I recently had an article on The representation of clinical psychologists in contemporary literary fiction published in Clinical Psychology Forum. Needless to say, was delighted when Nick Wood got in touch to tell me about his own fictional psychologist. Here’s what he has to say about combining clinical psychology and fiction.
I am a chartered clinical psychologist who trained in South Africa during the State of Emergency under apartheid. I worked in various settings there, both community and old style psychiatric state hospitals - and mainly in designated ‘black’ areas, until after the demise of apartheid. I came across to the UK (London) to do a PhD in Child Psychology and thereafter have worked as a consultant CP in CAMHS and Child Development centres both here and - for several years - in Aotearoa New Zealand. I have also been involved in training CP’s at both the University of Hertfordshire and East London.
My main modality is CBT, Systemic and Narrative approaches and I am particularly interested in the intersection between the personal and the political.
What kind of book have you published?
An alternative history set in a current South Africa but where Mandela ends up dying on Robben Island and apartheid has never ended. A dystopia really, but I had no idea when writing it, that we would all soon be living in an alternative world, with BREXIT and Trump taking centre stage.
In a modern day South Africa where Apartheid still holds sway, Sibusiso Mchunu, a young umZulu man, finds himself the unwitting focus of momentous events when he falls foul of the system and comes into possession of a secret that may just offer hope to his entire people. Pursued by the ANC on one side and Special Branch agents on the other, Sibusiso has little choice but to run.
Azanian Bridges is a truly ground-breaking book from South African-born author Nick Wood. This, his debut novel, is a socially acute fast-paced thriller that propels the reader into a world of intrigue and threat, leading to possibilities that examine the conscience of a nation.
What was the impact of being a professional psychologist on your fiction?
I’ve been publishing for a while now in parallel with my career – finding time to write wherever I can, with Nick Wood being a very thin nom de guerre for Dr. Nicholas Wood!
This is my first use of a clinical psychologist as one of the main characters and the book was precipitated by finding an old case study I’d written while training, in which I’d been asked to do CBT on a young black man with PTSD, but the more I worked with him, the more I realised the entire societal structure needed changing.
So one of the book’s central themes is, can ‘normality’ exist within an abnormal society? And if not, what else can we do as psychologists to change things for the better? Having qualified thirty years ago now and having worked in many different places and contexts, I felt comfortable writing this conflicted character.
AZANIAN BRIDGES is available in various formats through Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher NewCon Press. One big thrill I had was getting an endorsement from Ursula K. Le Guin, who has been a favourite SFF author of mine since I was a boy!
Fingers crossed for the award, Nick! You can find out more about Nick Wood on his website: