We’re thrilled to have Charlotte Nash blogging with us today. Welcome Charlotte!
My big thanks to Amy Andrews for her invitation to this blog. Being this is the place for medicine and romance, I thought I’d do a little reflection on both, through the paradox of doctors who become writers. Why this? Well, because I’m one of them, and for years it was the source of askance looks at BBQ conversations. Really? You gave up medicine to write? Why would you do that? Why are you writing romances? By the way, can you look at this rash? And I’d choke a bit on my steak trying to answer (about the writing, not the rash). It’s hard to face Aunt Mildred and explain why you pass up all the prestige of a medical career for the solitary (and sometimes impoverished) life of a writer. Really … how to explain it?
Let’s do a few case studies. I’m not the first by a long shot. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, then Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a physician, and in more recent times, Michael Crichton (an unashamed favourite of mine) trained at Harvard Medical School, and later turned his experiences into ER (and a bunch of novels). Nick Earls is a well-known Australian writer and GP. Then there’s Tess Gerritsen, retired physician, who writes medical thrillers and created Rizzoli and Isles. Oh, and she started her career writing romance. So, I’m not weird. (Or if I am, I’m in good company.)
Medicine is sometimes seen as a romantic profession. All those brooding, capable, good-looking, do-gooding, (and well-earning!) doctors. (Or is that just Grey’s Anatomy and Nip/Tuck?) Whether male or female, it’s easy to admire a good doctor, with their intelligence, sensitivity, and capacity to change lives. Why else would I be glued to RPA and Embarrassing Bodies? (Apart from Dr Christian’s biceps and Dr Pixie’s hypnotic accent). The reality, though, for anyone who’s spent any time in a hospital can be rudely unromantic. The heroic feel of ER often doesn’t last the first contact with reality. Most patients in hospitals are not those with straightforward diagnoses who can be cured (or even complicated diagnoses that can be cured, sorry House). Many people don’t take advice. Doctors spend a lot of time on paperwork, long hours on the job, and some of them, like the rest of us, can be insensitive and distinctly uninspiring.
So it’s perhaps it’s not surprising that there’s a point where if medicine wasn’t your calling, it catches up with you. Many of us went to med school because writing wasn’t a “worthy” career in our parents eyes (several of my list above acknowledge this), or because we got high marks and that’s what high achievers are supposed to do, or because we had ideas of helping people (and didn’t think of the many other ways – check out Anne Gracie‘s fabulous assessment of romance in that department!)
So. Here’s the short of it. Romance, for me, is about striving to fulfil what’s in our hearts. I think that’s true for both characters and people generally. And for a bunch of docs, myself included, writing is that heart of hearts-desire to strive for. Medicine is a worthy thing. But so are stories. So for those of us who went down the doctor path but fell off into the fields of writing, medicine in its many guises has migrated into our stories. I’m always grateful of the incredible experiences I had and things I learned in medicine, but writing books is my compulsive love. Funnily enough, many of my characters feel compelled to do their chosen careers too … I wonder why that would be!
If you fancy reading about any of them, my next novel The Horseman is out this week, featuring Peta Woodward, capable emergency doc stranded in the Australian high country, and horseman Craig Munroe. Horses, medicine, family drama, and a hint of crime. Wherever good books are sold, and online in all the usual places. More information here.