me to overcome writers block and write Fitting In.

Amanda Radley –

Fitting In -