I’m pleased to welcome Allen Wyler to the blog today. Allen is the author of Dead End Deal and joins me for a brief interview to talk about the ins-and-outs of writing a medical thriller.
Quick fire interview: Allen Wyler
What is your writing ritual? Why is that important and how has being a surgeon shaped it?
For me writing is a difficult process that takes discipline. First thing I do every morning is pour a cup of coffee and sit down in front of my computer, the door to the room shut, the blinds drawn. No distractions. Then I get to work. One to four hours every day, no exceptions. Each day I set a goal and don’t quit until I reach that goal. If it takes the whole four hours, fine. If it takes only two hours, even better. But the point is I work at it daily. So what does this have to do with being a surgeon? Well, surviving neurosurgical training took a great deal of motivation and self-discipline. It taught me that I could succeed at a task if I gave it 100% effort. As far as how my career might flavor my writing, I think being a neurosurgeon given me a wealth of experience on which to base some pretty interesting stories.
What was the research behind Dead End Deal?
This is a blitz-pace thriller about a Seattle neurosurgeon who, while in Korea, is framed for a murder. Now hunted by police he must evade a professional hit man while trying to find a way back to the United States. I figure it’s Three Days of The Condor meets Michael Crichton.
I got the idea for the story when I was a guest lecturer at a medical school in Seoul, South Korea. I was staying at the Walker Hill Sheraton hotel across the Han river from the hospital. So all the scenes (hotel, downtown Seoul, and the Korean hospital) were from notes and snapshots I took while there. (I always travel with a small point and shoot camera in my pocket). The brief description of the surgical procedure comes from my own experience.
My neurosurgeon protagonist, Jon Ritter, escapes via a route I personally took when figuring out how he might return to the United States without a passport. Again, the scenes were written with the help of snapshots. So, the short answer to the question is that all the research for the story came from personal experience. By the way, I find digital photography a great help when writing. I view a relevant snapshot on the screen as I write. This help me accurately describe what I’m seeing.
What are the challenges of writing a medical thriller?
People who read medical thrillers are usually interested in medical details, just as readers of legal thrillers find law interesting. What is difficult is adding sufficient medical detail to satisfy a reader without making descriptions or facts boring. This is one reason I try to move my stories along at a fast clip. Thrillers are intended to thrill, not lecture. Fast pace, good plot, interesting characters are the elements that should be in a medical thriller.