Today’s guest is Grace R. Duncan, here to talk about her new novella Healing, which is set in the post-pandemic world as her previous story Celebrating You. Take it away, Grace!
When I sat down to start writing in my post-pandemic world, I didn’t do what I’ve advised others to do, what I’ve done for my other world—the Golden Collar world. In that world, I made a map. I wrote out names and titles. I decided on money and food.
Of course, the Pandemus world isn’t the same. It’s, essentially, our world but with a lot less people. And a lot more dangerous. So while I did my world building, most of it was in my head.
One of the biggest questions I had to ask myself, of course, was “How do they survive?” I mean, most of the time, we go to the grocery store (or wherever) and pick up our groceries and toiletries and we don’t give it a second thought. What happens when you can’t do that anymore? How do you eat? What about clean clothes? How do you clean up?
Now, anyone who’s watched any sort of post-apocalyptic movie has already thought about this. I’ve made it no secret that Stephen King’s The Stand helped inspire my world (though, without the creepy old black lady, scary crows, and an overarching good vs evil plot). It certainly gave me food for thought while I figured out things like… how many died? That’s going to make a big difference. If there are still lots and lots of people, then the scramble for food is much harder.
But I wanted an empty world. I wanted opportunity. Pandemus is meant to be a character-driven series of stories, not world-driven.
To that end, I decided a huge chunk of the population would be wiped out, leaving maybe twenty percent of the population. Some of that, of course, was from causes other than the virus, but that doesn’t matter. The end result is the same.
Because there are so few left, there’s plenty of stuff lying around. Canned and dried foods that aren’t going bad anytime soon. Obviously, eventually, these things will run out, but as Pandemus starts roughly three years out from the virus, that isn’t the case yet.
But it also means that those not willing to approach the corrupt cities would have to keep scavenging for useable supplies. Mark and Duncan are two such, the same as Jake from Celebrating You. It felt safer, easier to them. Each new place would have more canned goods, more dried fruit and jerky, more nuts, and so on.
Deciding things like these gave me a new appreciation for all I don’t have to do to survive. The idea that it could conceivably be days before I found something edible is a frightening prospect. I’m glad the Kroger down the street isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
As long as I don’t get sick…
When Duncan stumbles into a pharmacy in search of something to fix his broken leg, he’s surprised to find someone else there. Like the rest of the post-pandemic world, it appeared empty. Instead, he discovers Mark, a former nurse who walked away from his profession after losing too many patients to the virus.
Despite swearing he’d never practice medicine again, Mark patches Duncan up over Duncan’s protests. He even finds an abandoned house in the tiny town, and they settle in until Duncan heals enough to look out for himself. Much to the chagrin of both, they find themselves caring for each other.
Duncan welcomes it, thrilled at finding someone he can trust. However, he’s well aware of the shadows in Mark’s eyes and understands Mark’s reticence as he learns the story. But as he’s starting to do things for himself again, Duncan realizes he doesn’t want Mark to leave. He’s not sure if can get Mark to let go of his fears so they can stay together and love. But Duncan’s damned sure going to try.
He should have known better. Under normal circumstances, it was a stupid move, but right here, right now, “stupid” didn’t begin to cover it.
Duncan glared at his leg for another moment, then leaned his head back against the wall. He needed to keep moving. It hurt like hell, but he had to keep going. It wasn’t going to get better on its own. The gash needed to be cleaned and bandaged, and even if the break wasn’t bad, it should at least be braced. And it wasn’t like he could call an ambulance. Or even go into an emergency room.
Well, he supposed he could go into an emergency room, if he was in the city. But like a lot of other people, he avoided the cities whenever possible. And when it wasn’t, he stayed as far on the edge as he could. But even there, it was a dangerous risk. As corrupt as the cities were now, the price of anything was higher than most could pay. He’d heard rumors that, in some of the worst cities, people simply got shot if they couldn’t pay what the thugs in power wanted. It was all rumor, but rumor he wasn’t about to ignore.
So he did his damnedest to stay away.
He’d been stupid to jump off the ledge. Even at only a couple of feet higher than he was tall, the risk hadn’t been worth it. He’d have thought, after nearly three years, he’d learned how to be more careful and not take those kinds of risks. It wasn’t the first time he’d fallen and hurt himself—though, thankfully, the last one hadn’t involved a broken bone. Maybe it should have; he might have learned his lesson then.
“Really fucking stupid, Dun.”
Duncan steeled himself and pulled to his feet, grimacing when the sharp pain shot up his ankle and through his leg. “Fuck,” he muttered, breathing hard through his nose. When he finally focused past the pain, he looked up and noted the position of the sun, the only real indication he had for the time, and figured he had another good hour or two of light. If he was right about where he was, he wouldn’t need all of it. He tucked the stick he’d found under his arm, grimaced when it dug into the soft flesh, but then leaned on it and hobbled along again.
Praise for GRACE R. DUNCAN
“I really enjoyed the characters, and loved watching them on their journey. Duncan does a great job of giving a really detailed story, and taking us on a great ride as two men find their happily ever after.” —Joyfully Jay, on “No Sacrifice”
“There were so many wonderful themes going on in this story, I was wrapped up in them all and couldn’t wait to see how Grace brought them all together.” —Love Bytes Reviews, on “No Sacrifice”
“I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction but some of it is damn good, including Grace Duncan’s Choices… The world building is excellent and draws you right in. The character development is also wonderful.” —Mrs. Condit & Friends Reads Books, on “Choices”
Grace Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age—many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.
A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children—both the human and furry kind.
As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance and other erotica or even dabbling in art.