Greta Garbo, in the film Grand Hotel, famously said: ‘I want to be alone!’ That line has never been so pertinent to me as during lockdown. I realise that for many people the enforced Covid-19 stay-at-home order caused them to crave social contact and yearn for personal connection; for me it was the opposite.

The Art Fiasco

The Art Fiasco

As an author I spend most of my time working at home, so lockdown in that sense wasn’t a big change for me. I continued to work my usual hours: 9-5, five days a week. However, the big difference was that I was no longer alone. My husband was sent home from work on 16th March and has not left since. My daughter, a Year 10 pupil, was sent home on 23rd March, and only returned to school on 9th September.

As an author I am a solitary beast. I enjoy my own company. I work in silence; not even music. My only outside contact on an average day is occasionally answering the door to the postie and waving – usually from a distance – to a fellow dog walker. When I’m not actually writing I’m plotting my murder mysteries, and the silence and solitude is something I need as I’m pottering and mulling. That is how I have worked for the last ten years. It has been hard to adjust.

I recognise that compared to lots of people I’ve had it easy. In fact, compared to myself only a few years ago, I’ve had it easy. My husband is working from home on full pay and is not about to lose his job. I still have regular editing work as well as the 1.5 days a week I spend working for the Crime Writers’ Association. And my daughter – my only child – is a self-motivated 15-year-old who just gets on with things. If this had happened when she was younger, requiring my services of ‘home schooler’, my routine would have been even more disrupted.

Now, seven months later, my daughter is back at school and there’s one less person in the house. I’ve got used to my husband’s makeshift office taking up nearly half the living room (I now just hoover around it). I have learned to adjust my writing routine.

After all my protestations about wanting to be alone, you probably think I’m an extreme introvert. I’m not. I’m actually quite gregarious and enjoy being with people – when I’m not working. It’s the encroachment into my writing time and space that I’ve found so hard to deal with. However, part of my work as an author also involves attending events: book readings, workshops, festivals and so on. Some of these I get paid for, some I don’t. All of that has stopped. There has been a loss of income. More than that though is the loss of opportunity to meet readers and other authors. This last weekend I put away my summer clothes and replaced them with my winter wardrobe. None of the nice dresses had been worn. As I folded and put away each one, I thought of the events that I might have worn them to and sighed: bring on that vaccine.

Fiona Veitch Smith is the author of the Poppy Denby Investigates novels, Golden Age-style murder mysteries set in the 1920s (Lion Fiction). The first book, The Jazz Files, was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, while subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Foreword Review Mystery Novel of the Year and the People’s Book Prize. The latest book, The Art Fiasco, is out now.

MORE: Women in journalism: the early pioneers, by Fiona Veitch Smith

The Poppy Denby Investigates books are about a young, female reporter sleuth in the early 1920s. Poppy Denby works for a tabloid newspaper in London called The Daily Globe. She initially gets a job as an administrative assistant to the editor, but when the lead journalist dies under mysterious circumstances, she picks up his story and takes over the investigation – eventually earning herself an appointment as a ‘proper’ reporter.