Acclaimed scientist and author of several well-loved novels about a fictional Irish village, Patrick Taylor will be a presenter and keynote speaker at the 14th annual Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival, which takes place May 19 to 21 at Salmon Arm’s Prestige Harbourfront Resort and Okanagan College. - Image credit: Photo contributed

Luck of the Irish brings acclaimed author

Shuswap Association of Writers hosts fundraising ceilidh Friday

He’s seen his share of trouble, but author Patrick Taylor infuses his life with humour.

Born in England, he was brought up in Northern Ireland after his father returned from the “disagreement he was having with Hitler.

”The acclaimed scientist and prolific writer, received his medical education in Ulster and practised in a rural Ulster village before taking specialist training in obstetrics and gynecology.

After living in Belfast through the first two years of the Irish Troubles, a violent 30-year ethno-nationalistic conflict, he and his family emigrated to Canada where he pursued a successful career in medical research and teaching in the field of human infertility.

“I had a young family and could see no end to The Troubles, he says, noting the granting of hospital privileges in Ireland would have had him waiting about 10 years in order to take over from an older doctor who was retiring. “I wanted to get on with my job, do research and I felt there was more opportunity in Canada.”

Taylor engaged his scientific brain for 35 years, working in the field of human fertility. His scientific works include 170 papers and six textbooks, one translated from the original French. From 1991 to 2001, he was editor-in-chief of the Canadian Obstetrics and Gynecology journal.

His contributions have been honoured with three lifetime achievement awards, including the Lifetime Award of Excellence of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society.

“My best paper was Infertility and Pregnancy in the Lowland Gorilla, he says, laughing about his experiences in tending to the reproductive issues of gorillas at the Calgary Zoo.

To add leavening to dry, academic prose Taylor has always nurtured his creative side. His monthly medical humour columns which began in 1991, En Passant, Medicine Chest and Taylor’s Twist were followed by his appointment as book reviewer to Stitches: The Journal of Medical Humour.

Taylor says The Troubles led him to write two novels, which began, as his work always does, with a question.

He asked himself what would happen if an IRA bomb-maker and a British Army bomb disposal unit both lost faith in what they were doing and wanted out, but the higher authority assigns each one of them to one last military mission.

“Unfortunately, their paths cross with catastrophic results,” says Taylor, noting the sequel is a thriller and a love story; the love between two men and two women and people who love their native country.”

“I am not a one-trick pony,” he laughs of his highly popular novels. “Back in the Stone Age, I promised I would not use any medical knowledge, but was going to write about the human situation that never changes… The question was to find interesting people who do those things.”

Taylor is flattered that many of his readers say his best-selling Irish Country books make them want to visit the village of Ballybucklebo, which is fictional but painted against a backdrop of a very real Irish landscape.

“I lightened things up a bit and developed Dr. Reilly,” says Taylor, noting that the owner and publisher of Gynelogica – Books in Canada heard that he was was writing short stories and told him she had taken the liberty of showing them to Porter Books, a very reputable Canadian publishing house in or around 1990.

Taylor’s first collection of short stories was published in 1997 and has consistently been getting fiction published since that time.

The first in the series, An Irish Country Doctor, introduces readers to fresh-out-of-med-school Dr. Reilly’s and his ensuing partnership with the crotchety old doctor who owns the Ballybucklebo practice.

As in real life, Taylor’s characters evolve through subsequent novels – An Irish Country Village, An Irish Country Christmas, An Irish Country Girl , and An Irish Country Courtship.

The newest book in the series is An Irish Country Love Story, publishing in October 2016 .

Wintering in the South, Taylor assures he will continue to write for his legion of fans.

“It’s an organization called TD who hold my mortgage,” he laughs. “Anyone who says they write for the pure joy of it has something wrong in their head.”

While he commiserates with other members of the Writers’ Union of Canada, whom he says make an average of $12,000 annually, Taylor says his writing has provided him with a good living.

Taylor will be leading a workshop at this year’s Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival, which runs from May 19 to 21 at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort and Okanagan College.

In the meantime, celebrate all things Irish this Friday when the Shuswap Association of Writers hosts a ceilidh at 5 p.m. at the Shaw Centre’s Intermissions Restaurant & Lounge at 2600 10th Ave. SE.

Proceeds from the Ceilidh are used to fund the Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival.

Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter talent Jesse Mast will perform. Signed to Cache Entertainment/Sony Music Canada, Mast has written songs with Larry Wayne Clark and toured with Gord Bamford.

Mast won three awards from the North American Country Music Association International in 2014: Songwriter of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Male Entertainer of the Year. His debut single, Bad Blood, was released in January 2016. His repertoire includes country, blues, rock and roll and Celtic.

The band, Circle of Friends, will also be back at this year’s ceilidh to perform Celtic music and invite those in attendance to participate in a pub-style singalong.

Tickets to the ceilidh are $40 and include a buffet dinner, entertainment and a silent auction. Tickets can be purchased at Hidden Gems Bookstore on Alexander.

Now, in its 14th year, the Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival’s lineup of presenters is impressive.

Novelists such as Gail Anderson-Dargatz, and John Valliant, who’s first book, The Golden Spruce (2005), won the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction, and homegrown singer/songwriting musicians Blu and Kelly Hopkins will also lead workshops.

“Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival is the Shuswap Association of Writers’ major annual event,” says association president and author Kay Johnston. “With a focus on the written arts, the association’s mandate is to organize events to enrich the cultural life in our community and British Columbia.”

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