We asked some of our authors what they've been up to during lockdown these last few months. Here, Emma Southon, author of A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, answers our questions about the books, film, TV and hobbies that have kept her busy. 

 

 

1. Where have you spent lockdown?

At home in Belfast with my partner and our cat.

 

2. Books. What books have you been reading? Has lockdown affected your choices? Fiction or non-fiction? Or have you gone back to your comfort reads? 

I have mostly been reading genre fiction and escaping, and avoiding non-fiction after I read Mark O’Connell’s (very good) Notes on an Apocalypse! I finally got around to reading Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell Trilogy which was a great world to get lost in, and I discovered Elinor Lipman who reminds me a lot of a madcap Nora Ephron. Her books are funny and sweet and slightly dark but mostly very, very warm. I also (as always) read a lot of good science fiction. I completed Nicola Griffith’s SF back catalogue and devoured several Adrian Tchaikovsky novels in a row. Both have perfected the combination of fully realised new worlds, big ideas and strong prose.

 

3. TV - Has there been anything on TV that you have particularly enjoyed? This could be an individual programme, a box set or something you’ve been rewatching?

We completed a full rewatch of the Sopranos early in lockdown, and then we rewatched the entire back catalogue of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix, including the newest series and Celebrity Drag Race. They don’t have all the seasons of Drag Race All Stars or I would have watched those too. The final season of Schitt’s Creek was a real highlight and made me cry like a baby.



4. Are there any films that you have been watching, or rewatching?

 I have rewatched all the Chris Guest films and started to watch all the Studio Ghibli films in chronological order on Netflix. A lot of comfort viewing!

 


5.  Has the lockdown made a difference to the kinds of things you’ve wanted to watch or read? 

I have certainly been avoiding tv and films that are high stakes or feel particularly urgent in any way. I get enough of that from the real world. If there is a low stakes talent competition involving a hobby that doesn’t actually have a real prize (sewing, baking, pottery, make up, floristry) then I will watch and love it at the moment!

I’ve never been one for literary fiction/contemporary realism in my reading choices but I have definitely read more daft thrillers with a ludicrous premise because they are so easy to get into and forget about the real world. I have definitely been searching for escapism through a high concept, a genre setting or a space spider.

 


6. It would seem on the surface that lockdown is good for writers. There’s no excuse not to write when you’re stuck indoors! Was it like that for you?

The privilege of being a non-fiction writer is that you have to research before you can write anything and all the libraries are closed! No one ever expects you to do anything without a library so I am free from the pressures that fiction writers bear! It has been nice to have the space to research and read and think without being tired from work, but I have let myself take some time off from word counts and worrying.



7. Are there things that you’ve discovered that have given you pleasure during lockdown? Many people seem to have taken up breadmaking for instance. What was it for you?

I took up knitting a couple of years ago and decided that I would face my greatest fear and make a jumper during lockdown. I enjoyed it so much I have now knitted three! I also perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe and ate a lot of them for testing purposes.

 

8. Do you have a local bookshop? Have you been using them during lockdown?

In my day-to-day life I work at Waterstones, so I have been rinsing my discount card on the website! But I will always take the opportunity to shout out to David Torrance at No Alibis in Belfast who has done brilliant work during this crisis as he has done for the past two decades.



9. And finally – do you think there are positives we can all take away from this experience?

Personally, I have been furloughed so it has given me a lot of time to reflect and prioritise, and the chance to engage with areas of learning and research that had fallen away in previous years. It has also allowed me to get to know all my neighbours and build a small community on our street, which has been helpful and uplifting.

 

A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is published on the 17th September. Find out more here