When you can’t spell to save the world, and your handwriting resembles the dyspeptic ramblings of a very doddery spider, then the vision of sitting before a typewriter with a mega bottle of white-out correcting fluid, as was the primary option many decades ago, was always going to be unattractive.
So young Doug, the totally frustrated writer had to find a job – and became Dr Douglas Wilson, MB, ChB. He became a medical academic, teaching and researching at Medical schools in different parts of the world. First stint was in Loudon at St Thomas Hospital Medical School, the home of Florence Nightingale, though she had departed before he arrived, and directly opposite the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. He was awarded PhD for his research in cells of the immune system.
A move closer to home saw him at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, working in basic immunology and cancer. More time back in New Zealand and at University of Oxford in the UK and a teaching and research spell in Saudi Arabia at King Saud University Medical School added to his medical scientific experience. He moved into the drug industry in the USA and Germany, with Boehringer Ingelheim, where he headed major research and development groups working on a wide range of new drugs to treat cancer, lung disease, depression, HIV, stroke, heart attacks and high blood pressure. And he enjoyed it – but he still wanted to be a writer.
"My children, Steve and Kathy, had provided a great outlet for storytelling early on, as a captive audience. Some
long-standing characters were
born while they
were small, and their boundless energy required stories
"My children, Steve and Kathy, had provided a great outlet for storytelling early on, as a captive audience. Some long-standing characters were born while they were small, and their boundless energy required stories with actions." But the writer had still not lost his dream.
“My spelling is classic dyslexic and slowed all documents ponderously, fast stories becoming an exercise in repair and re-checking the words, and losing the pace. Going from an oral tradition to the formality of the written story was a bridge, a major bridge... a clattery, extremely unsafe bridge.”
Doug had written academic papers successfully, but there the pace was slow and formal – facts were clipped to conclusions, and that was OK. Lots of stories cluttered his head, all clamoring to get out. “My job required me to travel, often between New York and Germany, so there were lots of opportunities to sit back and think, and let the characters play around at 10,000 metres above the ground. But I still couldn't spell to save myself.”
Spell-check was a huge breakthrough. Despite every page glowing red with underlining, for each mistake there was a recovery step. “Click! I was on my way. Wow!”
Back in New Zealand, working as a consultant in the drug world and biotechnology gave Doug time to write, as he had always wanted. Beginning with a children's story, The Rats of Droolmoan Cave came tumbling out onto the pages. Yes!
“I soon found how amateur my first efforts were – storyline was fine but what about the rest? Editors, that wonderful group! We are so fortunate in New Zealand to have a coterie of highly skilled individuals, who give their time enthusiastically, even for my first scrappy efforts. So I began to learn the craft. A steep slope, even with spell-check. Terms like point of view, and dialogue were new and frightening, where your discussant wielded these terms with the accomplished ease of a knife and fork. But, slowly and hesitantly, the stories began to stand up for themselves and the dialogue became a fascinating exercise in finding a voice for others than yourself. The term re-write and edit were daily fare."
Doug still had a day job, traveling around the world as a consultant, but that gave him a rich Technicolor view on landscapes and personalities. The more Doug observed, he began to realise just how fertile the backdrops of life and communities were.
"We are so fortunate in New Zealand to have a coterie of highly skilled individuals, who give their time enthusiastically, even for my first scrappy efforts. So I began to learn the craft."
Home for Doug is a great lakeside cottage with an English garden, created by his wife, which provides peace, bird life and harmony – a wonderful environment, even for the most assertive of stories. Doug has attended courses, as the oldest participant by far, sat close to well-known published authors, and tried exercises in areas that were so far from his previous fiction world. "I was stretched and battered. But I was learning."
There are now there are the first 10 children’s tales: Tom Hassler, the sea person battles some crazy creatures; and a three-part saga based around Irish faeries, with a teenage hero and his Irish warrior girlfriend, who battle the forces of evil in the Changeling Warriors Trilogy. In Taupo Blows the lake explodes and kids are trapped. Deadly Voyage tells of a boy lost as sea in a small life raft after his parents are killed by pirates. He has to survive but then he tumbles on a great mystery, and suddenly has a deadly powerful friend to assist him finding justice.
So stories have been written – and now the task is bringing them to readers, who are the oxygen which bring characters and plots and all that technical stuff to life. First up are the Tom Hassler stories. A great local artist, Donovan Bixley, had added a magic to the Tom stories that still dazzles me. In addition, a local team of tough editors, marketers and publicists are assisting and guiding into a wider publishing world as the world straddles the challenges of the 'paper to EBook divide' and all that entails.