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'I've always loved to read': The pharmacist with a passion for writing romantic fiction

Laura Buckley talks to C+D about how her childhood passion for writing saw her turn her hand first to blogging and then to penning romance novels – all while holding down a career in pharmacy

At times, it might seem that there's nothing remotely romantic about the world of pharmacy.

Not so for specialist clinical pharmacist Laura Buckley, who drew inspiration from her professional life when writing her romantic novels.

With her second novel, Love, Technically Speaking, out today (February 14), Laura spoke to C+D about where her love for writing came from, her unexpected success and how life can throw out plot twists along the way.

 

Tell us a bit about you

 

From a very young age, I always loved to read and I've always spent my time with my nose in a book. I read all kinds of genres and enjoy all kinds of things. But as a child I really liked poetry and was fascinated by how you could use words to describe feelings.

I used to write poems and I had lots of poetry books. I used to enter my poems into competitions and things and I always used to write poems in my family's birthday cards. The poems were always about them.

As a child, I also did a lot of drama and had to perform pieces in front of people for drama exams and things like that. There was never really any particular theme. It was usually whatever I was given for a performance.

But I did have quite a lot of poetry books with different verses in.

But as an adult, I like to write about things that are maybe a little bit unique. For example, I've written quite a few poems about pharmacy and my experiences in the pharmacy.

Read more: 'Exhausted pharmacists may end up getting the respect they deserve'

As a teenager, I went on a writing course [as well as] a creative writing course. In fact, I actually wrote and self-published a very very, very short novel in my early teenage years.

I knew writing was always something that I’d wanted to do but I never intended to become a writer.

There were lots of options available to me, which I feel very fortunate about. I liked a lot of my subjects at school and and I had a lot of indecision over what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be.

For example, there was a time I thought about doing medicine. There was another time when I thought about doing teaching.

However, I followed a scientific route and became a pharmacist.

 

How has your writing career developed?

 

I have stayed creative in terms of writing and I've always enjoyed reading regardless.

My enthusiasm for writing has accelerated since 2019 when I started blogging and was taken aback by the reception to my writing.

I just thought it was going to be a little bit of a hobby and I would write a few blogs here and there to express myself creatively, discuss how life's going and talk about pharmacy and my career as a pharmacist.

I found myself, like many many millions of people, lost for things to do in the evening when the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

So when my children were in bed, I just decided that I was going to give writing a novel a go. I didn’t have any perceptions or plans for the writing or how I would view success.

I didn't suddenly have the idea for the story or anything like that. I just thought, OK, let's open a document or let's open a notebook and start writing. So that's what I did and within a few weeks or maybe a couple of months, Love, Prescribed was written.

Read more: ‘Reasons for pharmacists to be jolly after Christmas in 2021’

I was absolutely blown away by the response that it got through my blog and just generally through book sales.

It really surprised me and it wasn't what I was expecting. I just thought, oh, maybe a handful of friends and family might order it and then suddenly it was a best seller on Amazon and that really took me by surprise.

I've heard that it went into a couple of book clubs as well, which did it as their book of the week or month.

I decided within a few days of having released the first book that I wanted to write a second one and so started Love, Technically Speaking.

It has taken me a while to write because of life and work.

For me, how my writing makes my reader feel is very important. I am also drawn to writing because what I write cannot be wrong. 

A reader might not like it. They might not enjoy it or it might not be their cup of tea, but it can't actually be incorrect because it's something I've entirely created myself. In addition, I like the fact I am in control of what happens.

 

Tell us about Love, Technically Speaking

 

For me, inspiration comes from everywhere and I think that's true in all aspects of life and all kinds of creative people. Inspiration just comes from everywhere.

Love, Technically Speaking has a very different tone to Love, Prescribed. There is a sadder story that goes on in the background and we see the main character, Josie, go through some emotional difficulties and stress in the workplace.

For me, some of those [plot points in the] storyline have been experiences I've seen other people go through, experiences I've had myself and conversations I've had with other pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

Read more: 'Pharmacists must practise self-care to offer good patient care'

I've not had the easiest of careers over the past few years. For me, I wanted to develop a story I could share with people that highlighted that, actually, we do a professional job, but it's not always the easiest job to do and it's not always just because of the job [itself]. It can be because of other people in the role as well and it can affect your day-to-day life.

