An Author with Parkinson’s by Miller Caldwell | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | Getting Started
Miller Caldwell

Miller Caldwell

Miller Caldwell, author of The Reluctant Spy, on writing while suffering from Parkinson’s Disease . . .

It was a bowl of soup that caught the attention of my wife. I was spilling it. She brought a large cup, and I finished the broth with my left hand but my right hand seemed to have a life of its own. My wife telephoned the GP who did not wish to see me. Instead, he referred me to the Movement Clinic at the hospital.

There, the consultant made me do a few exercises and asked me many questions. Her prognosis was not what I suspected. She simply said, ‘I may have Parkinson’s disease.’ That alerted me to think this was an ailment, not easy to diagnose. She sent me to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow where a scan of my brain resolved two things. Yes, my brain was still detectable, but I was devoid of dopamine. That meant I did have Parkinson’s disease after all. These events were almost three years ago.

If you search for Parkinson’s forums you will find a few American ones. When they introduce their selves, they say. ‘I was diagnosed last year but I’ve had it for six years.’ They are right in a way. There are over 40 symptoms of Parkinson’s of which the tremor is the most well-known and obvious symptom. When I stop to think about it, I’ve had difficulty tasting food and slouching when I walk. These are two of the symptoms. So, I could say I was diagnosed three years ago, but have had it for eight years. It explains why some still play golf, Nordic Pole Walk, sponsored walks at home and abroad, table tennis, and even boxing. In contrast, others shuffle and walk like penguins. I’m heading towards the latter. And that makes an impact on my writing.

Reluctant SpyI have written 35 books and during my second last book, A Reluctant Spy, I had to wait until my Levodopa pills took effect which might give me a two-hour window in which to write. As a result of being a full-time author who occasionally continued to write until 3 am. I am now a slow writer who no longer writes novels but novellas. In this hectic decade, many readers prefer a novella to a seaside holiday bumper novel.

When the condition worsens, as it is bound to do with no cure as yet, perhaps dictate your book to a friend or especially a partner who will understand more, and cost you little! There are also dictation solutions. With some expense, you could dictate your book even to an agent or publisher. They can help immensely.

I cannot write on paper. My writing is now indescribable with a long down stroke and an almost straight line following, so I rely on the computer to write my books. But when the tremor surfaces, my fingers hover over the keyboard and then pounce on two letters making no sense of the sentence.

I am a member of the Society of Authors with Disability and Chronic Illnesses. It will welcome you aboard and has a Zoom meeting every month. This is where you will see more handicapped authors and get support from them all. We have a few Irish writers on board.

Despite my aliment, I have spoken recently at the Kirkcudbright Book Festival and will be speaking at the Wigton Book Festival at Stranraer across the Irish Sea from you in October. But when I talk my hand sometimes shakes. I tell them I am not nervous, it’s my Parkinson’s, and many smile and some laugh about it.

When I wrote A Reluctant Spy, I contacted a publicist at Cameron Publicity. As a result, Debbie Elliott arranged for a double-page spread which appeared in the Sunday Post. It was comprehensive. Not only did the readers discover I was an author, but I had confronted Usama bin Laden in the NWFP of Pakistan in 2005 when I was a camp manager at Mundihar after the SE Earthquake of 2005. Furthermore, I managed to bring an African dictator to his knees in tears when I produced a picture of President JJ Rawlings’ father. His father was Scottish. What was not reported, and I do so humbly as The Irish have just won the Triple Crown, I received two Rugby caps many years ago but that was against Nigeria and Sierra Leone when I played for Ghana. Neither did they make much of me being the descendant of Robert Burns but that is known locally. Of course, he was a poet and I am an author. It’s amazing what a publicist can arrange and indeed this article for you is just another example of Debbie’s work.

But if you have Parkinson’s be grateful it’s not the big C. My tip is to make today the best day ever. And remember to stay active as best you can, to defeat Parkinson’s, because Parkinson’s does not like activity or exercise!

Whatever your ailment as a writer, remember you work alone but are part of a large profession scribbling away. There’s someone out there, whose disability is like yours or even worse.

(c) Miller Caldwell

About A Reluctant Spy by Miller Caldwell:

About the author

Miller H Caldwell was born in 1950 in the north east of Scotland. He finished schooling in Glasgow, determined to lead a humanitarian life, and was appointed by the Church of Scotland to work in Ghana. Returning to the UK in 1978 he did a post graduate degree in African studies and worked at a school in Stirling before becoming a reporter to the children’s panels, ending up as first Authority Reporter for Dumfries and Galloway. In 2006 Miller was appointed Camp Manager at Mundihar in the NW Frontier of Pakistan following the south Asian earthquake. He is a writer of novels, biographies, self-help and children’s books including A Lingering War and Caught in a Cold War Trap that were made into film scripts. Married with two daughters, he lives in Dumfries.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books