Making up stories is simply how I cope with the chaos that is reality. I wrote my first novel at age 15 (a YA fantasy) and two Science-Fiction novels while in med school. They’re all safely buried, never to see the light of day, but writing them helped me through the chaotic times of my life.
But during the hectic-yet-idyllic isolation that was my pediatric internship, Chaos seemed determined to burst through and force me to face reality head on. Not simply reality as in laundry to do and student loans to pay off, but gut-punch, heart-grab Reality in the form of murder.
First, you need to understand the life of an intern. It’s a sleep-deprived, seldom-showered, out-of-sync with the rest of the world existence where your intern class bonds and becomes a family. You’re twenty-five years old (at least I was), have spent the last twenty years in school, and suddenly are making life and death decisions.
Halfway through our internship year our family lost one of our own. A brutal, horrific murder that made national headlines and that has inspired several documentaries.
Life as we knew it would never be the same.
Suddenly the escapist SF I was writing was no longer able to translate my emotions into anything I could understand. I needed justice, I needed good to win out over evil, I needed to acknowledge a world where something this horrible could happen… and most of all, I needed to understand how life could possibly go on. So, I began writing something new, a thriller.
Forty-seven novels later, I’ve never looked back.
My writing helped me navigate the mayhem that was a world where someone like my friend could be murdered. Not condone this act of violence, definitely not forgive it, but rather it provided a glimpse of insight into what drives people to violence and, most importantly, the heroism exhibited by “ordinary” people who fight to bring them to justice.
I went on to specialize in pediatric emergency medicine. Working in the ER meant coming face to face with gang members, dealing with adults suspected of child homicide, and even meeting with a serial killer and assisting law enforcement in bringing her to justice.
It also meant partnering with some of the finest people—including nurses, EMT/paramedics, firefighters, police officers, physicians, social workers, and prosecutors—that I’ve ever had the honor of meeting.
Life in the ER gave me the opportunity to see people at their best and their worst. And it taught me that truly, heroes are born every day.
It is these “everyday heroes” that I hope to celebrate in my writing. To me, they are far more important and worthy of attention than any diabolical serial killer or cunning criminal.
I even invented my own sub-genre of Thrillers with Heart® placing the emphasis of the stories I choose to tell on exploring the emotional abyss that exists between the absolutes of good and evil. Stories where ordinary people search for courage, make the tough choices, and risk everything for what they believe in—and a happily-ever-after never comes without sacrifice.
After several award-winning bestsellers, I established my own charity foundation: Buy a Book, Make a Difference. Part of our efforts have been to honor my murdered friend’s memory by providing scholarships for law enforcement officers from underserved areas to attend forensic and crime scene training. These men and women come from the same kind of rural, small towns that I write about (and where I grew up and most of my family still lives). They don’t have fancy CSI teams and labs, so they learn to do the work themselves even while facing budget cuts and increased demand for their services.
Our donations also go to support other worthy causes near and dear to my heart, reflecting the themes of my novels. Thanks to the support of my readers, we make a new donation made with each new novel I publish.
If reading about “ordinary” families, doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers, soccer moms (who also happen to be kick-ass FBI agents juggling work and family), along with the occasional errant spy sounds like your kind of escape, then welcome to my world of mayhem, medicine, and murder!