A few months ago, I had the honor of hosting an event with Kelly Parsons for his debut thriller, Doing Harm. Kelly was nice enough to answer a few questions for the blog about his new book and his writing, so here they are!
1. At your event, we started talking a little bit about how authors really put themselves out there by writing a book and sharing it with others. Was this something you ever had difficulty with? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who may be struggling with this part of the writing process?
I’ve been interested in creative writing since I was a kid. I wrote a lot in middle and high school, and never shied away from sharing my work with my peers and teachers. But when I went off to college, I became very self concious, and reluctant to display my writing in a public venue. There was a popular creative writing class on campus, and one of the reasons I never tried to enroll was that I thought someone–the professor, other students–might tell me that I wasn’t any good. I’ve gained some perspective over the years.
My advice to aspiring writers would be to listen to your inner voice and not be fearful of sharing your work with the world. Sure, you’ll weather some criticism–there are always critics–but the experience will make you a better writer. Writing was meant to be shared.
2. You are a college professor and a doctor, so it makes sense that you would be very busy. Could you tell us a little bit more about your interest in writing, and more specifically, writing in this genre?
Doing Harm is a medical thriller, and working in this genre allows me to combine my two passions: medicine and fiction writing. I’ve been in the medical field for over 20 years now, and much of what I’ve experienced informs specific elements of Doing Harm. The descriptions of the diseases, surgeries and complications are about as real I could make them. I also wove some of the internal politics of large, traditional teaching hospitals into the story.
3. At your event, we talked a little bit about the influence Michael Crichton had on your reading taste, as well as your writing. What other authors have served as inspiration or informed your writing?
So many, it would be impossible for me to name all of them here. Although there are many fine medical thrillers, my tastes are very eclectic, and I don’t routinely read them. I enjoy all types of genres and divide my time among them: contemporary fiction, literary fiction, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy and nonfiction.
4. Are there any books you’ve read recently that you just weren’t able to put down?
Two older ones, actually, which I had never gotten around to reading until recently: American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Shining by Stephen King. Both are terrific reads.
5. What was the most challenging part about distilling surgical procedures or other hospital scenarios into words on a page?
Making the technical information accessible, succinct, interesting, and–most importantly–relevant to the narrative.
6. There is a sense of overwhelming urgency and enormous tension running throughout the book. How were you able to maintain this pace in your writing?
Thank you! Through an enormous amount of editing. I think that an important aspect of sustaining a page-turning pace is to keep the prose lean.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to tell your readers about Doing Harm?
A central focus of Doing Harm is patient safety, a topic I’ve been interested in for many years. I conceived Doing Harm as entertainment, and I want readers to enjoy the ride. But while the specific circumstances of the story are pure fiction, patient safety is an important issue. Bad things happen to patients every day that have nothing to do with being sick. I think the medical community has made substantial progress in recognizing and fixing these problems, but we still have a long way to go.
Doing Harm has received excellent reviews— Stephen King event raved about the book on Twitter!