Doctor prescribes
quick reads

Author and University of Queensland alumnus Nick Earls (Bachelor of Medicine ’86, Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) ’86) has always loved science. He spent several years working as a doctor before his talent with words overtook his medical career and led him to becoming one of Australia’s best-loved authors.

His two worlds are colliding again, with Earls returning to UQ to earn the title of doctor once more – this time as a Doctor of Philosophy. Earls has published five novellas, dubbed the Wisdom Tree series (pictured right), using them as an experiment for research into modern publishing. He hopes to find out if a movie-length book fits in better with readers’ modern lives.

Why did you decide to write novellas?

Publishers are traditionally uneasy about novellas. But I really wanted to write them, and then I thought “what about e-books, what about audio books that are now digital downloads? Is this a different era for novellas, potentially?”. The more I thought about it, the more exciting this idea became. Each of the books has its own narrator and each one stands alone. The books have thematic connections, but they’re also about what matters to us in our lives.

How has student life differed for you since the 1980s?

Fortunately I have never really lost contact with the St Lucia campus over the years. It’s a very different experience in a way because I’m not in my early 20s, I’m a parent as I’m doing my PhD, and it’s a PhD rather than a medical degree, with lots of coursework. I’m glad I’m doing it here and what I’m doing now is a thing I’m really enjoying – and it doesn’t come with the stress of those medical exams. And unlike the ’80s, I’m not devoting a lot of my time on campus to getting girls to like me; I get to focus on completing my PhD.

Watch Nick Earls talk about his top five favourite books.

Has your medical background influenced your current PhD?

I love an evidence base, and I think that’s where this has come from. I think my medical degree here really gave me a keen eye for evidence and made me, with these novellas, want to search around and see what people had done and see what had been tested, what worked and what didn’t. And it was good to be able to bring that critical thinking from my medical degree and apply it to this different set of problems.

Why did you choose UQ for your PhD?

I thought if I’m going to do this, I’ve got to do it properly. I’m going to research this thoroughly, and it’s also a chance to work on my novella craft. The team here at UQ was a big part of it. The creative writing area is really highly regarded, and it’s a very impressive group of people, so everything said that this was the place to come and do it.

To learn more about Nick Earls, visit