I wanted to write a story that made people realise that it's not that easy and if anybody's going through difficulties like the main character, they're not alone in that.

I wanted my readers to know that this is what can happen and this is how it can feel.

 

What have your highs and lows as a writer been?

 

My best moment as a writer came in 2020 when I received a prestigious Blogger of the Year award [at the Medical Journalists Association Awards].

It was completely and utterly unexpected because I'd only been writing for perhaps just over 12 months and I'd gone from doing nothing to suddenly winning quite a prestigious award. For me, that was amazing. It was amazing to just be recognised for my ability to write.

I did worry a lot when I released my first book, especially because some of the stories and scenes were a little bit spicy. They are not quite 50 Shades [Of Grey], but they're a little bit spicy.

"People always say everybody's got a book in them, and I am living proof that that is true"

I was worried about putting the books out there, thinking, gosh, it's quite out there to share stories and scenes like this. A few people have said it's brave and I suppose it is in a way. So I did worry about it a bit.

Some of this worry turned out to be well-founded as, a few days after the release of the first book, I did get a review from somebody who said they were really taken aback, and weren't really impressed.

They didn't realise it was going to be a book like that. For me, that was a learning point to put more of a warning on the book.

I haven’t dwelled on this criticism. For me, it's an achievement to have finished not just one but two novels.

People always say everybody's got a book in them, and I am living proof that that is true.

 

What is your work-life balance like when you are writing?

 

As a mum and a full-time pharmacist, do I timetable successfully? The answer to that would probably be no.

I don't have a very rigid timetable in that X o-clock is my writing time. However, having said that, late at night is when I usually write.

I am terrible for forgetting things because I work in different places depending on the day. So while I do have quite a few notebooks with scribbles and poems and blogs and things in, I don't use them now, simply just for ease.

Read more: C+D blogger Laura Buckley scoops national medical journalism award

I actually took some tips off of something I saw about how you can open your own WhatsApp group with yourself so I [did that].

This is where I write or record any ideas I have. I can then play them back to myself later or read them later on. I also have to have a lot of noise around me when I am writing so I usually sit and write in a café or put headphones in or put some TV on.

When I am not writing or working, I like to play sports and used to play for a rugby team until I injured my knee. However, I have very recently restarted playing sports. I've actually taken up football because of injuries I sustained while playing rugby union.

I also like to bake with my children. We especially like to bake cakes and they're easier. They're quite easy to do and fun to decorate as well as biscuits.

 

What are your top tips for aspiring authors?

 

I think the biggest thing I would say is make time to write often. You don't have to sit down and write a whole chapter here and a whole chapter there. Frequent, small pieces of writing, whether it's an adding a paragraph here or there, will keep you going. If you've got a bit of time, sit and do it and you will find it all adds up to progress.

In terms of having the confidence to do it, I would say unless you really say, "I'm going to do this" and and really put the effort into it, it's a case of just ignoring the doubts and going for it.

Read more: 'Pharmacists must practise self-care to offer good patient care'

I would also keep going regardless of any metaphorical bumps or bruises you might encounter along the way. I did get one set back and I thought, I really, really don't want to keep being set back. I just want to publish [the book] and enjoy the process. So it depends on what route you want to go down, but just keep going.

Enjoy it as well and use your experiences as inspiration and enjoy creating the characters that will ultimately bring you and hopefully others too a lot of fun in your progress.

 

What's next?

 

When I wrote my first book, I didn't tell my children I was writing it. I just wrote it because I never thought anything of it. Then when it arrived in the post, they were quite excited to open it. I said they could open the box and they were like, "You’ve written a book!" They were really excited.

My eldest is very into reading and loves books as well. I read with them both a lot and so they knew I was writing this book.

So I did tell them when I had ordered my proof copies that they were going to be arriving and they were really excited about it too.

Since the first book came out, my eldest has decided that he wants to be a novelist. He wants to write. He is already planning his story and I'm helping him with that.

That in itself is exciting. I'm also having a book launch a few days after the release and family and friends are all coming to that, which is really nice.

I also want to restart my blogging.

Will we see a poetry anthology or a third book?

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we will Josie again...

 

Love, Technically Speaking is out now exclusively on Amazon

 

Laura Buckley is a specialist clinical pharmacist in a GP surgery

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