All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for February 2004

New Novelist Weaves Words Through Adversity

Feb 4, 2004
Perry Flippin
Scripps Howard News Service

Doug Robinson, once a globetrotting adventurer with a flair for action romances, writes stories that leave readers wanting more.

His first novel, "Expatriate," is scheduled for release next month.

The 57-year-old author lives alone in San Angelo, Texas,while writing a sequel. His room is lined with dozens of classic novels.

"I started off writing about my experiences when I went to Brazil when I was 19 years old," Robinson said. "I thought that might be a start, but I needed to weave it into a story. I started in 1994 and finished in 1995, but I didn't know what to do with it. It was kinda disjointed."

What he composed was a vivid account of a young American who went to Brazil, fell in love, married and stayed, in part, to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. Except for the autobiographical introduction, everything else is pure fantasy, though carefully researched.

"With my math and physics background, I start with an outline," he explained. "I kind of know where I'm starting and where I'm going. Then I start writing."

Robinson, with piercing blue eyes and an easy smile, said he often veers off, but the outline pulls him back on track.

"You never know where the story's going _ or I don't anyway," he added. "I just kind of let my imagination go. Sometimes one sentence I type will change where the story is going. I just go with it wherever it seems to take me. It's really kind of fun."

What brought Robinson to this chapter in his life has not been fun.

He spent 15 years in management positions with various industries, including oil and gas, consulting and software development. Then he embarked on a 17-year shift into financial management.

In 1990, while he was living in Irvine, Calif., Robinson was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), a paralyzing disease of the central nervous system. His world soon began to rapidly crumble.

His marriage collapsed, the razor-sharp mind that once quickly computed prices and yields began to falter. He eventually needed a motorized wheelchair. Once a speedy touch-typist, he now types with one finger.

His disease worsened significantly in 2001 and he was forced to seek assisted living facilities.

"I'm not an old man," he said, stroking his salt-and-pepper mustache. "I want to feel useful. I don't have a job and I'm not earning any money. I'm essentially under forced retirement. . . Writing gives me a reason to live. Maybe I can still do something useful."

A high school sweetheart from Clovis, N.M., located Robinson via the Internet a couple of years ago. She had authored an autobiographical account of her husband's death. Her son knew about First World Library, a new publishing house looking for budding authors.

Last March, Robinson contacted Brad Fregger, president of the publishing house, and offered to send a synopsis of his novel.

"It's a really good story," Fregger said. "Instead of sitting someplace and crying about how life has treated him so poorly, he (Robinson) writes a novel that includes parts of his real life. It's like a thriller. He has written a really good, good novel."

Robinson traces his love for world travel to his childhood in Clovis, where his father taught high school math and physics. As a student, he excelled in those subjects and enrolled at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, N.M.

"I had an English teacher there who inspired me," he recalled. "Before then, writing had always been a pain."

The university had a contract with the U.S. Navy to operate satellite tracking stations around the world. Robinson signed up and found himself working in Brazil, Sicily, Greenland, and the Philippines. The stations aided navigators at sea to pinpoint nuclear warheads on Soviet targets. Today, similar satellite-tracking devices help motorists navigate their automobiles.

When the MS worsened, Robinson started looking for alternate ways to earn a living.

"That's when I started writing," he said.

First World Library isn't a vanity press, but it also isn't a major publishing house with big budgets and vast facilities.

"We started this company to help people get their books published and with a quality level you would expect to find of any book sold in America," Fregger said.

Robinson, he added, "turned out to be a really good writer.

" 'Expatriate' is a fun, fun book to read. You won't be able to wait for the sequel," he said.

Copyright © 2004, Scripps Howard News Service