Marshall Godwin

Who I Am

Marshall Godwin NL Author

I am a writer of novels. I used to write medical articles and medical books. I was an academic family doctor and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  I’m retired now, and in my retirement I’ve become an author of fiction — a novelist. I still see patients as a locum tenens physician (I fill in for doctors on vacation and on sabbatical and on maternity leave etc). I live in St. John’s with my wife Glenda. We have two children and four grandchildren.  

I was born in the Harbour Breton Cottage Hospital on the south coast of Newfoundland in 1954. Two weeks later my mother and father took me home to Belleoram, a small outport community of about 500 people. I spent my childhood in Belleoram until I was 14 years old when our family moved back to my birthplace of Harbour Breton. My very formative high school years were spent there and when I was 17 I left by coastal boat to go to university in St. John’s. 

The rest is a matter of record…I married my high school sweetheart, Glenda Buglar, finished medical school at MUN, did my family medicine residency at Dalhousie University and since then have worked consecutively in Canso, Nova Scotia, Whitbourne, NL, St. John’s NL, Kingston, ON, and finally returned to St. John’s in 2005. In 2016 I retired from Memorial University. I am a writer now, but still do some clinics because, as writers know, only a very few of us make a living from writing.

I love Newfoundland. I love writing. I write what I love. I have published 120 medical articles in peer-reviewed journals in addition to two medical books and five novels. It is fiction writing that truly has my heart. I just published my 7th novel and I’m working on number 8 and 9.

Besides writing, I enjoy spending time with family, especially grandchildren, fly fishing, boating, travelling the world, and spending time in our summer place in Trouty, Trinity Bay.

The Novels I Have Published So Far

My first novel, Belle Maro, published in 2011, was the first in a series I call The Beothuk Series. The second in the series, The Mark of Time, was published in 2012. The final book in the series, The Warm Place, was published in 2017.  In May 2018, I published, Home to Liza, the first book in The Newfoundland Series. In February 2019 my first independently published novel, Charlie Freake from Scilly Cove hit the shelves.   It is the second in The Newfoundland Series. In August 2019, On the Wharf, the third in The Newfoundland Series was published. All my novels are set in Newfoundland. I grew up in rural Newfoundland, and Newfoundland history, culture, and geography is a passion. In January 2021 I published a novel named Mary Jane. It’s a biographical novel based on the life of my maternal grandmother. My novels to-date, and the two I am currently working on, are all based in Newfoundland.

I have also published two medical books and many medical journal articles.  In 2003, I published my first medical book, The Bedford Murder: An Evidence Based Clinical Mystery, which was a narrative-based medical education book for physicians. It was published by the medical book publisher, Elsevier Inc, and has sold about 3000 copies. It was recognized as the “Best Book for Physicians for 2004”, an award given by the American Medical Writers Association. In 2007, I published my second professional book, the same format as my first, but about modern sexual behaviours, called Sex on Yuwer Street. It was self-published and I haven’t really marketed it very well. Both these books had significant narrative components, but I wanted to do the real thing – write a novel. In 2007, I began research for what would be my first novel – it had nothing to do with medicine. Belle Maro was published by DRC Publishing in August 2011. I continue to write and publish.

My Writing Philosophy

I am not a master writer in the traditional sense and I will never be counted amongst the greats. But I believe I am a good storyteller. I have ideas and concepts for novels. I imagine things and write them down. My writing is not poetic; it is not profound or philosophical.  My writing is concise, I don’t linger over details. Sometimes, when I read other books, I skim; I don’t closely read the long-winded descriptions or thoughts the writer intrudes into the story, but rather I move on to the next conversation or the next action.  So, I write the way I like writing to be. The story line and the character building come from, and are developed by, what the characters say and do. I try not to intrude myself into the story too much. Sometimes I write about what the characters are thinking, but mostly I let them tell you what they are thinking by what they say and do. Sometimes I describe details of the surroundings, but usual just enough to get the reader started. What the reader imagines is much better than my attempts to describe it. Only when the details of the surroundings are important to the story will I elaborate.

How do I write stories? Imagine you are standing on the shore of a small lake looking inland. In the distance is a mountain; getting to that mountain is your goal. In your mind you start walking, and as you walk you write about the journey. There is no obvious trail; there are lakes (ponds) and ravines, and bogs and barrens. You have to traverse them to get to the mountain. When you start you don’t really know what you might have to go through to get to the mountain or what you will encounter. The book is about the path you take, about the journey. It is about the things that happen and the people you encounter along the way. You don’t know how it will end until you are almost there. When you arrive, the story has been written. That is probably not how most writers do it. It is how I do it most of the time. Sometimes I start with an outline of the plot and the story and expand it with details as I go, but mostly it is like that trip to the mountain – I make it up as I go.

I am learning every day of the importance of an independent, unbiased editor.