Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Interview With Michael Palmer
Today I have the privilege of interviewing a fellow physician whose novels of medical suspense have quickly become favorites of mine, and with whom I’ve struck up an enjoyable email acquaintance. Michael Palmer, M.D., is the author of the forthcoming The First Patient, as well as The Fifth Vial, The Society, and many others. 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.
RM: Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
MP: Good to be here, Richard.
RM: Although your position in medical administration is supposedly only a part time one, I know that your life is busy. How do you carve out the time to write?
MP: I’ve never been an administrator, although I am one of the associate directors of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Physician health program, taking care of docs with mental illness, behavioral problems, and chemical dependence. Currently I am working 5-10 hours a week. In the past I have worked 20-25. I write every chance I get. That's the long and the short of it.
RM: You and Robin Cook both trained at Massachusetts General Hospital. Did his success as a writer influence you to try your hand at it? Or was it vice-versa?
MP: I started writing because Robin was successful at it.
RM: In some of your novels you deal with addiction, either to drugs or alcohol, and do it extremely well. Working as you do with physicians with these problems, what have you learned about them that might interest or surprise my readers?
MP: I avoid the phrase "Impaired Physician" at all costs. Being a doctor hardly makes one invulnerable to the problems of addiction and alcoholism. Doctors fear that seeking help will jeopardize their license to practice. Usually NOT coming forward is what costs doctors their licenses.
RM: In my opinion, your writing is getting better with each successive book, something I didn’t think possible when I first started reading your work. How long had you been writing before you began to think that you had finally “gotten it?”
MP: Thanks for your kind words. I will give writing up the day I think I’m not improving. The best thing that is happening is how much better I’ve gotten at knowing right away when something I write is terrible, and not trying to fool myself into thinking it isn’t.
RM: I’m looking forward to the release on February 19 of The First Patient. Can you give my readers just a hint about it?
MP: There’s a nice summary of the book on my website. It deals with the president’s physician and long-time friend, who has good reason to believe the president is going insane, and then discovers that his condition my not be the result of natural causes.
RM: Your web site also has great information for writers. Were there any mentors who helped you in your own writing career?
MP: Only my agent and several great editors at Bantam and now at St. Martin's. Look up fortunate in your dictionary and you'll likely see my name.
RM: Any final words for my readers?
MP: Hope you all pick up and enjoy The First Patient.
I would encourage all of my readers who are interested in writing to visit Michael's web site. You'll find a lot of helpful information there. While you're there, enter the contest he's running. The winner gets either a complete library of Michael Palmer books or a case of First Patient copies and an appearance by Michael at your book club. I hope you've enjoyed this interview, and that you'll come back to Random Jottings often.