Indie Author Interview with Peter Palmieri - Author of the Medical Suspense Novel The Art of Forgetting.
Peter Palmieri was raised in the eclectic port city of Trieste, Italy. He returned to the United States at the age of 14 and earned his B.A. in Psychology and Animal Physiology from the University of California, San Diego. After earning his medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, he completed his pediatric training at the University of Chicago and Loyola University Medical Center.
More recently, he was awarded a Healthcare MBA by The George Washington University. Currently Peter is busy practicing general pediatrics at a large academic medical center while working on his next medical suspense.
Interview with Peter Palmieri
|Author Peter Palmieri|
Peter Palmieri: I was quite a story-teller as a child, much to the consternation of family members and teachers who would repeatedly chide me for telling tall tales. Decades passed before I realized that what I had engaged in as a child might be classified as narrative non-fiction with a creative bent (very creative at times).
My formal training is in medicine, which exposes me to life dramas that are far more gripping than anything the medical soaps on TV try to portray. But medicine is not a terribly creative endeavor, which may explain why so many physicians over the years have turned to writing – perhaps to share their experiences of witnessing human nature in its most vulnerable state, or maybe just as a form of catharsis.
I first experienced the therapeutic power of medical fiction writing during an ethics class in medical school where we were charged with reproducing the sort of short fiction penned by renowned physician authors such as William Carlos Williams. Since then, I’ve read nearly every book on writing that’s ever been published in the English language (at least, that’s what my wife says). I’ve twice attended a medical fiction writing course taught by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer and I enrolled in the fabled Story seminar taught by the uncompromising Robert McKee. More recently, I completed a novel writing curriculum at a renowned local university.
Before writing The Art of Forgetting, I earned rave reviews for a non-fiction book in which I critiqued the unsatisfactory quality of medical care far too many children receive.
Who are your favorite writers, what are your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
I’m happy to say that one of my favorite writers is a fellow physician: Anton Chekhov. I can read one of his short stories ten times and on the eleventh reading discover yet another insight into the human condition exposed in all its glorious subtlety. George Orwell is another giant, not just for his novels but for setting the gold standard when it comes to non-fiction prose. And where would we be without Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald?
When it comes to more contemporary work, I’m a huge admirer of William Goldman. Anyone who has the range to write both Marathon Man and The Princess Bride has to be a certified genius. Others that come to mind are Dennis Lehane and Gillian Flynn.
"Humans are all born writers. Story-telling lies at the cornerstone of our humanity."
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
Humans are all born writers. Story-telling lies at the cornerstone of our humanity. Unfortunately, as we’re thrust along the educational process, many develop the false notion that they have no innate talent, that it is be nothing short of presumptuous to sit down and set pen to paper. I was fortunate enough to have wonderfully nurturing teachers. By the fifth grade I knew I could write.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
The way I see the old plotting versus writing-by-the- seat-of-your-pants dichotomy is that either approach will take about the same investment of time and energy. The difference lies in where this energy is invested. The plotter will pay a premium at the front end whereas the “pantser” will have to do a lot more re-writing. I’m more of a plotter, though if my characters take me down an unexpected path, I’ll follow them as long as the side-trip has dramatic tension and it reveals something interesting about the characters and is relevant to the story.
I generally like to start by writing the climax first. Then I have a pretty clear idea of my destination. To move toward my destination, I think in terms of scenes that must happen in a specific order. I summarize these in one or two sentences (in pencil) and jot them down in the right sequence on a large white poster board (this is very hard work). At this point, I try to design each scene as if I were directing a movie. Finally, I sit down and write. I try to knock out one scene a day, first in long-hand – to resist the temptation of editing or just hitting the delete button in a moment of frustration –transcribing everything on my laptop within 24 hours. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about my story.
"When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about my story."
What do you find easiest about writing? What’s the hardest?
The hardest part of writing is to avoid stumbling into the quicksand of cliché’ and the quagmire of predictability. If a story has nothing new to say, it should at least say it with a fresh perspective. The easiest part of writing for me is crumpling up the papers of a spectacularly bad first draft into tiny little balls and tossing them in the trash can in nice high arcs. If at some point the actual writing seems effortless, I really start to worry (refer back to the bit about the quicksand of cliché’ and the quagmire of predictability).
Peter, please tell us a little about your book, The Art of Forgetting.
My novel is about the redemptive power of love. It’s about the triumph of the human spirit and how we are able to overcome our past by re-scripting our histories to escape the self-imposed shackles we sometimes burden ourselves with. Above all, it’s a medical suspense about love, redemption and treachery.
The protagonist is Lloyd Copeland, a young neurologist and medical researcher who’s obsessed with the pursuit of finding a cure for dementia. It’s a deeply-rooted preoccupation as he’s thoroughly convinced that he’s inherited the pernicious, early-onset form of the disease that has ravaged his family for generations and led his father to commit suicide. Even after he finds a promising treatment, Lloyd lives a tormented existence in a self-imposed emotional exile.
Just as he’s about to start human trials with his experimental treatment, strange mishaps occur in his laboratory and his research is brought to a halt by a hospital review board headed by Erin Kennedy, a beautiful medical ethicist with a link to his childhood. With his reputation and career in peril, Lloyd has to fight to preserve the only hope of escaping his biological fate. But his fight takes him face to face with sordid secrets from his family’s past. And to make matters worse, he finds himself falling irretrievably in love with the very woman who seems intent on thwarting his efforts.
