Welcome to the #NoContact Book Tour! While we all stay inside and stay safe, books have become even more important. But book events and conferences, alas, are canceled  – as are most schools!. With that in mind, I’m particularly honored to have Tilia Klebenov Jacobs here to tell us about her new venture – into middle-grade fantasy, with Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant! What a treat for kids stuck in the house (and the parents trying to home-school them).

Tell us about your book!

My most recent book is Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant.  If you think that sounds like a middle-grade fantasy story, you’re right!  You see, after two crime novels, I wanted to write something my kids were allowed to read.  

Casper and Jasper are fast-talking, twelve-year-old twins who discover that their parents, long believed dead, are in fact rebels being held by the evil Count Wilhelm Scream.  When Casper and Jasper set out to rescue their parents—with no actual evidence that they are alive, by the way—the boys stumble into a land of werewolves, trolls, and carnivorous marshmallows.

What would you have been doing now to promote it? Where would you have been speaking? What bookstores would you have visited? 

I was scheduled for a bunch of author events, including the first annual Worcester Book Festival.  I’ve been lining up the second Natick Mystery Day, a coordinated event between Mystery Writers of America-New England and the Natick Farmers’ Market.  I was talking to a high school classmate who is now a fifth-grade teacher about visiting her class, since she read the book out loud to her students, who loved it.  Plus, I was going to teach a multi-week writing class in Framingham, and I do feel it’s legit to mention my books on the first day so people know I got chops.  Oh, the list goes on and on!  I truly didn’t realize how much I had lined up till it all went poof.

Are you working on anything now? Is your process or routine different?

Yes!  I just started taking a marvelous, online course on dialogue, and it has nudged me into writing bits and pieces for a possible new crime novel.  This just started, and I can tell you, it feels great to be working again.

I am also in the editing phase for a short story that is slated to appear in the MWA anthology A Stranger Comes to Town in April, 2021.  This is a really exciting project for me, and I’m honored to be part of it.

As for my process and routine being different, well, isn’t everything different now?  Put it this way:  I have two kids, a husband, a dog, an Internet connection, and laundry to fold.  Ordinarily I don’t even try to write from home.  Instead, my muse and I meet up at coffee shops and public libraries.  (Heavens, I miss libraries….)  Now, however, is not ordinarily.  Now I do my best to write at home, and my family, God bless them, do their best to let me, but even with their support and encouragement, it’s really difficult.  If I’m writing at home, I’m acutely aware of the fact that innumerable, valid chores beckon me with their siren song.  Making the sirens shut up and leave me alone is a serious challenge.  I have no magic for making this easier.  I just have to power through it, reminding myself that whatever small amount of work I get done is better than no work at all.

Do you think your writing will be changed by this crisis?

No idea.  I expect that many of us who lived through this will emerge from it very grateful for any number of things we used to take for granted, so perhaps that will color our writing in the future.  On the other hand, others may be so eager to move past this difficult time that they do their best to erase any thought of it from their minds and their artistic expression.  The 1918 flu pandemic, which was caused by a virus in the same family as COVID-19, left almost no cultural traces behind when it vanished:  no significant plays, novels, movies, songs, or anything else that I’m aware of, which is passing strange when you consider that it killed somewhere between seventeen and a hundred million people.  So really, it’s anyone’s guess.

What’s the first thing you’re going to do when we’re free to be social again?

Honestly, it almost hurts to think about that.  Even though my family is one of the lucky ones (healthy so far, and able to weather the storm), it reminds me of how much we’ve lost, at least for the moment.  

I think the first thing is to take my kids to spend the day with their grandparents, who are currently on lockdown at their retirement community.  (Not allowed out of their apartment, and certainly no visitors.)  

Then I want to find a neighborhood restaurant and go out to dinner with my husband.  We will tip lavishly.  

Then we will visit with friends, and remark endlessly how nice it is to see faces in 3D.  

I want to see a play, not a movie, though we will see movies too; but I want to see live actors on stage, and give them the joy of an audience laughing and crying and clapping for them.

I have a list of places to go and people to see.  So does everyone.  We will get together when this is over!