Historical Fiction and Pandemics

Historical Fiction and Pandemics

So you’re writing a pandemic novel, wondering if there is an audience for historical fiction and pandemics. Some of the best books of historical fiction and science fiction are based on pandemics throughout world history.

Scroll down this page and look at the list, Plagues in World History. This list, a tiny fraction of the vast novels on the topic, mentions books published about pandemics and plagues. Study these and other plagues, then choose pandemic books of historic events that interest you.

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How to Write About Pandemics

As a new writer learning how to write about pandemics, write like writers of past pandemics. They wrote novels from personal or recorded eyewitness accounts. Write a great book with the twist that only you can write by using real life stories of your own.

Read, read, and read. Study plagues and pestilences throughout history. Read novels like The American Plague, the untold story of yellow fever (epidemic of 1878) by Molly Caldwell Crosby.

In addition, find eyewitness accounts that were recorded during the middle ages. Learn how people coped during an epidemic disease outbreak or a plague in world history.

Plagues in World History

Generally, even through plagues in world history, people discover ways to cope when faced with difficult challenges. As you begin your pandemic writing journey, check out library books about the following historical events.

  • Bubonic Plague
  • Influenza Epidemic
  • American Plague
  • Great Influenza
  • Cholera Epidemic
  • Great Plague
  • Black Death
  • Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878
  • Spanish Flu Epidemic
  • Avian Flu
  • Covid-19

Books to Read About Plagues and Pandemics

Choose books from this suggested list to further your research on your writing journey:

  1. The Scarlet Plague by Jack London
  2. The Year of the Plague and Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
  3. The Plague by Albert Camus
  4. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  5. The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry
  6. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  7. Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels: A Library of America eBook Classic by Katherine Anne Porter (a story about the influenza epidemic of 1918)
  8. The Stand by Stephen King
  9. Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe

Jack London

Learn the story about London, his novels and biography. Order the book, Jack London: The Complete Novels + A Biography of the Author. Also, check out Goodreads’ list of books to read on disease and pandemics in historical fiction.

Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe knew about infectious diseases and pandemics. He lived through the cholera outbreak in the 1830’s and published Masque of the Red Death. If you want to know more about Poe’s science writing, read the article, “Edgar Allen Poe, Science Reporter,” by John Tresch. Give yourself a break from reading, and listen to the unabridged audiobook, Edgar Allen Poe – The Complete Short Stories at Amazon.

The human race learns from the past. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV) says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” And so, we learn from the stories of past plagues and pandemics and learn from what others experienced.

Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

Unquestionably, you have learned about coping with the Covid-19 pandemic in some way. As noted above, a vast of novels were written about plagues and pandemics. People learn from others’ experiences.

Therefore, record how you and your family coped during 2020. Share how you’ve dealt with physical setbacks due to the virus. Up to this current time in 2023, people still struggle with long-term effects of COVID-19 such as:

  • respiratory symptoms
  • fatigue
  • muscle pain

Although people discuss having those three symptoms, look at the article COVID-19: Long-Term Effects, by Mayo Clinic to learn more. The article mentions these and other Covid-19 symptoms, problems, and risk factors. As advised by the Mayo Clinic staff writer, talk to your healthcare provider if you think you are experiencing post-COVID-19 symptoms.

Stay-at-Home Stress

Stay at home stress levels intensified as families were cooped up together day after day without the usual school and work schedules. Parents planned ahead, prepared daily meals at home, and many worked from home.

Fear that things would never go back to normal gripped the minds of men and women. People wondered, would there be a new norm?

Pandemic Phases

Daily life changed, and individuals pressed forward through pandemic phases as new guidelines were set. Specific details explained the criteria of each phase on the whitehouse.gov website.

  1. Phase One included social distancing, sheltering in place, avoiding social gatherings of more than ten people, and minimizing non-essential travel for individuals. Employers were advised to follow the social distancing protocol, and returned to work in phases.
  2. In Phase Two, vulnerable individuals continued shelter in place guidelines. All individuals were instructed to keep physical distance from others in public (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas). Social settings of more than 50 people were advised against unless precautionary measures were observed.
  3. Finally, Phase Three allowed vulnerable individuals to resume public interactions, but they were required to practice physical distancing.

Facial Masks

Physical distancing meant staying six feet apart and wearing facial masks. Mask wearing caused some confusion, however. First, there were not enough available, so only vulnerable individuals were encouraged to wear them.

Masks became easier to find, and skilled individuals marketed them on the Internet. Everyone was encouraged to wear them and once plenty of facial masks were available, they were enforced in some places. Many citizens felt that their freedom was being threatened.

Economical, Psychological, and Social Challenges of Pandemics

Although the causes of pandemics differ, society is affected economically, psychologically, and socially. For example, the coronavirus outbreak caused shortages on toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, water and food.

Social distancing, stay-at-home directives, and self-quarantine overwhelmed the majority of people. Individuals who already suffered with health issues were especially vulnerable. Whether psychologically, socially, or economically, individuals and families were forced to learn how to cope with the added stress, depression, and fear.

Like epidemics, wars also affect a society’s economics and challenges. Reading nonfiction books and historical documents such as a true story or diary, greatly helped in writing The French Connection series. That depth of research indicated types of challenges individuals faced during the French Revolution.

A Look at the French Revolution

In order to write The French Connection series, taking a look at the French Revolution was needed. Creating the characters and plots of the stories was made easier by understanding the  main phases of the French Revolution.

