The thing about being a doctor and a writer is that the one feeds off the other. After all, you do get to meet an awful lot of people as you practice. All excellent research material for someone with an imagination like mine. You avoid, too, the isolation that can sometimes plague the introverted scribbler. And occasionally, along the way, you might even do some material good to one or two of your fellow human beings. Or at least try not to do them too much harm.
I know many doctor colleagues who don’t read much fiction, let alone write any. It’s as if real life in the raw, and all the emotional fallout that comes with being a healthcare professional, is enough for them. And hey, I don’t blame them one jot. But it was never enough for me. I always wanted to write. There was just too much imagination to leave in the drawer.
So, are you sitting comfortably?
It’s 1992. A I pull into my slot in the hospital car park, I get a call. Not from a publisher, but from a TV company. They say they’d like to dramatize my unpublished MS. It was not a book deal, and it did feel a little bit like the tail wagging the dog. But heck, if they could see the potential in my writing style, who was I to argue? I said yes.
Of course, once we told the publishing companies that this was happening, they were more than happy to look at the MS. The nice editor at Arrow also told me that had he seen it before, he’d have published it anyway.
Three more books followed. None tied to the first. But the TV company liked the second one too and made that one into a TV film as well–with the promise of maybe a series to follow.But this was in the days before social media. You were dependent on the publishers for advertising and pushing the books. They, on the other hand, felt that the TV films would be ‘enough’ to raise my profile.
They were wrong.
It still might have been okay had not the leading lady on the film of the second book been taken ill, and the rest of the planned series axed.True story.
The publishers turned tail and I was left high and dry. I walked away from it all with a sour taste, and concentrated on what I had trained to do. And surgery is a pretty fulfilling occupation, right? It’s meaningful and very rewarding, but it lacks the one thing that I need.
You see, the trouble was, I still believed I could do it. I’d proven it to myself, if not to anyone else. And as Sinclair Lewis once said, “It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.”
For ten years I watched our three kids grow up and tried to instill in them the same enjoyment of stories that I’d had as a child. In a moment of weakness, I made a rash promise, sat down and wrote them their own special story, got a friend at work to bind it, and, that Christmas, gave them a copy each.
That was in 2000. To this day, my cynical, complicated, deep 22 year old says it’s his favourite book.
So I put aside the gory thrillers I’d wrought as a younger man, and decided to hone my craft. I wanted to be a better and a different writer. I’ve been honing for several years now and last year, some very nice people at Spencer Hill answered my query, and I am now in the process of writing several books for them, both Middle Grade and adult urban fantasy.
So, Dr Jones’ remedy for the troubled writer?
Here’s the potion. Take a pinch of luck, (sieve carefully and keep just the good, making sure to discard all the bad), and a huge dollop of perseverance, all mixed together in a copper-bottomed pan of belief.
Put on a low heat and simmer for as long as it takes.
I’ll let you know how it tastes.