Writing and being a GP goes hand in hand – it’s all about having a curiosity about the world around you
With her 50th birthday looming, Hawke’s Bay specialist GP Keryn Powell decided now was the time to finish her first novel. Four years of weekly “disciplined writing time”, has led the part-time GP to publish a young adult fiction novel, about sea people and imminent climate disaster.
As her first published title, Before the Rising has a big job to perform. The magical and soberingly realistic climate-change story balances the young adult genre’s characteristic dramatic and worldly feel with a proactive, science lens.
Dr Powell says spending immeasurable time thinking about climate change, challenged her to write about potential disaster, without getting as grim and dystopic as the young adult genre is known for.
She recalls driving along Napier Road one day with her children, talking as she always does about the climate crisis, while her teenagers roll their eyes.
“Imagine, when the sea level rises, this road will be under water. How far under water do you think we will be? What would Napier look like six metres under water? Or 10 metres under water?” she pondered.
Dr Powell has always loved the heightened urgency when reading her children’s young adult novels, and combining young people’s emotion with their often proactive approach to social, political and environmental themes and issues.
“The young adult genre is certainly not a dumbed-down version of adult [fiction],” she says.
It was important to Dr Powell that Before the Rising’s objective was to delay the climate crisis, rather than solving it with some miracle cure.
“I just liked the breathing space to be able to explore that. I think as adults sometimes we box ourselves in a little.
"As a young adult you’ve still got all that emotion and ideas that haven’t been dampened down as much as they do in adulthood. I really like the freedom of writing in that genre.”
While her characters have climate effects lapping at their door, Dr Powell stressed the importance of learning from the world’s collective past mistakes and preparing for a new future.
“Not to prevent climate change because humans had gone too far for that, but to delay it. So people can adapt. Maybe that was a little realism in a fantasy world.”