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
What inspired you to write the book?
A few years ago I read a scientific paper that reported that prion proteins (the same infectious particles that cause neurological ailments such as Mad Cow disease) were found to play an important role in modulating long-term memory. The article jolted me, in part because I’ve had a particular fascination with both prions and memory and this study brought the two subjects together. I started wondering about the possibility of using prions as a cure for amnesia and dementia. And then I tried to imagine what might motivate a doctor to pursue such a cure, who would want to risk undergoing such a treatment, and who might be intent on blocking such a treatment? Once I started to get a clear idea of the characters, the story also came into focus.
"Luckily, medical dramas tend to appeal to a broad audience."
Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
So far, the most enthusiastic praise for my book has come from strong, intelligent women, which is a great demographic to have as a target audience since they also happen to be the most avid of readers. Luckily, medical dramas tend to appeal to a broad audience. People have an unmitigated curiosity when it comes to what doctors do. Fans of Tess Gerritsen, Abraham Verghese and Carol Cassella will feel right at home in The Art of Forgetting.
My book is most easily purchased, in either electronic version or hard copy, at Amazon.com.
How long did it take you to write the book?
The first draft took about 9 months to complete: 6 months for the first 45,000 words and 3 months for the final 45,000. Re-writing and editing took another 6 months.
"[...] learn as much as you can about the craft of story-telling."
Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
Before you start writing, learn as much as you can about the craft of story-telling. There are some excellent seminars and dozens of well-written books on the topic. Join a writing group or enroll in a creative writing class where your work can be read and critiqued. With every step, your goal should be to find something deeply meaningful you want to share with your readers and then write about it with honesty.
When you’ve settle into writing your first novel or collection of short stories, don’t rush the process. Write the best story you have in you and then edit and rewrite until you find that each stroke of the pen is little more than rearranging the furniture. At this point, get some trusted readers to give you honest feedback. Consider their advice carefully, make the necessary changes and then submit the manuscript to a professional editor. Hiring a professional cover artist is an absolute must, but rest assured that this does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Once you have the final manuscript, the process of formatting it for e-book and print can be a bit daunting but there’s plenty of help on the internet and some well written short books on the topic can be easily found.
Once your masterpiece is live and available for the masses, you still have quite a bit of work to do in terms of marketing. And you have to start thinking of your next work. It can all become a heck of a juggling act.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m working on another medical suspense at the moment. It involves a series of international adoptions gone horribly wrong and a father’s quest to unearth an unsettling truth. The story has been bouncing around in my head for a few years now but I haven’t been able to get very far because some of the more sensitive issues of the story paralyze me with fear while others leave me emotionally drained.
"The Indie route affords writers an unprecedented amount of control and flexibility."
Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
I’m really not worried about the various publishing options at this point. If anything, I fret about the craft of writing, about putting out my very best effort in each sentence, about writing with honesty and integrity.
The Indie route affords writers an unprecedented amount of control and flexibility. It also allows authors to treat publishing decisions as secondary considerations so that they can focus on the craft. Now, if a major publishing house offered me a scandalous sum of money as an advance for my next novel, I would have to consider it. But I won’t be tempted by a merely ludicrous remittance or by a moderately shameful outlay – it really has to be nothing short of a disgraceful pay-off.
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
The only thing I can say with certainty about the future is that it never fails to surprise me and the only prediction I will venture to make is that people will continue to hunger for a good story and writers will be ever present to fulfill this human need. Stories are essential to our understanding of the human experience. They will never die.
I don’t see bookstores disappearing entirely. Bookstores are not just sale centers of a cold commodity but represent a vibrant meeting point for people. The challenge for book sellers is to either find a specialized niche where they can thrive, or to develop creative business plans that will keep them financially viable. Part of such a business plan may include welcoming the growing Indie market with open arms, much as the movie industry has done (at least to some extent). By the way, record stores are making a bit of a comeback.
Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
I’m very happy to have a day job. I practice general pediatrics in an academic medical center. It’s a real advantage for writers to have another career, and not just for the obvious need for a reliable source of income. Our careers can be a source of inspiration. At a minimum, they thrust us in contact with other people, often in less than pleasant ways (which is great for the writer in you). Some of the most prolific writers have had a second full-time occupation, including my hero, Anton Chekhov.
How can readers connect with you?
I would love to hear from my readers. There are several ways they can reach me, by leaving a message on my blog, sending me a tweet or shooting me an e-mail.
@ppalmierimd on twitter
Thank you very much for the Interview, Peter.
About the Book The Art of Forgetting
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
But when odd mishaps take place in his laboratory, his research is blocked by a hospital review board headed by Erin Kennedy: a beautiful medical ethicist with a link to his troubled childhood. The fight to salvage his reputation and recover the hope for his own cure brings him face to face with sordid secrets that rock his very self-identity. And to make matters worse, he finds himself falling irretrievably in love with the very woman who seems intent on thwarting his efforts.
- "Best medical based story I've read in years.Reflects today's medical and cut throat business world as only an insider can." - Reader Review
Links to the Book
Link to the Paperback The Art of Forgetting with Excerpt on Amazon
Link to the eBook The Art of Forgetting with Excerpt on Amazon