Novel Reaction is very excited to have our first mystery author posting and our first interview by Jocee, one of our regular reviewers. Michael Palmer has just released A Heartbeat Away and has answered questions for us.
Michael Palmer, M.D., is the author of the forthcoming The Last Surgeon (2010), The Second Opinion, The First Patient, The Fifth Vial, The Society, Fatal, The Patient, Miracle Cure, Critical Judgment, Silent Treatment, Natural Causes, Extreme Measures, Flashback, Side Effects,and The Sisterhood. His books have been translated into thirty-five languages. He trained in internal medicine at Boston City and Massachusetts General Hospitals, spent twenty years as a full-time practitioner of internal and emergency medicine, and is now an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s physician health program.
NR: Where do you get your names for your characters? We were wondering if they are people you know or if you just make them up?
MP: Never anyone I know unless (as I do for every novel, and many other authors do as well) they have won a charity auction to have their name be a character in the book. I get my names from the sports pages, name Websites, books on my shelves, and people who have crossed my path at one time or another (never their full name). Sometimes, when desperate, I simply make them up.
NR: Where did you get the idea for the WRX3883?
MP: I knew I needed a virus to fulfill my “What if?” question for this book. What if a deadly, highly contagious virus is released into the House during the State of the Union Address, forcing the president to quarantine the Capitol. The properties of the virus evolved as I was writing, bit by bit.
NR: How did you learn to write by keeping the reader in suspense for each chapter? I really had a hard time putting the book down because I had to keep reading to find out what was happen.
MP: From the very beginning, well before I knew HOW to write, people were talking about my “natural” sense of what’s dramatic. According to the editors and agent who read my initial stuff, people can be taught how to write, but no one can be taught that sense of what is dramatic. I try hard to make sure no one can easily close my books at the end of a chapter.
NR: Do you believe that we have viruses like the WRX3883?
MP: Viruses can do just about anything. Controlling them and shutting them off is the problem. As to whether WRX viruses exist now, I would say that I certainly hope not.
NR: Do you believe we should use viruses like that if they are available?
MP: If the virus were controllable—utterly controllable—and lives could be saved by using them on terrorists, I would support their enployment. But that’s a lot of “ifs.”
NR: I have to say, I read the ending before I finished the book, which I do for every book, and still had to read the book to see what happened. That doesn’t happen a lot for me! I was very intrigued with the story. Who are the authors that you read?
MP: I read lots of first time authors to support their books with “blurbs.” Recently I enjoyed Law of Attraction by Allison Leotta; Consumed by Hilary Reddy LiDestri and Alisa Griffin, and of course Delirious by my son Daniel. Otherwise, I read what’s hot, and anything by Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, and Harlan Coben. My favorite writers ever are Charles Dickins and Robertson Davies.
NR: Which is your favorite book that you have written?
MP: Always the most recent one. I also particularly like The Second Opinion and Fatal.
NR: This is the first book of yours that my husband and I have both read. We would love to read another, which would you suggest?
MP: For medical/political thrills, try The First Patient.
NR: On Novel Reaction each month we do a books-to-movie challenge. What is your favorite book to movie?
MP: I have two—Six Days of the Condor by James Grady and Marathon Man by William Goldman. Terrific books, perfect movies.
Thank you Michael for stopping by and answering our questions. The reviewers of A Heartbeat Away gave the book five stars, high praise so check it out.