Leamington and long-time Tokoroa GP Fred Simpson is known to many as their family doctor, but outside medicine he is just as passionate about writing - both poetry and prose.
Still working part-time as a doctor, Fred has just self-published his second novel. The Sunflower and the Sparrow is a comic drama that follows the lives of four stalled New Zealand characters as they intersect and influence each other in odd and unexpected ways.
The book is being launched on Thursday, February 25 at Paper Plus in Cambridge and will be available for purchase from March 1.
The four main characters of The Sunflower and the Sparrow are based in Hamilton and Cambridge and all are at a turning-point in their lives.
Fred, 71, lives and writes from home in a leafy street in Cambridge helped, he says, by his cat Henry.
"General practice is a good job to be in as a writer, because you meet so many different people," Fred says.
In 2015, he published his first novel, Ted's Urn, "co-written by my dog Alice". Ted's Urn is about a young Kiwi GP who finds out that her terminally ill patient gave her the task - after his death - to deliver his ashes to a life-long friend in a failed and corrupt southern African state.
"I have a feeling that I have to write. With poetry you can get stuck on details for weeks, but with prose you can start and skip parts and get something done."
It was more of a coincidence that Fred ended up in medicine. He was born in South Africa as the youngest of three children.
They grew up in Zimbabwe, where Fred studied a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and became a teacher. "But I wasn't a natural teacher."
Through his studies, he says he was constantly in contact with literature.
"I've always written poetry; I've had it all in me. But I didn't know whether I also had the prose writing in me."
It would take Fred a few years to find his voice in prose.
When he and his friend needed a break from teaching in 1973, they decided to go to England for an OE.
"We had just saved up enough for the flight to get over there with stopovers in Zurich and Greece. So we had to work illegally, because we didn't have a permit."
Fred says due to the fact that he had to work illegally, his employer took some money off his pay.
"We were both doing labouring work - it nearly drove me insane. This assembly-line work is an affront against humanity."
He found a newspaper advertisement for a sales job in Germany.
"I had to sell pots and pans to American GIs - in the middle of winter. It was pay on commission, so I only earned money when I sold something. I was hopeless at it and nearly starved," Fred says.
After three months in Germany, he went back to London and, encouraged by his friend, applied to study medicine in Cape Town.
"I never thought I would get in. But the medical school that I applied to favoured people who had an arts degree, so to my surprise I got in."
Fred had to get a grant and work part-time at a racecourse selling tickets in order to finance his studies.
"As soon as I started meds, I knew I did the right thing. It was challenging, but I loved it and never looked back."
As an intern in a Cape Town hospital, he met his wife Pat who also worked there – as a specialist nurse.
After qualifying and practising in the rural South African town of Ixopo and the birth of his two children, Paul and Helen, the family decided to leave Africa.
"We left for political reasons, because of the apartheid and the war [Rhodesian Bush War]. We thought 'we have two kids - we have to leave'."
In 1987, the family migrated to New Zealand and bought a practice in Tokoroa where Fred worked for 25 years.
Although the family moved to Cambridge in 1996, he continued working in Tokoroa until he sold the practice and joined the Leamington Medical Centre.
After years of publishing poems in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, Fred found the courage to give prose writing a go.
Fred says that he didn't think he had many ideas left for prose writing after his first novel.
"I thought, maybe I will write another book when I pull back from being a GP, when I have more time for my creative side.
"The theme of The Sunflower and the Sparrow is that you have to take risks in order to grow as a human being. In some ways it has autobiographical elements, contains character traits of people I have met as a doctor, but that is normal - you need to write about something you know.
"The beauty is that creative writing doesn't have to be exact, it is never just me and the ultimate choice is the character's."
When Fred is not writing, he works in the garden, reads or travels.
"But I am a much happier person when I am writing."