  1. Initial Revolution/1787-1792 (attempted reforms by royal authority: resistance especially by nobles; Political revolution led by bourgeois, Peasant revolution/end of “feudalism”)
  2. First Republic/1792-1804 (constitutional monarchy under new system; radical phase, ideas of democracy; Dictatorship; Napoleon Bonaparte)
  3. First Empire/1804-1814 (Napoleon defeated in war; goes into exile in Elba; Bourbon Kings restored)
  4. Restoration and Hundred Days period/1814-1815 (Napoleon returns, defeated again, exiled to St Helena; Bourbons restored again)

The Parisian sans-culotte (August, 1792)

Food issues seem to always become a factor in wartime or an epidemic. During the early part of the French Revolution the Parisian sans-culottes (pantaloons/long trousers) addressed equality between wealth and poverty concerning food. They wrote, “In future the rich will not have their bread made from wheaten flour whilst the poor have theirs made from bran.’”

The Parisian sans-culottes were known as the working people of Paris who “accused King Louis XVI of treasonous collusion with foreign monarchies to squash the revolution at home.”

World War I Phases

Again, food became an issue in the World War I era when there were food shortages. Either human life suffers with disease, lack of food, or death when there is war or epidemics. People suffer, face new challenges, and learn new norms.

In wars of past years and in pandemics, people have faced daily challenges. For instance, see how World War I phases caused people to suffer:

  1. Phase One/1914-1916, Trench Warfare – The Western Front became known as Terrain of Death. Men slept, washed, and ate in the mud.
  2. Phase Two/1916-1917, Collapse of Russian War Effort due to shortages in food, weapons, ammunition, and clothing; Germany pushed the United States too far/unrestricted submarine warfare.
  3. Phase Three/1917-1918, War fund/”Give till it Hurts,” propaganda, rationing; Russia problems, revolution, Russia and Germany signed treaty

Wartime Food Supply

During World War I, imported food distribution became difficult. Farms were used as battlefields. Agricultural workers went to war.

“Food will win the war” slogans advertised to encourage people eat fresh fruits and vegetables (produce was difficult to transport overseas). Personal consumption of meat, wheat, fats and sugar was reduced. “Meatless Tuesdays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were promoted. Canning demonstrations and recipes with replacements for these reduced staples were provided.

“Meatless Tuesdays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” were promoted. Canning demonstrations and recipes with replacements for these reduced staples were provided.

World War II Rations

During World War II, food was rationed. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was given the authority on January 30, 1942 to set price limits and ration food and other commodities. The food was rationed to discourage hoarding, as seen in the 2020 pandemic, and to provide fair distribution of limited resources, like the wheaten flour vs. bran inequality during the French Revolution.

Americans could not purchase sugar without food coupons by the spring of 1943. Coffee vouchers were issued in November 1942. By March of 1943, the following foods were available as rations.

  • meat
  • cheese
  • fats
  • canned fish
  • canned milk
  • other processed foods

War Ration Books

Americans received ration books during the World War II era. The books included stamps that could be used for restricted items, and this worked on a point system. Points (specified by the colors, blue and red) were applied to food items according to availability.

During the food rationing, people planned home meals ahead carefully because of the scarcity of food.

2020 Pandemic Food Shortages

Though the 2020 pandemic food shortages have varied from Word War II, families cooked home meals more. Restaurants served food only as to-go orders due to restrictions on people eating inside.

As you can recall, the restaurant restrictions happened during the first phase of the 2020 pandemic. Then, the second phase allowed customers to dine in at a restaurant but at 25% of the normal capacity.

When schools started closing during the first of the 2020 Pandemic, children had to stay at home with their parents and do schoolwork online. One could easily assume when observing empty macaroni and cheese shelves that parents were cooking more at home.

Mon Amour, Friend or Foe (French Connection)

Mon Amour, Friend or Foe from The French Connection series was published in the year of the Covid Pandemic. The novel, based on historical data from the French Revolution and World War II, was accomplished in phases including:

  • research
  • rough drafts
  • visit to France
  • critique group writing
  • final drafts
  • editing
  • front cover art
  • publication

The process in writing historical fiction requires much diligence in reading research materials. In addition, the actual writing phase involves critiquing, multiple drafts, editing, etc. When your last edit is completed and the book finally gets published, you can celebrate.


No matter how hard it seems to go through the writing process, persevere. Whether faced with coping challenges of a pandemic, world war, or a personal battle, persevere. Think of your writing journey as a phase, or chapter at a time.

Keep pushing past your own comfort zones. Dare to dream about the future, bucket lists, and goals you want to reach. Never, never, never give up.

Should you write nonfiction or fiction?

While deciding whether to write nonfiction or fiction, think about your audience. On one hand, readers who continue battling Covid-19 symptoms may want to read a true account of another’s similar experience. On the other hand, readers who prefer fiction could enjoy your story about the next human pandemic, a coming plague.

Writing Prompts

Sometimes writer’s block happens, therefore, use writing prompts for motivation. For an exercise, write a short story including the following writing prompts as your inspiration:

  • Your main character plays a major role in discovering the last hope for clean water after a biological weapon disaster.
  • A young woman amazes medical professionals when her own immune system cures her memory, impaired from a severe illness from a most terrifying epidemic.

Write Using 4 Historical Fiction Tips

Look at the Elizabeth Pye articles for more inspiration such as these tips:

Treat someone to The French Connection historical romance series as a birthday or anniversary gift.


Purchase historical romance books by clicking on the Amazon links below:




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