Tuesday, July 22, 2014
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Dr. John Benedict
1. You are, by trade, a doctor. What made you decide to start writing fiction?
I always used to enjoy writing short stories in high school—in fact, one of my early characters was named Doug Landry, who is now the main character in Adrenaline and The Edge of Death. But I got completely sidetracked with math/science in college, then medical school, residency and a busy career in medicine—not to mention getting married and helping to raise three sons. So there was no time for writing. But one day I sat down and wrote the climax scene of Adrenaline and was hooked all over again.
2. Why decide to become a doctor? What did you specialize in?
I received my undergraduate degree in chemistry and originally headed to medical school to pursue a career in cancer research (my dad died of colon cancer). However, once in med school, I fell in love with anesthesia and specialized in this.
3. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
I used to read all the science fiction and fantasy I could get my hands on in high school/college. Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelazny come to mind. My favorite fantasy author is Stephen Donaldson (Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) who also wrote a killer sci/fi series (The Gap series). I’ve also always loved Tolkein, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Today I read thrillers mostly, like Dan Brown, and medical thrillers by Tess Gerritsen, Robin Cook and Michael Palmer. I also enjoy Khaled Hosseini’s books (The Kite Runner, etc) and I just finished Unbroken and The Paris Architect.
4. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Edge of Death?
I read an interesting article in an emergency medicine journal about the future of resuscitation; in it they demonstrated that many cells in the body live for hours after a person is pronounced dead. This started me thinking. I couldn’t help but wonder how does the soul know when it’s time to go—in other words, what triggers the soul’s departure? Brain death? Heart death? Liver death? What would happen if the body is resuscitated by new, cutting edge techniques after the soul has left? What kind of being would you be left with? The Edge of Death flows directly from these questions.
5. Why did you decide to write a sequel to Adrenaline?
I was actually ¾ of the way done my second book (Fatal Complications—see more below), when the idea for The Edge of Death struck me. The idea seemed so compelling and really spoke to me, so I dropped the second book and wrote The Edge of Death. I’ve always wanted to write a series, keeping some of my favorite characters going, since some of the stories I have liked the best were series. When I came up with the storyline for The Edge of Death, it seemed natural to carry on the story of Doug Landry.
6. Without using spoilers alluding to the end of The Edge of Death, can you tell the readers if there will be another book?
The answer is two-fold. As I mentioned above, I put my second book out to pasture to write The Edge of Death. I have now resumed writing this second book, called Fatal Complications, and hope to have it out by the end of the year (2014). Fatal Complications is a stand-alone medical thriller that is not part of the Doug Landry series. However, I’m envisioning a fourth book with Doug Landry back in action that also blends in characters from the first three books. It’s a bit ambitious, so we’ll have to see if I can pull it off. Stay tuned.
7. Do you think that science could find a way to resuscitate the newly dead one day?
Yes and No. What’s really changing with advancing technology is the definition of death. It’s no longer enough to say that someone’s heart has stopped or they’re brain dead. Newer forms of resuscitation will no doubt emerge to help bring people back—witness the well known stories of people falling into icy water and being resuscitated an hour later with no brain damage, etc. These phenomena need to be studied and understood. But I do believe that once someone is completely dead, there’s no coming back. And I don’t really believe in the existence of soulless creatures like Chandler in The Edge of Death—but hey, it makes for a good story.
8. What is your personal opinion on Kirlian photography?
I think it’s an interesting technique for developing film. I don’t really believe it shows the existence of a ‘soul’. After all, plants show auras and I’m not convinced they have souls in the conventional sense. Perhaps it shows evidence of a ‘life force’, so to speak.
9. Are you currently working on anything that you'd like to share with KSR?
I mentioned that I am close to being finished with my third novel, Fatal Complications, which I hope to have out by the end of the year. And I am assembling ideas for a fourth book, incorporating Doug Landry and some of the characters from the first three books. This book is still in its infancy and at least 2 years away, as I must still work at my day job.
10. Would you like to see a film made of either of your novels?
Yes, of course! Both of them, preferably. Many readers tell me they can envision these books as great movies. I agree. I am a big fan of movies, especially thrillers or drama, and I believe these books could easily make the transition to the big screen.
11. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
Going crazy! Writing is a good form of therapy for me! No, seriously, I have a lot of hobbies—writing is one of them. If I weren’t writing, I would spend more time bike riding, star gazing, swimming, travelling, bugging my wife, and sleeping.
12. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
Good question! I do enjoy the writing process, so I think I’ll still be out there creating new stories regardless of how many books I sell. The really nice positive feedback I get from readers helps tremendously to validate my writing and keeps me motivated. My dream, of course, is to be picked up by a big-name traditional publisher who can sell lots of books and make film adaptation a reality.
13. The Edge of Death bordered on the edge of being a paranormal novel while remaining within the boundaries of science and medicine. Will you ever cross that line?
The fourth book may just cross this line. I never thought I would, but I’m not so sure anymore; it’s still too early to say, though.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you love to collaborate with?
Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, Tess Gerritsen, Stephen Donaldson, Robin Cook.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
1) I am happily married for 31 years to an incredible woman who thoroughly supports my writing habit; without whom there would be no books.
2) Having no training in writing, I wrote Adrenaline completely backwards. In other words, I wrote the climax scenes first and then slowly fabricated the rest of the story to fit and lead up to the ending.
I don’t recommend this technique—it’s way too slow and inefficient—it took me 6 years to complete the book. Now I write mostly forward, but still use no outline and don’t know where the story’s going until the characters take me there.
3) I used to read some of my earlier stuff to my kids as bedtime stories (without any sex or violence of course!). I have 3 sons, Rob, Chip and Luke. Their names appear as main character names in the first 3 books and they think this is cool!
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