Becoming a Writer: PJ McDermott’s Website

becoming a writer

Hi, My name is PJ McDermott. Welcome to my Readers’ Club website. Before you dive into some of the great content on this site, I’d like to tell you a little about my pathway to becoming a writer. (And the short version is this: if you have any choice about your journey, you should probably choose another path!)

It always surprises me to reflect that I was born just after the end of WW2. I mean, that was a heck of a long time ago, yes? It was November 1948 (the year of the Rat) when I came into this world, the eldest grandson on my mother’s side and my parent’s pride and joy.

Other authors born in 1948 include: George RR Martin (Game of Thrones), Terry Pratchett (Discworld Universe), and Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time.) Good company, and all have influenced my writing.

Mine was a difficult childhood. I was raised in the working-class suburb of Ferguslie Park in the town of Paisley on the west coast of Scotland. If you want to know more about that, check out this page.

Things didn’t improve much as I grew older. By sixteen, I’d had enough of school and left to work at various laboring jobs for the next five years. At twenty-one, I decided there had to be more to life than shoveling concrete…

becoming a writer

Back to School

I met a girl who convinced me to return to full-time study, so I went to college and from there to Glasgow University where I graduated Bachelor of Science. It wasn’t easy. I was not a natural scholar, and being that bit older than my fellow students, I always felt slightly out of place.

And I had a heck of a time staying awake during lectures!

A few weeks into the first semester, I discovered why. My girlfriend had developed Tuberculosis and passed it on to me. Try explaining that to your friends and classmates! A shadow was discovered on my lungs during an X-Ray screening program all new students were required to undertake. Luckily, The TB hadn’t reached a contagious stage and I was able to stay out of hospital. If I hadn’t gone to university when I did, it may have lain undiagnosed for years. Life might have become a lot darker for me.

As it was, the doctors pumped me full of drugs, and the only obvious effect, other than fatigue, was my bright orange pee!

Of course, coming from the wrong side of the tracks didn’t help me make friends either. Ferguslie Park during the sixties was bleak, rough, and tough, and so were many of the people who lived there. (See my page on growing up in Scotland to find out more.) I couldn’t help but notice that people crossed to the other side of the street when they saw me coming.

Marvel comics hero Spiderman
I can remember reading this one when it came out in 1963. Wish I still had it!

Escape from Reality

Long before I turned sixteen, and for many years after, when I needed a break from reality, my go-to place was a comic store called ‘Yankee Mags.’ Even though the sixties and seventies was an exhilarating time to grow up I never lost my love for reading. (Yes – there were plenty of parties, movies, dancing, and drinking – all of which found its way into my writing.)

Superman and Spiderman eventually made way for science fiction. The works of Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Larry Niven, Michael Moorcock, and Ursula Le Guin filled my bookshelf. (Although I do still love the superheroes.)

Eventually, I graduated Bachelor of Science, majoring in Maths and Physics. It sounds a strange choice, but both subjects taught me valuable skills and provided insight that helped me to become a writer. It has been said that fine poetry is the music of mathematics. You have to look behind the words to understand their meaning. I believe the same can be said of fine literature.

Off to Australia

In my final year, I was fortunate to meet a lass from Australia and she soon convinced me to begin a new life with her on the other side of the world. It was exciting times, and so, so, different from Scotland. In one of my first letters back home, I eulogised grandly about it

“Australia is an enormous land of warm sunshine, never-ending beaches, and surf! I can walk down the street and pick a plum or an apricot from a tree hanging over the fence. And dad, you wouldn’t believe the sport over here. Supporters of different teams actually watch the games together and there are as many women as men in the stadiums.”

becoming a writer
That’s my pet spoodle Bonnie, looking terrified in the jaws of the biggest ever crocodile caught in Australia. She and the croc star in the fourth in my sci-fi series, Fractured prophecy.

It was true. Even though Australian barrackers are passionate about their teams, I never saw anyone throw a bottle at an opposition supporter.

Over the next twenty years, I enjoyed successful careers in large organizations such as Telstra, Yellow Pages, and CPA Australia. At one point, I took long service leave and returned to Scotland to revisit old haunts, family, and friends.

Soon after, I came down with cancer, not once, but twice. You can read more about that part of my life here, if you like.

Strangely enough, this motivated me to think about becoming a writer. At this stage in my life, I’d had enough of the corporate rat race, and began to tinker with the idea of becoming a writer. Two or three times a week, I would take a couple of hours away from the office. I’d set myself up at a streetside cafe to map out some story ideas and watch the passing parade.

a coming of age novel

The Final Stage in Becoming a Writer

After self-publishing a few short stories with modest success, I abandoned the corporate rat race altogether. I realized I had to learn how to write a good story and develop my skills. So, I joined a professional writing group and discovered a lot about the technical and creative sides of the craft of writing.

My classmates and my teacher will always have my gratitude for their constructive feedback and support. If you need copy editing, writing inspiration, or want to improve your writing skills, I encourage you to contact Carole Poustie via her website.

Within twelve months, I’d published my first novel, Small Fish Big Fish, a psychological thriller for young adults.

This was the book “I had to write” about my life as a youngster in 1960’s Scotland. After that, I turned my mind to my first love, Science Fiction, and wrote the five-part SF series, Prosperine.

Back to the Future

These days, I’m happily settled in the coastal town of Torquay near Melbourne. I have two children, Fi and Gill, and three very naughty grandkids named Mia, Ryder and Ethan. (Not to forget Bonnie, my pet Spoodle.)

my grandkids
That’s Mia there looking beautiful as always, and the two surfer boys, Ethan on the board and big brother Ryder watching his back.

The work involved in being an independent publisher is totally absorbing. I am the only person in my company, so I have many roles.

In addition to creating my story and characters, and writing my manuscript, I am responsible for marketing, sales and production, as well as website design.

Think carefully, before embarking on a writing career. For me, the driving force was getting my book out there in front of readers. You may have a different objective and could find traditional publishing more rewarding in the long term.

If you are a budding writer or perhaps just interested in the creative process, you might find my page on the making of the Prosperine Series of interest.

If you would like to find out more about how to write a good story using what you know, read about the background to Small Fish Big Fish here.

Well, that’s enough from me. I hope you enjoy browsing through my website.

Best Regards,

PJ McDermott

P.S. Click here if you would like to read my free science fiction ebook for young adults: The Alien Corps.

Love to hear from you!

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