The Architect of Change

As an adult living in Australia, I enjoyed a long, successful career in marketing. When I retired, I returned to Scotland to revisit old haunts, family, and friends. It was great to see everyone again, but not long after coming back home, I was struck by cancer, not once, but twice. As seems often to be the case, this proved to be the architect of change. I began a new career – one I had always wanted. I started to write stories.

My Life as a Teenager

I've jumped to the end of my story, so let's go back seventy-five years to its beginning.

I was born into a working-class Catholic family and lived most of my early years in an impoverished suburb where crime was common and youths ran out of control.

I've lost count of how many cousins I had, both on my mother's and my father's side. By the time I was sixteen, we'd all sort of merged into one giant potpourri - different outlooks on life, but generally getting along pretty well.

I was the first in my extended family to question my Catholic faith, and like many kids my age, the church held little appeal for me. I was open about my backsliding ways, but it didn't seem to make any difference to how my parents, or aunts and uncles felt about me. I was still a favourite. To my younger cousins, I was a trailblazer, marking the way for others to follow.

Television and newspapers were filled with bad news, reporting daily on the greed and malicious deeds of individuals - most of whom seemed to escape with little if any punishment.

An architect of change

The evil perpetrated on citizens by corporations and governments in power, as well as those trying to seize power, led me to question whether there was a God, and if so, why didn’t he do something to prevent the suffering of the poor and needy? Sounds familiar, right? Nothing much has changed.

Around that time, I stopped going to church.

As the years slipped by (I was only eighteen), I began to feel that something was missing in my life. Was it God, I wondered, or simply the fellowship of belonging to a Christian community?

I embarked on a mission, seeking out other churches and sects, mainstream, evangelical, and charismatic, looking for answers to my questions. I even went to crusades given by Billy Graham and others, read the bible back to front, and pored over dozens of theological books concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of humankind. (Whew!)

I never did find all the answers to my questions, but I continued to be fascinated by the nature of God. In my early twenties, I became a member of the local Baptist church. (I'd gone Bapo, according to my cousins) and attended weekly bible readings for a while. I found the people there to be friendly and well-meaning, but somewhat credulous - at least to my eyes.

When I moved house a few years later, I left my Baptist leanings behind, but still kept my theological books on the bookshelf and every now and then, I would read a chapter or two. The research I did into the early church and the philosophy of religion equipped me with the materials to create the Prosperine series of books.

Back in my school years, long before I became a "Bapo", I spent a lot of my spare time in the local library picking up armfuls of books by the likes of Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, Frank Herbert, and Larry Niven, to name a few.

I was a voracious reader, on the bus to and from school, and lying in bed before falling asleep. I dreamed of living in the fantastic worlds these authors created, being chased by monsters and fighting villains.

Thinking back to those times, I realise my passion for science fiction was pure escapism. It took me away from the reality of life in a rough suburb of a Scottish town on the outskirts of Glasgow. 

My first job was as a labourer on the building site for the new Glasgow airport. I was seventeen. It was hard work making concrete by mixing sand, gravel, cement and water and then tipping it into a gigantic bucket that a crane would hoist ten or fifteen stories above.

I was also delegated to make sure the electric urn had been filled, switched on and was piping hot in time for the mens' tea-breaks. You might guess my lot was not made any easier by the fact my father was the General Manager. I've found that people don't normally take kindly to the boss's son.

A multitude of jobs followed that—factory hand, carpet weaver, mill worker, lab assistant —too many to mention. But all this while, I was reading science fiction books and deriving great enjoyment from playing in a folk band. I got to know a lot of people from widely varying backgrounds and beliefs. Some were rough and tough, others were generous to me, and others I admired for how they managed the hand they had been dealt in life.

My life during those teenage years - the experience of growing up - was what influenced me to write my first book — a slice-of-life novel about a young bloke struggling to understand what life is about, how he fits in, and what his future might hold.

That book is called "Small Fish Big Fish" and if you also enjoy young adult realism, then I think you would like this one.

I was twenty-one when I decided I should do something with my life instead of just drifting along. I went back to school, and at age twenty-one, I began a science degree at Glasgow University.

In my first year, I contracted tuberculosis!

It was hard trying to keep awake in the library because of all the drugs I was taking, but I must have managed it, because four years later I graduated BSc, majoring in Mathematics.

That was when I met my wife-to-be, and she took me to Australia.

The rest, as they say, is history. The lucky country has been good to me. I've made lifelong friends and been blessed with a supportive family, and the skills and ambition to become an author.

I enjoy writing so much. Inventing different characters and bringing them to life on the pages of my books is immensely satisfying. I write mainly for young adults, but I know many of the fans of Hickory, Jess, and Gareth are in the "mature" age group.

To you all, I say thank you for staying with me on my literary journey. 

PJ McDermott

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