[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Angelina M. Lopez to the site. She’s celebrating some amazing books authors wrote during the pandemic. Take it away, Angelina!]
When I turned in my latest release, Serving Sin, on time in August 2020, I felt like I’d run through fire to hand my editor a precious baby.
During a petrifying pandemic, an equally terrifying election year, and a time when the racial injustices in our country felt endless and unstoppable, I managed to sell a home, release a book, move to Houston, emotionally support my family, AND turn in an angsty-bodyguard-forced proximity romance that wrapped up my three-book Filthy Rich series.
No one had been through the fire in order to turn in their book – or pandemic baby, as I was calling it — like I had. Right?
When Jayci Lee talked about her own “pandemic baby” on Facebook, I realized I wasn’t the only one who thought about these books written during a harrowing stretch of months in 2020 as hard-fought-for and precious. I wasn’t the only one who’d run through the fire to give happily-ever-afters to readers when an HEA had never seemed further out of reach.
Here’s what a few friends — astonishingly talented and resilient writers – had to say about their own pandemic babies.
Pandemic Baby: The Dating Dare, releasing August 3, 2021
“I thought that 2020 was going to be my year. I was debuting as an author with my romcom, A Sweet Mess, coming out in July and the release of three Harlequin Desires. I imagined celebrations and book signings galore. And by March, I was really getting my life together: sharing an office space so I wouldn’t feel so isolated, focusing on writing my second romcom, exercising, going on long walks with friends.
Two weeks into that, shut down happened.
It felt too surreal. I was a debut author, but with the pandemic, my life as a mom and wife and homemaker became exaggerated. It took over my identity. Temporary Wife Temptation was chosen by Oprah Magazine, but after a celebratory tweet, I had to rush to make dinner and do the dishes. I would get dressed up to do a virtual event, but as soon as it was over, I had to homeschool my two-school aged children. All of these great things were happening, but I never got to dwell on them very much. I was struggling to accept my identity as an author.
I wanted to do such a good job on my second romcom, The Dating Dare, but I didn’t feel funny and witty and clever; I felt shell-shocked. It was work ethic that got me to my laptop every day. I had a deadline and I had to write it. And more than ever, my readers needed a fun, flirty, funny book. I needed to give my readers the escape they deserved, something that would make them feel better, since they were going through exactly what I was going through.”
What Jayci learned: “I found an inner strength, a reserve of something untapped. While it seemed the world was on fire and crumbling around me, I finished a full-length romcom. Does it have heart? Does it have my love in it and my dedication to the readers? Yes. And it’s proven to me that I am strong enough to write through a pandemic and the disappointments of what I thought was going to be the best year of my life. I’ll always carry that with me.”
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Pandemic Baby: When Stars Collide, releasing June 29, 2021
“Because we were so isolated and there were so many fewer distractions in my life, it turned out to be a very productive time for me. I’ve been writing since the early 1980s; after so many decades, self-discipline comes naturally. If anything, I devoted more time to writing during the shut down. I was fortunate to be working on a romcom; it was a lovely break from reality. I turned the manuscript for When Stars Collide in before deadline. So many people are suffering, and it was lovely to be able to send out something positive.”
What Susan learned: “If anything, I feel even more gratitude for the simple things we all take for granted.”
Pandemic baby: Three books including Waking Up Married, March 2021
“I was deeply impacted by the pandemic mentally and emotionally. I’m an extremely empathetic person, and in the early days of the pandemic I was watching the death toll rise and my anxiety levels continued to escalate. My flow of creativity completely shut down.
I unexpectedly started to help with my two grandsons (who were either out of school or going to school virtually) because their parents and maternal grandmother are all essential workers. Writing on the days the kids were here was impossible, and I fell further and further behind on deadlines and required extensions.
All of my deadlines ended up being pushed back. Most by months. One close to a year.
