It started for me with author Robin Cook’s Coma. After reading it, whenever I got a blood test, I looked for the “Ah-ha” look in the lab tech’s eyes.
Me: Talk about how you balanced the levels of medical fact vs. fiction. How hard was it to limit the medical details you wanted to include?
I've always been very aware that people in general are not interested in science and sadly that this is quite acceptable in society. The choice for me was between accepting this and acting accordingly or attempting to 'educate the public' - a phrase I loathe and so, I suspect, does the public! Every time a hear some self-important official come out with this on TV, I want to jump up and down on his head. I always go for the former and try to keep medical/scientific detail to a bare minimum. Having said that - Damn! another phrase that I loathe - I secretly and surreptitiously make sure that anyone reading a Ken McClure book ends up knowing a little more about science than he or she did before - hopefully without realizing it.
Me: Medical Thrillers have a very loyal following. I remember my first Robin Cook novel, Coma. Which authors have had an effect on your choice of genre and why?
Ken: I didn't choose the genre; it chose me. It was a case of applying the old adage, write about something you know about and, by the time I started writing, I was over fifteen years into a career in medical science.
I remember Robin Cook's COMA too, one of the best medical thrillers I've ever read. I loved it and happily it was made into an equally exciting film by Michael Crichton. My all time favourite medical novel however, is still Harry Sinclair Lewis', ARROWSMITH. I read it as a teenager and the impression it made remains with me after all these years.
Ken: I don't see a novel as a marathon. For me, it's a series of short sprints. At the outset I know the beginning and end of the story but not too much about what comes in between. This leads to the continual excitement of wondering what the hell is going to happen in the next chapter. When I reach the end of a book, I go back to the beginning and edit things, making it appear that it was a seamless flow from beginning to end - an art in itself - instead of the nightmare ride down the rapids in a capsizing raft it actually was. There are parallels with the way things are done in research. Very often hunches or intuition are involved but there is no place for these things in the reporting process so, when all the results are in, the researcher has to make it appear that all experiments were carried out in a logical, progressive manner when submitting work for publication when, in reality, things may all have been done back to front.
Me: Publishing is going through an evolution right now. Talk about how this has or will affect you.
Ken: I'm very apprehensive about it all, mainly because I have no idea how it will affect me. I think my major concern however, is that I don't think publishers really know what's going on either. It's all a bit like watching an alien spacecraft land and wondering what's going to come out the door.
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