It is a delight to welcome Dr Carol Cooper to the blog today. We all have our personal journeys to publication and we are sure Carol’s will resonate with many of our members.
When people ask about my writing routine, I admit I don’t have one. Other stuff keeps getting in the way. I’ve always wanted to write novels, even as an undergraduate, when I knew nothing except how to pass exams.
After qualifying as a doctor, I put my energies into medicine. Then I went part-time, raised children, and wrote lots of books on parenting. By now I was a GP, and teaching medical students at Imperial College. I was also busy with broadcasting and medical journalism, contributing to titles as varied as The Sun and The Lancet.
Writing fiction seemed less possible than ever. Then my father died. The plot of a novel about dating came to me while on the plane to his funeral. I scribbled notes furiously onto a paper napkin over a drink. Those jottings eventually turned into a story.
My debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda came out in 2013 and was short-listed for a couple of awards. The next novel would have followed a bit more promptly, but I got side-tracked again.
I have a memory from long ago, of a consultant who phoned me shortly after an interview. Someone else had got the job, but, she added, “Nothing is ever wasted.” Yeah, sure. They were just words to let me down gently. I thought nothing more of it.
On July 1, I had two new books out. One is my second textbook of general practice. Aimed at medical students, it tries to convey the essence of primary care, its richness, complexity, and the many opportunities for getting things wrong. The other book is my second novel. Hampstead Fever tells of the intertwined lives and loves of six people one hot summer as emotions reach boiling point.
Chef Dan should be blissfully happy. He has the woman of his dreams and a job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his over-anxious partner, engrossed in their baby, has no time for him.
Burnt-out doctor Geoff finds solace in the arms of a moody actress. Journalist Harriet’s long-term relationship with Sanjay is on the skids, leaving each of them with serious questions. Meanwhile single mother of four Karen lacks the appetite for a suitable relationship. As with my first novel, Hampstead Fever evolves through multiple viewpoints, and each chapter often has several scenes.
Why do I write like that, people ask. I don’t know. It’s what comes naturally to me.
I’m a GP. Every ten minutes or so, there’s someone new in front of me.
Medicine has kept me away from writing. But it has taught me to be observant and to put myself in other people’s shoes. My patients also show me life and share things they’ve never told anyone else. There’s not a single real patient in my novels, but they’re there all the same, and it’s a privilege to have known every one.
That’s why and how I write. As that consultant said, nothing is ever wasted. I could do with a routine, though.
Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author.
She graduated from Cambridge University where she studied medicine and her fellow students. Following a string of books on childcare and an award-winning medical textbook, she made her fiction debut with the independently published One Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest is Hampstead Fever, and further novels are in the pipeline.
Carol lives with her husband in Hampstead and Cambridge. She has three grown-up sons and three step-children. Her books are available in bookstores and links below.
Thank you, Carol and good luck with your writing.
If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
I loved Jacaranda and look forward to reading Hampstead Fever.
Love the red hat!
Gosh, I'd never thought about the parallel between the episodic nature of your books and GP consultations0, but that makes perfect sense - and your understanding and compassion for your characters makes me realise what a hood GP you must be!
Sorry, typo alert - that was meant to say a good GP, not a hood! (perils of typing on my phone!)
A really interesting blog piece, Carol xx
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