I had to rethink my entire process from when I worked (early in the morning is better for me) and how I worked (less pantsing and more outlining). But the saving grace for me in 2020 was author Tasha L. Harrison starting her Wordmakers group. It gave me accountability and a likeminded group of folks to work with. I often joke that we’re a special brand of weirdoes, but it’s such an amazing group of authors at various levels in our careers. We have daily write-ins via Zoom and those writing sessions are what I credit most with helping me to get back into the flow of writing steadily. I also started to implement more of the HB90 productivity system developed by author Sarra Cannon, which I highly recommend for anyone struggling with productivity.
Eventually, the kids went to in-person school and everyone else’s schedule shifted, so I no longer needed to keep the kids or chauffeur them to and from school. Honestly, that was essential to helping me get back on track.”
What Reese learned: “The main things I learned were that the frantic, living-life-on-the-edge way of producing that I made work pre-pandemic was utterly flawed and couldn’t survive the stress and harrowing emotional impact of the pandemic. I was forced to re-examine every part of how I was working and find ways to work smarter and more efficiently.
I’ve lost friends and family members to COVID. It was a reminder of how precious life is and that our time on this earth is finite. But it also showed me how important it is to find a work/life balance and to carve out and protect family and personal time.”
Pandemic Baby: The C Word, February 2021
“I had been in a whole bunch of online conversations with friends about how do we write romance and HEAs when the world seems to be falling apart around us. Do we pretend we live in a parallel world where COVID never happened? Or are we going to write books where characters treat it as something natural and part of their world? I was really intrigued by that question. In romance, we always pick and choose which realities we fold into our stories. But the pandemic felt too important to pretend it never happened.
At the same time, I heard from other authors, “I can’t imagine ever being ready to read a book set now.”
I decided to force myself through that thicket. (Editor’s note: The “C” in Mindy’s title stands for COVID.)
Part of it was the writing challenge: It is a romcom; you’re supposed to laugh as you read it. Part of it was the real belief that – even during the pandemic – people still fall in love and deserve happily ever afters. Our characters deserve it and our readers deserve it.”
What Mindy learned: “It ended up feeling like I was doing something positive in all of this chaos. Once I had set in my mind who the hero and heroine were, it was really fun to go and spend time with these people. The book is set in March and April 2020, so by the time I was writing it in August and September, I was like “Hey guys, I know you’re going to make it through.” It felt redemptive to write that. “You can make it through because I made it through.””
Pandemic Baby: Two books including Unmask My Heart, releasing Fall 2021
“I debuted right at the beginning of the pandemic. I’d finally finished up a second book to go out on submission, and I needed to get started with Unmask my Heart, the next book in my debut series. But I just couldn’t write. I had an idea and all these post-it notes on the wall. And that was as far as I got.
I told myself, “I’m going to give myself grace,” and “Just a couple more weeks; by the summer, people won’t be sick anymore.” All those things we told ourselves.
And then it was August and it was “Holy shit, I have to write this book!”
When I got writing again, I had to have a real pep talk with myself. My husband is so good at compartmentalizing, he can leave work at work and be present for the family, but I was so muddy and emotional and everything that was happening was affecting me. I had to learn to turn off the TV, to literally turn off the WiFi. The book was only one month late, which was good. My editor told me, “All my writers, no one is on time.””
What Karla learned: “I have a writer’s circle that I’ve met with every Thursday for years. When the pandemic hit, we moved from Wegman’s to online. Many people who couldn’t come before were able to come now. We always bring a 3-5 page scene that everyone critiques, and that was the only thing that kept me in the writing head space. Even if the only thing I worked on the whole week was that scene, it kept me at least thinking about my book. Having that accountability group was the best during the pandemic.”
Pandemic Baby: Seven books including The Road to Rose Bend, May 2021
“I’m such a hermit that the biggest change for me was that I could no longer go 2-3 days a week to Books-A-Million. At Books-A-Million, there are zero distractions: No TV, no people, nothing but my computer, music, and coffee. Books-A-Million was my place. In my every day environment, sometimes I lose focus. I had to really discipline myself: Okay, you really got to get the words in. But other than that, I enjoy being home. It wasn’t a huge difference for me; I don’t like to go out anyway.
