We talk to Nursing Times columnist Mark Radcliffe about his new book ‘Gabriel’s Angel’, and how he made the transition from nursing to a published author.
What is ‘Gabriel’s Angel’ about?
Love, death, Angels, 80’s pop music, IVF. It’s a comedy obviously.
It’s set in part just beneath heaven where a group of people find themselves following a car crash, a contract killing and a bizarre accident involving barbed wire and the River Thames. They have to undergo Psychotherapy with Angels. If they do well they get to pass into heaven or better still go back to earth to finish their lives. If they do badly they go to hell. Or worse, have to undergo more psychotherapy.
Are there any nurses in it?
One or two. But there are also contract killers, an 80’s one hit wonder who wants to tour with Go West, a bunch of Angels, a clutch of journalists and a Doctor or two.
What can you tell us about the nurses?
If they were real – and I’ve only just realised this – they would probably get struck off. Do the NMC regulate made up worlds as well?
How did you get into writing fiction?
I did the MA in Creative Writing at UEA years ago. In fact that was how I got into writing for Nursing Times. I’d been nursing for about 8 or 9 years and I planned to support myself on the MA by doing agency but I couldn’t find much agency in Norwich that wasn’t private and I wouldn’t countenance working in a private hospital, so I wrote to Nursing Times and asked if they wanted anything, well, I may have said funny or I may have said made up.
They probably got a lot of letters like that but they said ‘write something and we’ll see’ So I did.
To be honest I had wanted to invent a fictitious day hospital and write a serialised comic soap opera but when I suggested that they all pointed behind me and said ‘look a space monster’ I turned round and when I turned back they’d all left.
Do many nurses turn their hand to novel writing?
I know of one or two I think. I suspect lots of nurses turn their hands to lots of things. In fact I have a theory that everyone who nurses for more than 10 years and does not pursue the sort of career that involves lots of promotion and consequent re-skilling (and there are a lot of nurses who don’t care much for extensive promotions ) they all will have another skill, or passion or area of expertise. It may be music, it may be archaeology, massage therapy, juggling, astrophysics , whatever, but they will have another area of expertise. I think it has something to do with balance.
I’m guessing you haven’t done any research to back that up.
Asked around a bit.
Are you still writing?
Yes the next book is less comic. And more about nursing in a way, or at least about what happens to nurses who get bruised by the job.
Gabriel’s Angel took me about 8 years to write so probably not no. I do tend to fiddle a bit when I have finished a first draft. And when I say ‘a bit’ I mean for over 5 years.
Are you proud of the book?
Yeah. Its got some truth in it, it has some heart, some tenderness and it seems to make people laugh and cry in the right places.
Are you nervous about it coming out?
A bit. I have a fantastic publisher. Just a really honest committed group of people and they have set up a pile of readings at various book shops. I teach for a living so I am OK chatting to people I don’t know but I don’t want to let anyone down. That is a nursing thing I think.
And anyway I am quintessentially working class, or at least from a very working class background so there is always a part of you that wonders if you are allowed to do this sort of thing, which is of course all the more reason to do it.