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The Story Behind the Story – Part Two – Murder and Malpractice

Although Death by Appointment is chronologically earlier and published before, Murder and Malpractice was actually the first murder mystery novel I wrote. It has changed a good deal over the years. I have altered character viewpoints, removed subplots and added others to get the story just right. It is set in Dr Cathy Moreland’s practice and I hope readers enjoy a sneak-peek behind the scenes of a working doctors’ surgery!

When I began writing Murder and Malpractice, I was mentally quite unwell. I had stopped working as a GP and was seeing a psychiatrist weekly. Despite the medication, my moods still swung from suicidal ideation to paranoid mania. Bipolar affects people in many different ways. For me anyway, music playing in my head almost constantly during a hypomanic event was the norm. One morning, I awoke in the early hours to find that the music had been replaced with spoken words. It felt impossible to ignore, but I tried my best to sleep, putting my fingers in my ears and burying my head into the pillow. Of course, it didn’t make any difference. I had already written (as therapy) several full-length novels during my enforced time off work (none of which will ever be read!) but this time, I realised that I had the start of a fresh and exciting idea.

It wasn’t yet five in the morning but the sun was coming up as I crept downstairs. The strips of light filtered through the branches of the trees outside, strobing the walls of the corridor as I passed. The kitchen floor was like ice, I can still remember the recoil and then acceptance. Wrapped in my sagging jumper and pyjamas, I was frozen through within minutes. My fingers hovered over the central line on the keyboard of my computer, not knowing what I was about to do. But with no one to chastise me, and no one to criticise or edit, I began. My words were at first faltering. Slowly though, I began to pick up pace and confidence.

When my husband came downstairs at seven, he found me hunched and cold, my knuckles were white and my face was tear-streaked but shining. That was the start of Murder and Malpractice.

I genuinely credit this book with saving my life. It resulted in me recovering a part of myself that had long since been lost. It allowed me to pin down the incessant movement of words and phrases in my head. It gave me space and peace to quieten my mind, to allow the chaos to settle for a time. I think that morning, I reconnected with the real me. The relief was immediate and quite physical.

I don’t think that my own story is unique by any means. It is well known that writing as a form of therapy, can be used to improve a multitude of mental health disorders. There is even a good deal of scientific evidence to support the notion that writing can help our physical well-being. I’ll admit that, at the time, I couldn’t have cared less about the logic. I knew from my own experience, that sitting in front of a blank screen and writing as if no one would ever read what I had to say, was liberating. I continued my ritual of early wakening and writing, and gradually the manic urgency to do so lessened as I felt the weight begin to lift.

And so, Dr Cathy Moreland was born and the rest, as they say, is history!

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