I write more and more books each year. Last year was the most books I’d written in a year.
Did I make my deadlines? Except for Secrets of a One Night Stand, which was the book I was writing when I had COVID, the pandemic had nothing to do with why I never make my deadlines. It’s such a bad habit. I always turn in my books a week or two late. (Editor’s note: “Only a week or two,” shrieked this writer who writes a book every 8-9 months. I bow at Naima’s glory.) But when I had COVID, I didn’t do anything for three weeks but lie in bed and feel sorry for myself.”
What Naima learned: “My process didn’t change, but I had to train other people. This is my writing time, don’t call me because I’m not going to answer. You have to protect that time for yourself, because if you don’t respect it, no one else will.”
Pandemic Baby: Anchored Hearts, April 2021
“I had a really hard time shutting out the real world and getting lost in my story world. Pre-pandemic, I could put on my earbuds or headphones, play my writing Pandora station—a Luis Miguel Romances station that plays classic and new Spanish love songs—and get lost in my characters’ story world. During the pandemic, with my girls and me spread across four different states and one of them working on the front lines at a hospital, parents with pre-existing conditions, and the state of our country and world, I constantly felt like when I tried diving into my story world, the real world had a rope tied around my belly, dragging me out.
I worried about this. Would my angst and emotional upheaval come across on the page, in my characters’ story? And maybe it did. But, silver lining of sorts, the book is an angsty second chance romance, so maybe all my anxiety and worry about my loved ones bled into the anxiety and worry my characters had going on in their lives. I can only hope that the stress was useful in some way.
My familia is a big source of support at home. But I also relied on author friends who were going through similar or their own pandemic writing woes. Some of my close writing relationships grew closer as we loved and supported each other.”
What Priscilla learned: “The pandemic underlined the importance of our genre—the genre of hope. It showed why we need to keep writing and sharing our stories with readers…because we can always use more hope.”
About the Author:
Angelina M. Lopez has been writing professionally her whole life: first as a journalist for an acclaimed city newspaper, then as a freelance magazine writer, and now as a romance author. She writes sexy, contemporary stories about strong women and the confident men lucky to fall in love with them. Her debut book, Lush Money, was named a Top 10 Romance Debut of 2020 by ALA’s Booklist. Lush Money and Hate Crush, received rave reviews from Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and Booklist. Her third book, Serving Sin, is available now. You can find more about her at her website, AngelinaMLopez.com and at @AngelinaMLo on Instagram and Twitter.
Serving Sin by Angelina M. Lopez, out now!
Thirteen years ago, decorated former-Army Ranger Roman Sheppard rescued Mexican heiress Cenobia Trujillo from a shocking kidnapping that riveted the world.
In the years since, Roman’s risen from his humble Texas roots: He is now the head of an elite security firm and the reluctant half-prince of a glamorous wine-growing Spanish kingdom.
And today, Cenobia–“Cen”–is finally in the CEO role she’s trained for her whole life. But serious, growing threats against her are derailing a product launch that will change the Mexican industrial landscape forever. She’s done the hard work to recover from her kidnapping, but therapy has’t changed the fact that Roman Sheppard will forever represent safety in her mind.
He’s the only one she can trust.
And his coming to Mexico will allow Cenobia to finally figure out if what she feels is a teenager’s daydream or a grown woman’s reality…
But there’s a reason Roman has stayed a continent away. His mission is to save people. And nothing–not duty to family, not the mistakes of his past, and certainly not love–is going to get in his way.
He’ll go to Mexico. He’ll help Cen. He’ll keep her safe.
What he won’t allow himself to do?
Desire Cenobia Trujillo. He won’t allow her to become his sweet Cen.