Writing World: Patrick J. Collins

Educator turned author Patrick J. Collins seamlessly weaves fact and fiction, becoming one of our island’s most prolific authors of historical fiction


Riverhead, Harbour Grace’s Patrick J. Collins has always harboured a deep curiosity, particularly when it comes to his home-region.

A retired educator who taught across the island, including as a Curriculum Program Specialist, Collins is a master of historic fiction, seamlessly blending factual accounts and records with vivid storytelling and imaginative scenarios.

Legend, Fact or Fiction

“It was the love of hearing stories told, true stories that had happened and were legends here,” Collins credits as his motivation to begin a new career as an author. “I wanted to know if they were legends or if they were fact or fiction. That’s what drove me to write.”

Collins’ first literary effort was an authorized biography on Dr. Charles Cron, which he self-published, managing to sell thousands of copies.

“When I wrote that book I wanted to do it out of our love and my families love and respect for this family doctor and his family, and a personal journey more than anything,” Collins recalls.  

“I had some other stories that were local here that were of interest to me. They were true stories and I wanted to research them in-depth. I took one at a time and looked at them and those stories that I had heard as a child and I would research them through the local papers. I went back into the 1800s and I looked at the trials and the murders that had taken place, the fires and that kind of thing. Through a lot of work at the AC Hunter Library and a lot of research I was able to piece together these other stories.”

Collins has since gone on to release seven other works including The Harbour Grace Arrfray, The Spirit of the S.S. Kyle, Murder at Mosquito Cove, Belonging, Forsaken Children, and Gibbet Hill.

His latest published work, and eighth since 2011, What Lies Below is a historical fiction that stretches from World War II to the present, centering on Petty Officer John Kelly of the British Royal Navy, who arrives to coastal Harbour Grace by way of an L27 Submarine, haunted by his past. Collins based part of the tale on Harbour Grace’s High Frequency/Direction Finding Radar Base.

Inspired by the Truth

“I embed the true story inside a larger fictional story. What Lies Below is probably the most fictional, because it is more or less inspired by true stories, three stories. I took them and gave it to one character,” he says. “With other stories that I’ve done, the embedded story is more intact.”

For Collins, there is a wealth of great untold stories from our island ready to be explored. It just takes the diligent research, and of course the emotional push and pull, to put the pieces in place.

“I have to be moved by emotive stories, the thought of what people have gone through,” Collins says. “I just can’t make up a story. I can, but I don’t enjoy that. What I really enjoy is the emotion that is behind these stories.”

For more on Patrick J. Collins visit his official Facebook page at Patrick Collins Writer and drcpublishingnl.com

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