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24 Hours with Paul Carson

Ever wondered what an author gets up to when they’re not writing? We are endlessly curious about what authors do, especially when they have dramatic day jobs that fuel their plots. We asked Dr Paul Carson what he does with his twenty-four hour writing day.

Over to Paul:
Paul: “I write when I can and don’t when I can’t. I’m a medical doctor and that is so all consuming it’s a wonder I find time to write at all. But I do.

I write in a bright airy attic surrounded by clothes drying and next week’s ironing waiting attention. I often say to my wife, “I bet Tom Clancy doesn’t work like this.” “You’re no Tom Clancy,” I hear back. Now that Clancy has passed away I’ll never get to find out where he wrote. Did he do the ironing while he waited for the muse to inspire him? I doubt it.

I do set aside at least one day (and other stolen hours) to focus on the next novel. Usually this involves a wake-up call at 07.00, breakfast, shave and shower by 08.00 and a brisk walk to clear the head from medical issues. It also allows me to re-focus on the plot and characters (although sometimes the best ideas come to me in the shower, head lathered in shampoo and eyes tightly shut). I’m at the desk by 09.00. I read through the previous three chapters to see where I left off last time and then begin pounding the keyboard. With this being set-aside writing time I cannot indulge writer’s block; no staring at the wall and planning next year’s holidays or wondering about that day’s news, local or international.

I do get interrupted. Emails from the clinic where I work might pass on some urgent medical report that demands attention. Suspicious narrowing of a heart artery on someone’s angiogram, a shadow on a three-year-old’s chest X-ray suggesting pneumonia. These can’t wait until my hero, Dublin City Coroner Dr Mike Wilson, investigates yet another suspicious death. So there is time out while treatment decisions are made, often involving other doctors.

Occasionally I get emails and calls from the medical and other media seeking interviews, quotes, comments. They do distract me if I allow it but I have a way of mentally prioritising each query: break-time. I pause whatever Dr Mike Wilson is doing, whether his life’s in danger or he’s about to make love (or even both at the same time, he does have some interesting days!) for thirty minutes around 11.00. An apple and a double espresso (black) while I return calls and messages.

Lunch (13.00) is rarely more than thirty minutes and again other emails and calls mulled over and decisions made.

Then it’s back to the PC by 14.00 and pounding the keyboard again. Between 16.00 and 17.00, I stop to fact check. This involves short conversations with the coroner, the State Forensic Pathologist or Michael Staines, Dublin’s top criminal lawyer. Readers demand accuracy and quickly spot sloppy work. So these experts share their experiences, point out possible inaccuracies or where what’s written might be better phrased. Then I’m off again, the keyboard melting from the pressure.

I finish at 18.00 and rarely drift over (or under) that target time.

Dinner with my wife while we talk about the minutiae and gossip of everyday life, what our (grown-up) children are doing etc. Sometimes it’s a grand affair and other night’s it’s just basic scrambled egg and toast. Weekends are for indulgent, lazy and wine fuelled meals.

On my writing days I will finally switch off in front of the television, with Breaking Bad, Homeland, and Newsroom being favourite distractions. Irish television (RTE) has its own cracking crime series Love/Hate and that grips me, although some scenes are better watched from behind the couch!

I collapse into bed around 22.30, head spinning from whatever Dr Mike Wilson got up to that day. Chasing gangsters, investigating inquests, pronouncing on society’s faults.

And I wonder why I do it at all? But I know the answer. I’m mad as a hatter.”


It sounds to us that it’s a miracle Paul gets time to write at all but we’re very pleased he does! Find out more about Paul’s books on his website.

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