They say, "Once you write one book, it's easier to write a second". I never gave the concept much thought until I had written one book. And not just any book, but my autobiography. I can't say it was easy to write my second or third books. But I did find myself rather more confident with the idea.
I had such a fascination with the sea when I was in my teens, it felt natural to explore a fictional story of the life I had daydreamed about. Thus, Troubled Seas began. Through it's unfolding tale of daily life and dramatic turns of fate on a tramp steamer, I was able to live out my teenage dream.
With that underway, the idea for another tale, a church story, started to foment in my imagination. I was a little uncertain about getting two things going. But my partner, Devan, encouraging as ever, thought it was a good idea. If one project isn't moving, you can switch to the other and perhaps find fresh inspiration. And so began my foray into fiction.
I must say, I felt a wonderful sense of freedom in writing Troubled Seas and Death in the Rectory. With the autobiography I was keenly aware of factual details, both of the time and place things happened. But also my recollection. That's not to say I shoved historical fact or realism to the side with the fiction writing. I just felt I had so much more room to move. I was careful of the time I was writing about, and found it wonderful to be able to include things like the building of the Lion's Gate Bridge or the actual topography of Oxford in the context of the story. The stories themselves, however, were live things, unfolding even as I wrote them. And always there was the sense that they could go anywhere.
When I finished the first drafts, I realized both were quite short; relative to a standard length novel. I thought perhaps to put them together and present it as a miniature omnibus. I sent them out to several friends for a read through as Devan was overloaded with other projects and couldn't possibly do his normal editorial duties. I got wonderfully helpful criticism, particularly from my dear friend Paula Bernard. It was she who said I should really expand both tales into full length novels.
I thought, Oh my God. How am I going to do that?
But after some thought, I realized she was quite right. And I went back to work, delighted to discover that I could chart out a new direction for each tale. When I finished, both books were better for the time and attention spent; more interesting and fully-formed.
While I thank all of those who took time to read the early drafts, I must give special thanks to Paula. Throughout the writing of Troubled Seas and Death in the Rectory, Paula offered the most critical and constructive feedback and was tremendously supportive throughout the process.
Now with these two books out in the world, I find myself turning to a new and different project. Or perhaps I'm just furthering an argument that I couldn't fully explore in A Priest's Tale without bogging the whole narrative down.
During my last year of at the Anglican Theological College at UBC, my tutorial year, I wrote a paper each week. The subjects spanned the whole theological spectrum. I came across those papers some time ago and in skimming through a few of them, I was astonished at how much my perspective on many of the topics has changed. Even as I read, I wanted to argue with my younger self, which is ridiculous. Until I thought about it.
In A Priest's Tale there once was a 'rant'. I wanted to speak my mind about a few things. But it didn't work at all as the book took shape. To respond to the ideas I put forth in those essays from Theological college offered the perfect platform. Essays: Ancient & Modern is still in the works. And it won't be for everyone. However, if you've a bent for theology, my new and improved 'rant' should be ready for publication soon.
When I sat down one day and started making notes about some of the humourous anecdotes that have occurred in my life, I never dreamed I would end up writing my autobiography. The idea to record some of the amusing stories I often told in conversations was planted by a friend. At first I laughed at the idea. However, over time I found myself intrigued with the possibility.
I was retired. I had plenty of time. So, one day I started sketching out a few incidents. A few led to several as the writing began to feed on itself and one memory would spark others. It wasn't until I had ten or more recollections written out that I began to wonder if there wasn't a book in it. The Amusing Anecdotes of a Anglican Priest, perhaps?
My partner, Devan, and I were in the early stages of our courtship at the time. He was very encouraging when I spoke of the writing and the fact that I could see it evolving into something more than just some personal recollections I might share with friends and family. Of course, I was still thinking in terms of a short collection of amusing stories. It was Devan who suggested that it could easily be something more cohesive if I linked these separate tales to each other and "fleshed things out a bit". Who knew, I might even end up writing my memoirs!
The "fleshing out" process took longer than I expected, a few years. But with each draft, the work as a whole was improved. The narrative took shape and a natural theme of religion and sexuality developed without completely taking over. The primary aim of the book is to tell the story of one gay priest's life; a life quite common. You will not find in it's pages sordid scandals, legal battles with church hierarchy, or a renunciation of faith. What I do hope you will discover through the unfolding events of my life is that the carnal and the divine are not forces in opposition, but forces of balance. The flesh and the spirit are inextricably wed. In my view, to deny the grandeur of either is to depreciate the gift of life given by the Creator. I also hope you will have a good laugh, as the amusing stories that were the genisis of this autobiography are all still there, as well as a few I hadn't thought to include in the early drafts.
Throughout this adventure my partner, Devan, has been my diligent editor, and I can say with complete confidence this book would not be as good as it is if not for his devoted assistance and support. Not to mention he's the one who understands all the techie things, like making webpages.
I must also thank the numerous friends who suffered through the early drafts and offered excellent, practical advice. Their input was of enormous help in crafting a more complete narrative, and for affirming some of the changes Devan thought should be made, which I was initially against.
I hope all who read the book enjoy it! The writing of it has certainly been a unique and gratifying experience for me.
Father Dodman was born in 1937 in Vancouver, British Columbia where he was raised. He attended school, university and the Anglican Theological College of B.C. in Vancouver. He studied the violin for much of his youth and enjoyed playing in various amateur symphony orchestras over the years. During teen years there was a great interest in ships and the sea. For a time he thought that he might have a career as a ship’s officer and to that end he was involved with the Royal Canadian Navy as a reservist for five years.
He was ordained a Priest of the Anglican Church in 1970 and served in various parishes from B.C. to the Province of Quebec.
In retirement for the past 15 years, he lives in Vancouver with his soul-mate of 11 years and enjoys city life as well as writing and publishing. So far he has written an autobiography, two fiction novels and is working on another project, which is in the last stages of writing.