Malcolm D. Welshman has had a lifetime filled with exciting encounters with animals. As a lad in Nigeria, he is attacked by soldier ants and terrified by a snake in his treehouse. His treasured companion, Poucher, an African bush dog, prevents him and his mother from being savaged by baboons.
Once qualified as a vet Malcolm has to attempt life-saving surgery on his beloved parrot. On a road trip across the Sahara, there is a tussle with a lame camel and the operation on an Ostrich gored by an antelope.
Settling back in West Sussex in England, he tackles a cow that’s got stuck in a tree, wily cats and battles with cunning badgers and baby bats.
He shares all these fascinating experiences in this gently humorous memoir that will guarantee to tug at the heart strings while bringing a smile to your face. Anyone who loves animals will be enchanted and enthralled.
Interview with Malcolm Welshman
How long have you been writing professionally?
I started way back in the seventies when I wrote a feature about a goose I’d been given to fatten up for Christmas. She never did get eaten as she raised the alarm when we had burglars. The article was published in the magazine, My Weekly. That led to me writing for the magazine for fifteen years whilst continuing my veterinary career. Novel writing came much later with my first book, Pets in Prospect, being published in 2008.
Do the humorous situations in your books stem from real life or your imagination?
A mix. Many of the incidents are based on situations that happened to me and I just elaborate on them for comic effect. Though my latest book, An Armful of Animals, is a memoir so the stories in it are for real, even though in parts exaggerated.
How many years did you practice as a vet?
I was a vet for over 35 years though not in general practice all the time as in later years I became a consultant specialising in exotic animals.
What are your favourite animals?
I’m more of a dog than a cat person and have had seven rescues over the years. Also had my own African Grey parrot for 23 years so am rather fond of them.
What are your top three favourite books?
Gerald Durrell has always been my mentor as he used to be out in West Africa when I lived in Nigeria so was an avid reader of all his books during that time. My Family and Other Animals is an all-time favourite. I used to love psychological thrillers and those penned by Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine still rank highly with me. A Fatal Inversion is a good example of her work. And William Boyd’s A Good Man in Africa I can re-read and still enjoy.
Would you ever consider writing in a different genre?
I do have a non-animal themed script – a black comedy that is so way over the top it’s unlikely to ever see the light of day. And I have written a ghost busting story for 8-12 year-olds involving a team of ‘spritely spirits’. I’m also considering adapting my first three pet novels for a younger readership, the stories being told through the eyes of a rescue terrier.
Considering most traditionally published authors are now expected to do most of their own book marketing, did this influence your decision to self-publish An Armful of Animals?
Very much so. I did actually have four traditional publishing offers for the book but eventually decided to self -publish. I’m not sure it has been the right decision as I’m finding very difficult to alert the readership of my first three books (which between them got over 400 Amazon reviews) to the fact his memoir exists. A lot depends on recommendation by word of mouth; and here social networking is essential. I’ve joined a Facebook group called We Love Memoirs which has over 4000 members. It’s a very inter-active, vibrant group which passes on reviews and comments about books members have read. I also like to support animal charities through donating signed copies to auctions and raffles: this in turn does help to raise the profile of the book.
What inspires your creativity?
Wish I knew. Then I’d be able to tap into it more frequently and hence be more productive. I’m always needing a nudge – working to deadlines. What all of us writers do know, is that you need to keep constantly writing so perhaps that’s the core element to being creative. However, there is one thing that can help to activate the little grey cells. And that’s doing plenty of reading. Not necessarily books about your own topics. But anything that might give you ideas for story lines or characters. I also read newspapers to glean information on any animal-related subjects; and will cut such features out and file them in an ideas folder. Reading through them, will often spark a new idea or a fresh approach to what I’m trying to write at the time.
Who are your favourite authors?
William Boyd and Patrick Gale.
What differs (apart from the word count) between writing a magazine column and writing a book manuscript?
In feature writing you have to make every word count. With the limitation on the number of words used you can’t afford to ramble off-topic. If it’s a short story or part of a series, characters and background detail can only be lightly sketched in and the story line takes priority. Whereas of course, in a book manuscript, you have the luxury of filling in the characters more deeply, make the background details more descriptive and slowly unravel the story using lesser characters for sub-plots.
Malcolm Welshman is a retired vet and author. He was the My Weekly vet for 15 years and has written many features for magazines such as She, The Lady, The People’s Friend, Cat World, Yours, and newspapers such as The Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. He is the author of three pet novels, the first of which, Pets in a Pickle, reached number two on Kindle’s bestseller list. His third novel, Pets Aplenty, was a finalist for The People’s Book Prize 2015. A memoir, An Armful of Animals, was published in September 2018; and through a collection of twenty stories tells how animals have shaped his life as a vet. Malcolm is also an international speaker on cruise ships, a regular BBC Radio Somerset panellist, and a bi-monthly contributor to a local community radio, Keep 106 in Dorset.